Well-known Coupeville church leader Garrett Arnold is preparing for life in a wheelchair after his spinal cord was severely damaged when he fell down a steep, 25-foot embankment in Ledgewood.
Arnold, 48, was trimming grass when he fell. He was stuck on the bluff about X feet above the beach for several hours until he was spotted by a woman taking a walk. He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he is recovering from surgery in which doctors fused several broken vertebrae and stabilized his spinal column.
Arnold’s sister-in-law Sarah Viers, who is serving as family spokesperson, said Arnold’s family is still trying to absorb the news.
Sylvia Arnold, who is Garrett’s wife and Sarah’s sister, is focusing all her energy on supporting her husband as he copes with the pain – physical and emotional – that has resulted from the injury.
“She’s tired, but she’s positive, and she’s embracing the future in a very positive way,” Viers said. “As you can imagine, with the pain and with the realization, every activity brings a new set of emotions. The nurses were very clear: Right now he needs to use all his emotions to get better.”
Arnold is pastor of Living Hope Foursquare Church, where members of the church community are praying for his entire family as they face this life-changing event.
“We appreciate everyone’s prayers,” Viers said. “The community has been so great.”
The Arnolds’ three children – Brett, a junior at Coupeville High School, and Scott and Courtney, who are students at Azusa Pacific University in California – have been visiting and calling their dad as often as they can.
“Scott and Courtney call daily and talk to him,” she said. “Those are really good times, when he can hear their voices.”
“Brett comes out on weekends,” she said, adding that the family hopes to use Skype, an online live-video service, to transmit the Coupeville Wolves football games to Garrett’s hospital room so he can watch his son on the field.
Garrett’s recovery will take time, and while well-wishers are invited to send cards and flowers, for now only family members are allowed to visit.
Viers said family is celebrating each small victory in Garrett’s recovery.
“He was sitting up in a wheelchair for four hours yesterday, which exceeded the doctor’s expectations,” she said. “They were hoping for an hour.”
The family eventually will have to make changes in their home – and in their lives – to accommodate Garrett’s wheelchair, Viers said.
“We’re working really hard to look forward,” she said. “One of the therapists said we need to embrace everything that Garrett can do now, since the accident, and not think about what he could do before. We just keep reminding ourselves of what he can do, and that he is moving forward.”
A benefit concert, dance and silent auction has been scheduled for Friday, Sept. 7 at the CPO Club Ballroom in Oak Harbor.
The silent auction begins at 6:30 p.m. Coupeville band Johnny Bulldog, which is led by former Creedence Clearwater Revival band member John Tristao, is performing at no charge so that all money from ticket sales can go toward Garrett Arnold’s health expenses. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30 at Bayleaf, Branch Business Services, Ciao, Living Hope Church and Peoples Bank.
Donations can be made to an account at Peoples Bank.
Eventually, the family will have to remodel their house to make room for his wheelchair, Viers said. But for now, the most important thing is prayers, love and support.
“We don’t want anyone to feel discouraged,” she said. “It will take a lot of work, and a lot of help, but we are all feeling very hopeful.