By Jacob Mahaffey
First responders are trained to give their best when times of trouble strike. But, who helps the first responders when the time of trouble strikes them? The answer, the community.
Sugarcreek and East Holmes firefighter and EMT Matt Ling has found this out first hand. On October 19, while at Crow’s Canyon in Uhrichsville, Ling was involved in an accident. “I was coming around a corner, got a handful of throttle, and ended up on the ground,” Ling explained.
He landed on the posterior part of his body. The accident didn’t really phase Ling at first. “I got up, picked up the dirt bike, stretched out for about 45 minutes, and drove home,” he recalled.
It was when he got home that he knew that it wasn’t just a minor accident. He realized something was simply not right.
“He called me from his truck because he could barely move,” Ling’s wife Bethany shared. “By the time we got to Pomerene, he couldn’t move on his own.”
A battery of x-rays found that Ling had a burst fracture to the T-12 area of the spinal column. He was immediately taken to Aultman Hospital for further care.
In all, he spent four days in the hospital. Ling was discharged with orders to wear a brace and not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for three to six months. Ling is focused on recovery.
“At this time, we don’t have to do surgery, but it’s not off the table,” Bethany explained. “There is a chance after this three-month period, if there isn’t healing, surgery would be the next option.”
“I’m doing exceptionally well to what they thought, but surgery isn’t off the table,” Matt affirmed.
The timeline for a full recovery according to medical standards is one year. However, the effects will last a lifetime. Ling compressed 30 percent of the spine. “Right now, I am a full inch shorter, the doctor said I will never gain back half an inch,” Ling said. “There will also be things like arthritis and back pain.”
Matt, a salesman at Keim Lumber, has been off of work since the accident. In three weeks, he is hoping to go back to work part time just to see how it works. “We are going to see how that feels on his back,” Bethany said. “If he gets sore and uncomfortable, he’ll have to continue his bed rest.”
Even though the journey of healing is just beginning, Matt, Bethany, and one-year-old daughter Kinsley are grateful to the community. “Everyone has been so wonderful as we figure out what our new normal is,” Bethany said.
Thankfully, the new normal hasn’t been anything like how the ordeal began. “It was a huge shock when we were at Pomerene,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do. The first 24 hours were really scary. We didn’t know what we were looking at.”
Matt is grateful that Bethany was right there beside him. “She deserves a medal,” he beamed. “She’s been absolutely amazing.”
As a family, they are grateful to the community which has come out in droves to help them since day one. “It’s been encouraging to have all that support behind us,” Bethany said.
“Honestly, the amount of support we’ve got. Between the meals, donations, and people wanting to help us out, it’s been overwhelming,” Matt added.
“We just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported us in any way. It’s been absolutely incredible and a blessing for sure,” Bethany continued.
If you would like to donate or help out, you can contact either the Sugarcreek Fire Department or the East Holmes Fire Department. A Go Fund Me can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/matt-ling.