RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) - Just more than four months after an accident that almost left him paralyzed, Pottsville High School senior Drake Maness returned to John Needham Stadium in time for senior night.
Survival Flight 7, the same helicopter that transported him to Arkansas Children’s Hospital following the accident, dropped him off at mid-field Friday night.
“Can you believe this?” Drake’s dad asked as the helicopter approached.
For Drake, his parents and the Pottsville community, the moment was nothing short of a miracle.
“It was a long journey to get here,” said Drake, who returned to class at Pottsville High School on Monday.
Drake suffered a severe spinal cord injury while diving into a swimming pool on June 15. Doctors initially told his parents, Amber and Clint, he would likely never move from the neck down.
“We talked on the way back after the flight and both of us were pretty deadest that he wasn’t ever going to walk again just by the nature of how he presented to us,” Survival Flight nurse Billy Hensley said.
On Friday, the Maness family met with the Pope County EMS paramedics and Survival Flight team for the first time since Drake’s accident.
“It’s pretty cool to see someone the doctors said would never walk again, we didn’t think would ever walk again – here he is standing, walking, talking, having a good time,” Hensley said.
“Every link in the chain of survival landed perfectly and, ultimately, we had the best result possible,” paramedic Richard Haley said.
Drake and his parents shared hugs and handshakes with the first responders while offering thanks for their work in those fateful moments.
“It kinda brings back that feeling, but it’s good to see them now with the condition I was in then to where I’m at now,” Drake said.
Though it may not be the senior night Drake Maness and his parents expected, they couldn’t help but feel immensely blessed as Drake stepped off the helicopter to the roaring crowd of Apaches fans.
“To our community, we just say how fortunate we’ve been that everybody has blessed us like they have,” Clint said. “For that, we’re forever grateful.”
Drake received word on Friday that doctors will remove his tracheostomy on Nov. 9 – a major milestone in his recovery.
“Keep your faith through everything. Get close to God,” Drake said.