By Lorna Dockery, Guest Blogger
When my sister called in anguish to tell me her life partner was comatose in the ICU, my first thought? “Oh no, this is horrible.” But reason prevailed. I knew this man as the comeback warrior. He wouldn’t allow a near-death, life-changing experience to keep him down.
And he didn’t.
Bob Marshall is a courageous, determined, and successful man. He fought his way back from five weeks in the ICU, four of them flat on his back, and months of rehab and outpatient therapy to walk freely once again, drive a car, play golf and much more.
So amazing and inspiring was his comeback that two different rehab centers featured Bob’s recovery in their newsletters, which someone sent to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The paper expanded the story with an in-person interview and ran a detailed, heart-felt piece in its bi-weekly “Well Being” section.
“Good news travels fast, especially among the injured who can use inspiration,” Bob said.
A Prostate Biopsy Gone Wrong
It was a long road, though. Although Bob was strong and fit at age 65, an infection from a prostate biopsy overwhelmed him in 2006. He passed out at the wheel of his parked car, where he remained until the next morning.
The septic shock caused a system-wide shut down and an anoxic injury in his brain.
The prognosis wasn’t good.
Thanks to a History of Hard Work
But Bob has long been a warrior. As a preteen, he fought hard to keep his single mother and four siblings above the poverty line by working several part-time jobs while excelling in high school and college as a scholar-athlete.
He then enlisted in the Navy’s Officer Candidate School. As Bob told The Inquirer, he eventually served on an aircraft carrier and later commanded a Swift boat that patrolled the coast of Vietnam.
He also held a variety of top executive jobs at Banker’s Trust, Citicorp and Advanta, and was highlighted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. His life up to that point seemed a splendid example of pinnacle reaching through diligence and determination, the newspaper reported.
But the septic shock only brought out his deepest warrior spirit.
My sister, Donna, said his survival initially was uncertain. He stayed in a coma for days, had kidney dialysis more than once and his gallbladder removed. During the fourth week in the ICU, when several aides helped Bob sit up for the first time, Donna watched him flail uncontrollably. A man under siege.
Though in a wheelchair for many months afterwards, Bob worked hard at recovery, perhaps more diligently than at his other successful endeavors.
His coaches helped him relearn to speak, walk, eat, use his fingers and other simple tasks he no longer takes for granted. Bob later said he was committed to doing “whatever it took to become a robust person again.” That attitude drove this warrior’s long and unprecedented comeback.
I recall seeing him for the first time after this event, when he shuffled slowly and unsteadily into my parents’ house with a walker, my sister guiding him. The sight of this once seemingly invincible man, now with slightly slurred speech, shocked me. I went upstairs to cry alone.
A Heroic Sister
Speaking of tears, when Bob read the first draft of this blog, Donna said the experience was “powerful to revisit” and that Bob teared up as the memories flooded back.
In February 2007, Bob and Donna celebrated their love and a continuing recovery by getting married, on the 25th anniversary of their first date.
“I was, and am, very fortunate to have had Donna at my side, helping me with everything and reinforcing my resolve,” Bob told me. “She has been heroic. I wouldn’t have made this progress or had a full life without her.”
A Heart Too Young to Give Up
On his comeback, Bob told The Inquirer he was lucky. But he conceded everything he’d done before the event prepared him for the struggle. “I had learned how to work hard, was physically fit, and had succeeded at whatever I tried. This all gave me confidence. I was too young in my heart to give up.”
Yep, that’s my brother-in-law: The comeback warrior.
Lorna Dockery, a native of New Jersey, moved to our neck of the woods a few years ago. Before retiring, she wrote professionally, primarily in the business-to-business sector. When not hiking, kayaking and being a gracious and generous neighbor, she writes about subjects of interest to her. Thanks, Lorna, for sharing your story about your warrior brother-in-law.