Citizen Spotlight: Bill Rose’s Incredible Comeback

Bill Rose has met a lot of new friends since he began volunteering for the Senior Lunch Program at the Excelsior Springs Community Center (photo S Jason Cole).

In 2020, tragedy struck, changing Bill Rose’s life forever. A fall from a rooftop resulted in a spinal cord injury, breaking his back, completely shattering his L3 vertebrae, and tearing multiple nerves in his left leg. Bill was rushed to the hospital and endured seven and a half hours of surgery to try to repair the damage and reconnect the severed nerves. After 65 days in Liberty Hospital, he was sent to Madonna Rehabilitation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, to receive specialized treatment for his spinal cord injuries. After five long weeks, the doctors weren’t having much success with Bill’s injuries, and after teaching him to use a wheelchair, he was sent home.

“They don’t give you a manual on how to be a paraplegic,” Bill said of his time at home. “You have to learn that on your own.” Because Bill’s home was not equipped with a stair lift, he needed a place where he could access showers and other facilities that could help him transition into his new lifestyle. It was during this time that Bill discovered the Excelsior Springs Community Center and began to utilize the accessible facilities it offered. Eventually, Bill got a stair lift and other tools in place at his house, but that didn’t stop him from coming to the Community Center. He began to do some small workouts when he could, getting in the pool, and for a while, he began to feel like he could recover. But emotions of anger, sadness, and frustration slowly crept back in, and Bill began to feel hopeless.

The seniors and staff members enjoy seeing Bill each day as they check in (photo S Jason Cole).

In March 2021, Bill had a change of heart. “I’ve got to do something different to change my life, to get healthier and stronger,” he told himself, and that’s exactly what Bill would do. That day, he renewed his membership to the Community Center and vowed to make himself the best version of himself he possibly could. He talked to the staff, explained his situation, and told them that he needed their help, both in working out and also with overcoming the mental hurdles in his life. He asked them to hold him accountable and to push him to do more. “Here’s my phone number,” he told them, “if I am not here, call me and ask me why.” The staff did just that. From then on, Bill has been coming to the Community Center and working out as often as he can. As his strength and confidence grew, he began to see progress, and eventually, he worked his way up to being able to use the stationary bikes so he could work on his leg strength without fear of hurting himself. Within a year, Bill went from his wheelchair to being able to walk the track, albeit slowly, with the staff right behind him ready to help if he needs them.

During one of Bill’s many sessions at the ESCC, he saw they needed a volunteer for the Senior Lunch Program and decided to sign up. Bill knew that not only would it allow him to regain some of his pride, but it would also help to motivate him to come to the Community Center. Bill volunteers for a couple of hours each day he’s there, usually 6-10 hours per week. While there, he runs the check-in for the senior lunches, takes reservations for future lunches, gives tours, and visits with the folks who come to visit, helping to build meaningful relationships. It may be a coincidence, or perhaps Bill is the reason, but since he started volunteering last year, the attendance at the senior lunches has doubled, going from roughly 40 to 80 or more attendees.

Bill has gotten to know the attendees very well and loves to visit with them while they enjoy their lunch (photo S Jason Cole).

With seemingly so much negativity in the world, Bill says the most important thing is just to “focus on the positives.” When things get tough, or you’re feeling down, push yourself to persevere through hardships and don’t give up. “Surround yourself with positive friends or get yourself involved in positive groups… Just get yourself in positive situations.”

On the day that we went to interview him, Bill Rose made another big step in his process of recovery, but it wasn’t one he meant to do. “My electric wheelchair is broken, so the walker was kind of the only thing I had to get to the car. So that’s what I had to do. So, sometimes you have to do things like this just out of necessity.” Amazingly, we watched as Bill slowly but surely walked to his car, with his friends from the senior center cheering him the whole way.

Bill and his friends walk to their cars after enjoying their lunch and fellowship (photo S Jason Cole).

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2 thoughts on “Citizen Spotlight: Bill Rose’s Incredible Comeback”

  1. A true inspiration. Bill’s passion for giving back, setting an example for being positive is truly contagious for so many at the Center.

    Proud to be a friend of a great role model.

    See you at the Center,

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