Eric Boatwright was on a training pole, took a “bad step” and remembers the world being in black and white for a fraction of a second before he fell 50 feet to the ground.
When he came to in a Charleston hospital, he had two broken legs, a shattered ankle, two broken bones in his back and eight broken bones in his face caused by his knee slamming into it.
Boatwright, 28, could have cursed his bad luck and given up. But that’s not his nature.
He planned to go back to work at Santee Cooper in July as an equipment operator in the utility’s Manning office.
The accident happened Dec. 12, on the last day of a rigorous training program. He came home to Florence the day before Christmas, where he was welcomed by Lindsay, his bride of seven months, and family and friends.
Boatwright had home therapy for two months. The pain in his ankle was excruciating.
“But I kept pushing myself to the limit,” he said during a recent interview at Carolinas Hospital System’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. “I did push-ups and everything else I could. And it paid off.”
Boatwright was ready for the task ahead when he wheeled himself in a wheelchair into the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center.
“I worked myself to death on every leg machine I could find,” he said. “I did anything I could do to move my legs and to exercise my ankle. My ankle really hurt, but I knew I had to put up with the pain.”
Boatwright had to learn to walk again. He progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane.
Jay Taylor, 33, has been a physical therapist assistant at the outpatient center for nine years. He worked with Boatwright.
“I knew we had to work on his mobility,” Taylor said. “The goal was to get his body as strong as possible.”
Taylor said one gets out of physical therapy what one puts into it.
“Eric is one of the most highly motivated patients I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “He did a lot of extracurricular things besides just working out here. He went above and beyond what the vast majority of patients do. And, for that reason, he probably rehabilitated himself three or four months quicker than it would normally take.”
Boatwright works out at the Fitness Forum four times a week and undergoes physical therapy three times a week.
He was riding his bicycle even when he couldn’t put any pressure on his ankle. He would ride around in circles when he came to a stop sign or stop light so that he didn’t have to stop. Then when he returned to his house, he would stop by the walker to get off.
Boatwright was motivated in part by wanting to go back to work with Santee Cooper. The company had set a deadline for him to come back to work, and he beat it.
“I didn’t want to sit around and collect disability,” he said. “I want to work, and I want to work for Santee Cooper. They took really good care of me from day one.”
Boatwright, a Marion native, lives in Florence. He was self-employed and owner of a power washing company before being hired by Santee Cooper.
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