If it wasn't for the McPherson community, Gene and Shelley Walle don't know how they would have made it through the last nine years.
Gene has cared for Shelley during an almost relentless medical battle, and the kindness of many giving hearts allowed him to make it through countless points of hopelessness.
“I've lived in a lot of communities with good people,” Gene said. “But I could tell you that of all those communities we lived in, we would have never got the outpouring of support we got here. It's just been unreal. I've never been anywhere like this in my life.”
One moment changed everything
The couple, who has been together almost 24 years, has felt McPherson friendliness since they first moved to town almost 13 years ago. Gene said it was the first thing they noticed.
It was love at first sight for the home they moved into, located across the street from McPherson Hospital. It was this location that ultimately saved Shelley's life in September 2003.
She was a physically active woman with no previous medical history. But one day she fell on the floor following a cerebral hemorrhage. Gene heard the thud and quickly called the ambulance. Emergency responders have said if they had lived one block farther away, she wouldn't have made it.
Shelley flat lined several times on the helicopter ride to Wichita. Once there, doctors worked twice on removing the blood from her skill, a case doctors said was the worse they had seen.
Afterward, her brain was swollen, and doctors performed an unusual procedure when other strategies weren't working. Several days passed, however, and Shelley wouldn't wake up.
Being told she would remain this way, Gene returned home to get his affairs in order and prepare to pull the plug. Several hours later, however, he received a call from the hospital saying she awoke.
“I went to the pits of hell in one part of the day to the top of the mountain all in one day,” he said, his eyes tearing up even almost a decade later. “The doctor said, 'They told us sometime in our practice we'll run across things we can't explain medically and people call them miracles, and this is one of those miracles.'”
Helping in recovery
The road to a more normal life has been a slow process.
As Shelley battled illnesses and seizures, and as the couple continues to pay for medications and bills, McPherson residents have gone above and beyond to help them get through.
“You could just go on and on and on,” Gene said of people who have helped him and others in the community. “I could tell you a thousand stories of people who are doing work under the radar, out of sight, want no attention brought to what they're doing. They're just doing it because they're kind people.”
One example of this is the assistance they've received in moving to a newer, smaller home in November. Former coworkers and other community members helped them transport items, cleaned their yard, donated a new TV, and also gave gift cards and food for meals.
“That was emotional,” Gene said. “What an incredible group of people. It's just an amazing community. We feel blessed to be here.”
Shelley, now able to walk, talk, eat and do many things on her own, is appreciative of McPherson's support.
“I've got more friends than I realize,” she said. “It feels great. Everything's been a blessing.”