May 18, 2004
Volunteer firefighter fights to recover from paralyzing injury
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Yogi McCurley was sitting in the front seat of a Gloster Rural Volunteer Fire Department tanker truck, on his way to fight a grass fire, when his life took a detour.
The driver, Elliott Davis Jr., lost control in a curve and the truck turned over. Davis was killed and McCurley was left a quadriplegic.
After a lot of pain, a couple of surgeries and ongoing rehabilitation, McCurley continues to find the best in the situation.
“The first week I was really frustrated. But I have gotten so many cards, and people calling me, it’s really built me up,” said McCurley, “I’ve had a lot of support from friends and family and everyone in Amite and Wilkinson counties.”
While at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, McCurley has been working on regaining as much upper body strength and dexterity as possible. “I’ve seen some improvement and I’m just going to keep working at it,” he said. “Everyone at Methodist has been great. I would recommend this hospital to anyone. Everyone has been very nice and helpful.”
McCurley’s primary therapist at Methodist, Suzanne Yelverton, said he hasn’t been afraid of the hard work that comes with therapy. “He almost overdoes it sometimes. He doesn’t like to rest,” the occupational therapist said.
McCurley has greatly improved his upper body strength and fine motor skills. He also has learned ways to perform everyday tasks to make things easier when he gets home. He was scheduled to leave Methodist on May 19, and he’ll be a patient at Field Hospital in Centreville until crews finish a handicapped-accessible bedroom and bathroom at his house.
While McCurley likes the hospital, he says he’s ready to get back home and begin his new life, which will simply be an adaptation of many things he loves.
He has been a volunteer for the fire department for 30 years. He still hopes to be involved with the department with the help of his brother, Frank “Kool-Aid” McCurley. He also hopes to continue working as a painter, though now he will be supervising. “Tuti Jackson is my boss. He told me I could come back whenever I got ready,” McCurley said.
He is also ready to get back to another lifelong passion—Dixie Youth Baseball. “I’ve been on that field for 36 years. Five years as a player and 31 as an umpire,” said McCurley, who was nicknamed after baseball’s legendary Yogi Berra. “I can’t wait to get back to the ballpark. Now I’ll be yelling at the umpires.”
McCurley is thankful for all the support he continues to receive, especially from his aunt, Barbara McCurley. She was with him almost every day in the beginning of his hospitalization, but has had to cut back the last few weeks because of caring for other sick family members. “I know he’s in good hands up there. I call him about twice a week, and I always tell him to call me if he needs anything,” she said.
Barbara McCurley is a nurse at Field Hospital in Centreville, so she understood what her nephew was facing when she heard his diagnosis. “He’s had a real positive attitude. I knew it would be hard for him, because he’s very active and always going and doing something. We’re ready to get him home. He’s really well known around here and everybody misses him.”
Suzanne Yelverton, an occupational therapist at Methodist Rehabilitation Center, watches as Yogi McCurley works on his upper body strength.