We, the people...

Here are some individuals in our area who have chosen to share their stories.
(Stories are listed by most current first)

Story 1 - Mark Riffle, Oct. 09
Story 2- Chris Daughtry, July 09
Story 3 - Byce Family, Feb. 09
Story 4 - The Evatt's, Dec. 07
Story 5 - Mike Treat,  Nov. 07          
                                  scroll down for stories

Mark Riffle (HASCI Division Administrator for the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs) recently assisted the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in producing a CDC.gov feature video called “People with Disabilities Can Lead Long, Healthy Lives,” posted to CDC’s homepage.   Mark’s Story is now online and can be viewed by clicking on this link: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dh/film/index.html (note: there is a short and long version). The videos do take a while to load.

Shared by Chris Daughtry OTR/L, ATP   July 2009

Bachelor of Science, November 1995    Major: Occupational Therapy

Currently Serving as Director of Therapy Operations at AnMed Health Rehabilitation Hospital. Manage daily operations of the therapy department including a 40 bed Impatient Facility and Outpatient therapy services. Hold weekly Wheelchair Clinic every Wednesday for seating and mobility needs. Also RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional or ATP.

Personal Addendum:
   I became interested in Occupational Therapy In 1989 when I was a patient at Sheppard Spinal Center in Atlanta GA. As the result of an automobile accident I was forced to adapt to life as a T-4 spinal cord injury. I have spent the last 21 years concurring barriers many patients face in the rehabilitation setting today. My unique position as proven an asset in working with the patients I have treated in my career. I have a great understanding of the patient’s perspective. My success with a traumatic injury offers a positive role model for the patients I work with to relate to, and aids me in building a rapport with them. My personal experiences assist me in teaching the Benefits of Occupational Therapy and make me keenly aware of the need for the highest possible quality of care. I have spent the last 7 years working at the Rehabilitation Hospital trying to develop services that will benefit the needs of SCI patients in our community.

Byce story from www.andersonindependent.com

Time running out for faithful family
By Laura Hodges Poole/Special to the Independent-Mail
Saturday, February 21, 2009

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Linda Byce, middle, kisses her husband David near her son Trammell, 15, in their apartment in Anderson.

Time is running out as the Byce family tries to find a solution to the nightmare they have been living since Christmas 2006. With their house for sale in Greenville, Linda McAlister Byce recently moved to Anderson with her husband, David Byce, and son Trammell Byce, who are both disabled.
   As the Williamston native settles in to tell the family’s story, Linda is aware of David’s and Trammell’s movements, anticipating anything they might need. She wistfully turns her wedding band on her fourth finger and then holds it up and smiles. “I have to tell you about this. If David had waited until Christmas morning, I would never haveknown about it.”
   Life had been good leading up to the holidays. Linda, a former model, and David, a safety technician for Institutional Resources, lived in a three-story home and enjoyed a lifestyle similar to other middle class families in Greenville. David had undergone quadruple bypass surgery nine months earlier but had fully recovered and was in better health than before. They had no way of knowing that their lives were about to be completely turned upside down.
   On Christmas Eve, Trammell, who was 13, begged his parents to open their gifts instead of waiting until Christmas morning, as was their tradition. David, 49, had surprised Linda, 48, with the new wedding band a few days before. After opening their gifts, the three retired for the evening in anticipation of Christmas day.
   At 2:30 a.m. Linda awoke to find David in cardiac arrest. As Linda dialed 911, David stopped breathing. She spent the next 20 minutes performing CPR before EMS arrived and transported him to Greenville Hospital. The attending physician informed Linda and Trammell that David was not expected to live.
Days later when life support was turned off, David surprised everyone by living. Three weeks passed before David went home but due to brain damage, he was not the same man with whom Linda had shared 18 years of her life or the father Trammell had grown up with.
   An even greater shock came when they discovered David’s mind was stuck in 1975. He thinks Linda is his mother and Trammell the kid next door he played with as a child named Timmy. In addition to caring for David’s physical needs, his family has the emotional trauma of his not knowing them, and each day starting over with his mind completely void of the prior day.
   Trammell gets frustrated when his father calls him Timmy.
“Trammell will say, ‘What’s my name?’ and David responds, ‘Timmy,’ ” Linda said. “He’ll say, ‘My name is not Timmy. It’s Trammell.’ ” The sympathy for her husband and son is apparent in her voice.
On the rare occasions David understands that Linda is not his mother, he asks for his parents.
   “He says, ‘I want to go home,’ ” Linda said. “I’ve quit telling him that his mother and father and two siblings are dead because each time I did, he suffered their loss again. The doctor advised us to be honest with him, but I couldn’t take it anymore.” Now Linda tells David his parents are on a cruise and he is happy with that.
   In the months that followed David’s near death, Linda made some tough choices. Faced with a mortgage payment, no health insurance, a disabled husband who required 24/7 care, and a child to support, Linda leased her home to a man who planned to buy it and moved the family to Summerville in hopes of getting help for David from MUSC. Seven months later David’s disability payments started, but the family’s nightmare had just begun.
   On Feb. 3, 2008, at 4 p.m., Linda heard screams coming from Trammell’s bedroom. She rushed upstairs to find him in excruciating back pain and unable to feel his legs. She drove Trammell to a small hospital less than five minutes away. The physicians sent him to MUSC, where he was diagnosed with Acute Transverse Myelitis, a rare neurological condition that leaves its victims paralyzed for months or years and sometimes for life.
   Linda could no longer manage David and Trammell alone in Summerville, so her sister Glenda and her husband Jim packed the family’s belongings and put everything in storage in Easley where they waited for a handicapped access apartment to become available.
   Linda moved her family into the apartment and three days later, with David and Trammell, flew to Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia where she had secured treatment for Trammell. After a month of grueling therapy, Trammell became the first person with transverse myelitis to walk out of Shriners Hospital, though with leg braces and canes. He has sporadic feeling in his legs and cannot walk or stand on his own, but he hopes one day to do so.
   A quiet but bright boy, Trammell is home schooled and in the ninth grade. He plans to attend culinary school one day.
   “Trammell is my hero,” Linda continues. “With all that child has been through and is still going through, every day he is upbeat and makes me laugh.”
   It is obvious that Trammell is very protective of his father. When David suddenly stands during the interview, Trammell quickly drops his video control to ask where David is going. David seems to be drawn to the sound of the heavy equipment delivering and spreading mulch outside the condos. Many days David refuses to get out of bed, so this is a moment his wife and son savor.
“He’s just started this since we moved here and the weather has gotten nice,” Linda explains as she settles David into a chair on the balcony so he can watch the men work. “He normally stays right where you leave him until you move him again.”
Linda smiles through the tears that well up in her eyes. “There’s something familiar about it, I guess.”
In August 2008, the buyer for the Byces’ house backed out of the deal. To keep from going under financially, Linda moved David and Trammell back to their house and lived on the first floor. It soon became apparent that the arrangement was not going to work.
“We only have a half-bath on the first floor,” Linda explains. “It was a nightmare.”
By December, Linda decided to return to familiar surroundings. She put the remainder of their savings toward a condo in Anderson and put their Greenville home back on the market. If the house does not sell by April, she cannot close on the condo and will begin paying $700 a month for rent.
The Byces’ monthly disability checks total $2,000. They owe 18 doctors and hospitals for the family’s medical expenses. Once their monthly medical and living expenses are paid, they have about $100 a week to buy groceries and other necessities such as diapers, which can run $300 a month. They often rely on the generosity of donors for diapers. Trammell recently got Medicaid, but David’s Medicare does not start until June 2009.
 Anderson Interfaith Ministries has begun to send volunteers from their Women and Children Succeeding (WACS) program to help with David’s care. This will allow Linda to seek therapy for Trammell, which she has been doing herself.
“I met Linda recently and was so moved by her circumstances that I wanted to get others involved in ministering to her family,” WACS coordinator Laurie Thompson said.
   As desperate as her situation is, Linda is vigilant about helping others in need. HIS radio personality Kristin Roberts has known the Byce family for four years. She recalls Linda and Trammell volunteering at the radio station for various causes and David helping out at the Bi-Lo Center during one event.
“David was one of the first to pitch in and carry the heavy boxes,” Mrs. Roberts said. “This family had a heart for helping others before this happened, and Linda is amazing. She’s held an incredible faith through everything and continues to help others despite her situation.”
   Since David and Trammell’s illnesses, Linda started a group called Families Helping Families in Need. Although she has helped several families, her goal is to pair families together to provide support for each other. Right now she is assisting a Navy veteran who is blind, his wife and grandchildren who live on a small military pension and are trying to get a home through Habitat for Humanity. In turn, they help her with David’s care when they can and both provide emotional support for each other.
   “We each have a broken wing, but together we can fly,” she laughs.
“God has chosen to make me completely dependent on him,” Linda explains. “I can’t work; I can only take care of my boys and try to help others.”
She recalls times when she gave all that she had to God, only to open the mailbox in the days that followed and discover a check or money order from a church or an anonymous donor for more than what she gave away.
   “I’ve learned you can’t outgive God,” Linda said. “He always comes through for us, no matter how bad it gets.”
   “God has put us here for two purposes,” she continues passionately, “to serve him and to help others.” Linda taps her fingers on her laptop on the table in front of her to drive her point home. It is her link to the outside world, and she often fires off e-mails to elicit help for those she considers more desperate than her family.
   Recently a friend told her she was sorry Linda was having a bad day.
“Oh no,” Linda told her friend, “We’re living a nightmare, but this isn’t a bad day. A bad day is when I haven’t helped someone else.”

Readers respond to Anderson woman’s difficulties in caring for husband, son

Laura Hodges Poole/Special to the Independent-Mail
Sunday, April 19, 2009

— Overwhelmed and blessed is how Linda Byce feels about the generosity of those who read about her family’s dire situation in the Anderson Independent-Mail.
   Linda has been caring for her disabled husband, David, who was left with brain damage from a cardiac arrest two years ago and son, Trammell, who was stricken with transverse myelitis a year later. She has been trying to sell their home in Greenville before the first payment is due on their condo in Anderson.
   After the article ran in February, donations and offers of help have come not only from Anderson but other parts of South Carolina, Georgia and as far away as Florida.
   Kathy Wertherington of Englewood, Fla., sent a donation tucked inside a card after reading the article online. She expressed how touched she was by the Byces’ plight. The scenario was repeated with others who sent words of encouragement and made donations.
   A card simply signed “Valerie” included a gift card and a note to Linda that said, “I cannot imagine how difficult your struggle is,” and in giving a donation “hopes it will lessen your burden.”
   With the generous donations the family received, they were able to make April’s payment on the condo. The Byces’ house still has not sold, and Linda is considering leasing it out to cover their housing expenses.
   Linda’s eyes dance with excitement as she recounts the blessings the Lord has poured out on her family over the past few weeks.   “I just can’t get over how much he has blessed us,” she says.
   Linda leads the way to the guest bathroom where she pulls back the shower curtain to reveal thousands of diapers stacked almost to the ceiling.
   “Four thousand diapers,” she exclaims. With the help of her sister, Glenda Ballentine, they were able to purchase half of these at a discounted rate and the other half were donated, some through Anderson Interfaith Ministries in response to the article.
   Assistance has come in other forms. Terry Galloway, a volunteer with Take One Make One, a South Carolina hunting mentoring program for youth, invited Trammell and his uncle, Jim Ballentine, to hunt with him. Trammell bagged two turkeys his first time out.
   Taxidermist Charlie Emery of Pelzer donated his services to mount one of the turkeys and the other one Trammell plans to cook for the family.
  Later Galloway referred Trammell to the Outdoor Dream Foundation for a hunting trip, possibly to Wyoming. The family is awaiting a board vote to find out if their application has been approved.
   George Perdue of Hartwell, Ga., who also has transverse myelitis, visited the Byce family to offer encouragement. He provided membership to the Transverse Myelitis Association for Trammell.
   One of the biggest challenges for Linda is David’s care. He requires around-the-clock care and she rarely gets any time away. Anderson Interfaith Ministries Women and Children Succeeding program has been providing a volunteer for a couple of hours each week.
   Anderson County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs will be providing a nurse for David’s care three hours a day for the next six weeks.
   Linda is thrilled with the prospect of having some time to get outside the condo and do some things to help others. In addition to getting Trammell out more, she wants to start a walking group at the condo complex. Her hope is to encourage others who might otherwise be shut in or alone to get out and socialize and improve their health.
   Linda’s own health has suffered under the family’s stress with a recent diagnosis of shingles. Trammell is battling a foot sore caused by his leg braces and has been on antibiotics for a month. Despite these setbacks, the Byce family remains optimistic about their future.
   “We are living on miracles,” Linda says. “Our life is so overwhelming, but with all these blessings, I am overwhelmed in a good way.”   The smile beaming across her face says it all.



Photo by Ken Ruinard

Linda Byce, left, hugs her son Trammell, 15.

From www.andersonindependent.com
Woman's marriage to a quadriplegic leads to heart-warming, humorous book
by Laura Hodges Poole - Anderson Independent Mail  Originally published 11:50 a.m., December 5, 2007  Updated 1:54 p.m., December 5, 2007

Photos by Ken Ruinard

With Christmas decorations glistening behind her in a beautiful home, Rhonda Crozier Evatt jumps from her chair to answer the phone.

“Sorry,” she says, as she runs from the room. The employees of her day spa are closing the business and must keep in touch with her, Mrs. Evatt explains when she returns. Then she settles in again next to her husband of three years, Tim Evatt.

Mr. Evatt smiles contentedly as he moves his motorized wheelchair a little closer and extends his hand to her. His calmness provides balance to his wife’s vivacious personality.

They both lead busy lives. Mr. Evatt, 42, affectionately refers to it as “chaos.” He is an attorney for the South Carolina Department of Social Services and is working on his Masters of Divinity degree. Mrs. Evatt, 39, also works as a respiratory therapist in Greenville.

Equally impressive as the passion that flows between the couple is their sense of humor. Kissing the back of his hand, Mrs. Evatt remarks, “We have a fun life, that’s for sure.”
The fact that they bubble with affection and are still behaving like newlyweds after three years of marriage might not be that amazing if it weren’t also true that Mr. Evatt is a quadriplegic.
But, lest you feel sympathy for them, Mrs. Evatt is quick to point out that there are definite advantages to being the spouse of a quadriplegic. In fact, it is this unique perspective on their life together that led to her newly published book, “101 Reasons to Marry a Quadriplegic.”
“I get to hide all the good Halloween candy for myself,” she laughs. “And of course, I win all the pillow fights.”
“And she only has to iron the front of my shirts,” Mr. Evatt chimes in.
Oh, and they always get to park by the front door. And they get great seats in the theater. The list goes on and on.


Their love story started five years ago when Mrs. Evatt, a single mother of two — Cierra, then 12, and Landon, only 18 months old — began exploring the possibility of dating again. She wanted someone who shared her values and would love both her and her kids.
Mr. Evatt, a quadriplegic for 22 years after falling from a tree, was searching for new love at the same time she was.
Their paths crossed when they both logged onto eHarmony.com.
“I prayed daily, ‘Lord, open my heart that when my soulmate crosses my path, I’ll know she is the one you ordained for me,’ “ Mr. Evatt explained quietly. After dating a couple of other women, he met Mrs. Evatt.
Through the awkwardness of the prepared questions designed by eHarmony, Mr. Evatt found a way to reveal that he was wheelchair-bound. He asked if she could love a man confined to a wheelchair.
Mrs. Evatt laughed softly as she listened to his recollection. “My reaction was to click off the computer. I didn’t even exit the program. I just turned it off.”
After spending three days praying and thinking about her answer, she finally logged on again. And Mr. Evatt got the response he was waiting for.
“God’s love knows no bounds, neither does mine,” came the words scrolling across his screen. “Standing is not a requirement.”
It was the beginning of a great romance.
After three months of e-mailing and talking on the phone, they arranged their first date. Mr. Evatt, who drives a specially-outfitted van, would pick her up and they’d go for coffee at Books-a-Million.
Mrs. Evatt was nervous because, as she relates, “I had huge self-esteem issues.” She was afraid Mr. Evatt wouldn’t find her attractive. When she first saw him, though, the reality and magnitude of his situation almost made her break down. But she never considered backing away.
In fact, she insisted upon one thing up front.
“We would kiss immediately and get it over with,” she recounts, as she laughs heartily. That first kiss was so good that Mr. Evatt stopped the van a little ways down the road and asked for another.
On that first date, Mrs. Evatt watched for the sign he had told her he would give if things were going well: He would order the largest coffee. If he ordered only a sample, she would know he was ready for the evening to be over. “And I ordered the large one,” Mr. Evatt said, his eyes sparkling.
Convincing her children to accept the relationship was easy, the Evatts both recalled. In fact, Cierra often dropped hints she wanted the couple to marry.
“We would ride past this billboard for a jeweler that said, ‘Why make her wait?’ and Cierra would point it out to me,” Mr. Evatt laughingly recalled.


In fact, it was Cierra whom he asked for Mrs. Evatt’s hand in marriage — but it was through an elaborate ruse that Mr. Evatt actually popped the question. Eliciting the help of a judge and other court employees, he had Mrs. Evatt accompany him to court one day. After getting himself thrown out on contempt charges, he was brought back into the court to apologize to the judge. He asked to be released into someone’s custody, due to lack of adequate care available to him in jail. Rhonda Evatt presented herself to the judge, mascara-streaked tears running down her cheeks in anguish.
That was the moment Tim Evatt popped the question — and the judge handed down a life sentence.Crying, Mrs. Evatt agreed to marry him and then, with her typical sense of humor, Mr. Evatt recalled, “She punched me in the chest.”
The years that followed have been marked with hardship, but the Evatts’ humor and faith have sustained them. Merging their households was, as they both describe it, “chaos meets structure,” with Mr. Evatt making the huge adjustment to having children in his home. But the pride that washes over his face is apparent when he talks about Cierra and Landon, now 17 and 7. The fun that the family shares makes life easier for all of them.
While they were coping with the hard times through laughter, the idea for the book came along. “101 Reasons to Marry a Quadriplegic” is self-published in paperback through a company called PublishAmerica. It is available for $12.95 at Pendleton Books and Baskets, or at booksamillion.com.
Though the title is meant to be humorous, Mrs. Evatt is quick to point out that she is in no way making light of life with a quadriplegic. Daily living is a challenge. The purpose of the book, she says, is to encourage others who are going through similar life experiences.

Rhonda Evatt, left, reflects on meeting Tim Evatt, right, through an internet dating service at their home in Pendleton.

Five years since that fateful first date, the spark that fuels the fire between Rhonda and Tim Evatt is apparent to anyone around them.

And of that list of 101 reasons to marry a quadriplegic, No. 101 is the best.

What is it? The Evatts invite anyone who’s curious to come and meet them at a book signing Saturday. They’ll both be there, and they’ll reveal Reason No. 101.

No doubt, they’ll laugh. (end story)

This was published in the Anderson Independent in December, 2007 and Tim and Rhonda are as happy as ever.

If YOU want to know the 101th reason, you can go to
www.amazon.com and order the book yourself. Just search the title.

From the Osceola News-Gazette, Osceola, Fla

Mike Treat's Story 
A lesson on Life for Top-Ranked Football Team



From the Osceola News-Gazette
By Rick Pedone
News-Gazette Staff Writer
Nov 16, 2007
One of Osceola High School’s biggest football fans will monitor the team’s progress through the playoffs from his home 600 miles away, in South Carolina. He has a lot invested in the Kowboys; more than the thousands of spectators who will go to the games, maybe more than the players and coaches. Mike Treat, 68, once played football for Osceola, in the 1950s, a time when Kissimmee was a tiny rural town dominated by ranching, citrus and close-knit community ties.
Everyone knew everyone, and Friday nights were a special time when many in town gathered at the old football field at Beaumont Avenue to watch the Kowboys. The game they saw Nov. 2, 1956, against then-rival Haines City was a good old-fashioned brawl that, in the blink of an eye, turned tragic. Treat, 12 days away from his 17th birthday, a 130-pound quarterback, was twisting away from the Hornet rush. He cleared one tackler but found another in his path. His legs spread awkwardly as he slipped to the ground. A Hornet player came down hard on his torso, pinning Treat’s head between his legs. The Haines City defender got to his feet. Treat didn’t. Today, 51 years later, he still hasn’t. He never will.
“I didn’t feel any pain,” he said Monday from his home near Greenville, recalling the event like it happened yesterday.
 “I really could not feel anything, but what I noticed was that my eyes were squirting water. I knew I couldn’t move.”
That moment, more than a half-century ago, Treat’s life was altered in a nightmarish manner that few can imagine, and even fewer could endure with the resilience and dignity that made Treat a hero to his classmates and his community.
The OHS Class of 1957 is small, just 57 students, and each member was touched by Treat’s misfortune. They and their parents raised money to send Treat, a paraplegic, to a rehabilitation facility in New York. They applauded at an emotional ceremony when Treat returned to accept his high school diploma. His cause became a community rallying point. Proceeds from the 1957 Silver Spurs Rodeo were donated to Treat, and several prominent ranchers made contributions.
Over the ensuing decades, his classmates were amazed by Treat’s resiliency, his refusal to make his misfortune a burden to others. “That’s something that you never heard from Mike, or about Mike, that he was feeling sorry for himself. You never heard that for a second,” said Jack Crum, a class of 1957 member who lives in Tennessee. “The way he handled that whole situation, and the way he has led his life since then has always been an inspiration to me, and to all of us who know him.” To honor Treat, and so that future generations will remember his perseverance, Treat’s classmates have funded an athletic scholarship in his honor. An initial $10,000 donation earlier this year from an anonymous donor, has staked the scholarship fund. Part of the donation will pay for an end-zone camera system. Class members hope others will contribute to make the scholarship permanent. The goal is to award at least $1,000 annually to an OHS football player who embodies Treat’s example of character, fortitude and academic achievement. “I’m humbled that my classmates think of me that way,” Treat said when he learned of the scholarship. “I don’t feel like what happened to me is a tragedy at all. Because of this, I have met so many wonderful people who I probably would not have met under different circumstances. So many people have helped me throughout my life because of this, so I can’t be bitter about it. To me, it is something I’ve always considered to be a positive.” Another classmate, former Osceola County School Board member Gene Thompson, said the wheelchair-bound Treat lived a relatively normal life in Kissimmee after the injury. Treat is paralyzed from the chest down. He can use his arms, but not his fingers. “We’d take him fishing and hunting. He went turkey hunting once and killed two turkeys with one shot. He was really proud of that, and it was in the newspaper. Then, somebody told him that the limit was only one turkey per day, and he was scared to death they were going to come for him,” Thompson said, laughing at the recollection. Thompson said Treat worked many years for a local publisher and as a dispatcher for the city of Kissimmee before he retired. Kowboys Coach Jeff Rolson said Treat’s experience provides a life lesson for the state’s No.1-ranked football team. “His story will remind our young men that they are blessed to have the strength and ability to play football, and that they should make the most of each day because nothing is guaranteed,” he said. “Despite the problems they see on a daily basis, there are those who face obstacles beyond what they might imagine.” Treat said the Haines City player who caused his injury became a good friend. “He was with me when I went to my graduation, and he was a wonderful person. He passed some years ago now. It wasn’t his fault. It was just an accident, something that very rarely, almost never, happens,” he said. Treat, whose son, Ryan, also played football at OHS, lives with friends in South Carolina. He has established an online ministry. “It started when my classmates and I used to send e-mails to each other about reunions and things, and it just grew to where now I have missionaries I support all over the world,” he said. “I’m a believer, and I believe God uses us in all different ways.” He may not return to Kissimmee, but he will always be an avid Kowboys fan. “I’ve been following them. They have a fine team this year. I hope they can win the state championship. That would be great,” he said. Treat won’t be at the games, but his legacy will be in the form of a flag that flies from the football field flagpole with his number, 40, on it. “That’s a real honor to know that they are doing that,” he said. “I truly feel blessed.”

Nov 21, 2007
The classmates of Mike Treat, former Osceola High School football player and a perennial fan of the Kowboys, donated thousands of dollars earlier this year with the goal of funding an annual $1,000 scholarship for an OHS football player who embodies Treat’s example of character, courage and academic achievement. An anonymous donor provided an initial $10,000 to get the fund going.


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