(MS) Facing death, hunter finds new beginning


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Drizzt
January 3, 2003, 10:53 PM
Facing death, hunter finds new beginning



Man with muscular disease thankful for life after accident
The Associated Press

On a gray afternoon, Gene and Mary Upchurch help their 37-year-old adopted son, Mike, mount a specially outfitted four-wheeler with the assistance of an electric pulley system and harness.

They strap him in and lay his gun across his lap.

He sets out for one of the many hunting shacks scattered across their 90 acres in southern Lafayette County.

Hunting is Mike Upchurch's passion. But for him, the freedom to venture out into the woods on a late autumn day is a gift — not a given. His parents have provided ways for him to have the independence a rare muscular disease would otherwise deny him.

Over the years, Gene Upchurch has built 19 special hunting shacks that his son can drive right into on his four-wheeler. Sheltered from the wind, Mike Upchurch rests his gun on a carpet-lined shelf beneath a narrow opening and waits for a deer or turkey to come within range. The trophies on his bedroom wall are testament to his deadly aim.

Mike Upchurch has been hunting all his life, even before he was diagnosed with Friedrich's Ataxia as a 12-year-old. The untreatable genetic disorder has been eating away at his strength and coordination ever since, though it does not affect the sharpness of his mind.

He used a wheelchair by the time he graduated from Lafayette High in 1983.

As his condition worsened, the family adjusted. They took the doors in their home off their hinges and bought a van outfitted with a hydraulic lift. In 1995, Mary Upchurch retired from her job in the University of Mississippi's payroll office after 26 years to care for her son full time.

"I really wanted to go for 30 (years)," she said. "But Mike needed me more than they did."

Each day, she helps her 6-foot-6-inch, 250-pound son get out of bed and get dressed. She keeps the floors clear of objects that might block his wheelchair and moves his feet when they need readjusting.

This fall, Mary Upchurch accompanied her son to an introductory computer class at the Oxford-Lafayette School of Applied Technology. Because his movements were too slow to keep up with the class, his mother operated the mouse and keyboard while he gave directions. Mike Upchurch successfully completed the introduction to computers class in December, and he can use the computer he now has at home.

Shortly before the class began, friends and neighbors had gotten together to purchase a computer for Mike Upchurch, and he was determined to figure out how to use it. Since then, the Internet has become another outlet of independence, where he enjoys sending e-mails and checking out online auction sites for used guns.

He learned the limits of his independence a year ago when he ventured out into the woods without his father for the first time. En route to a hunting site, his four-wheeler slid backward into a ditch. He was pinned by a tree and could not reach the cellular phone around his neck.

He hung upside down for more than three hours, until the pain grew so bad he started praying he would die. Faced with imminent mortality, matters of the soul became suddenly urgent.

"I had been raised up in church all my life so I knew what it meant to be a Christian," Mike Upchurch said. "Everybody thought I was, but I really wasn't."

He decided it was time to pray that Jesus would become his Lord.

By the time his father found him that winter night, he had hypothermia but was thankful to be alive.

"I was saved that day in the ditch," he said. "I promised that if he would let me live, I would live for him. So I'm doing my best to do like he wants me to."

http://www.clarionledger.com/news/0301/02/m08.html

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PATH
January 3, 2003, 11:47 PM
That is an uplifting story.

MiniZ
January 3, 2003, 11:52 PM
Wow, great story..

dave
January 4, 2003, 01:50 AM
Makes my problems look sort of small.

Butch
January 4, 2003, 08:53 AM
Never know what you'll do till it happens.;)
Great story.:D

Kentucky Rifle
January 4, 2003, 10:32 AM
Here's another.
My wife and I were sitting here in our den watching TV. She suddenly turned the set off. I asked, "Why"? My 20/10 vision is gone and I'm now deaf in one ear, so I could not hear the crys for help. But she could! We jumped up and ran outside. All the while I'm thinking, "Too late, I'm too late again"! (You see, I've been "too late" before.) Anyway, I was in plenty of time (this time). The fellow down the street who tries to be independent is a quadriplegic. His motorized wheel chair had rolled off the sidewalk and was stuck. I hurt my bad back badly that cold night, but somehow I was able to put on a burst of strength and lift him back onto the sidewalk. He thanked me, I said, "Don't mention it" as he rolled away. I limped into my house. My back hurt like hell but, strangely, I felt good.

KR

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