In the midst of a haze of pain medication and fighting for his life, Ray Elmore said he remembers a vision.
“It was almost as if the angel of God was there. I don’t know how to explain it. It was a warm feeling and a voice telling me everything was going to be OK,” Elmore said.
Elmore was in the intensive care unit at Wake Baptist Medical Center after a serious motorcycle crash. He’d lost his left leg and was in danger of losing his left arm as well.
When he woke up, he said, “I didn’t really feel that bad.” Remembering the dream he had, he said, “I felt like everything was going to be all right.”
Elmore, an assistant chief at Cool Springs Fire Department and a paid firefighter at Concord, was on his way to work on Oct. 9 of last year. He was riding his 2001 Honda motorcycle, partially because of the gas savings, but mostly because he loved to ride.
On U.S. 21, south of Troutman, a northbound car crossed the centerline and hit Elmore’s motorcycle.
He said he remembers nothing about the crash.
Elmore said he remembers a man coming up and using a belt to fashion a tourniquet to his damaged left leg and the paramedics who tended to him. As a veteran firefighter, Elmore said, he knew he was badly injured.
He asked one question, “Is it bad?” and the paramedic responded, “Do you want me to be honest with you?” Elmore said that told him all he needed to know.
His wife, Catherine, meanwhile, was at home and expected to get the customary text or call from her husband saying that he’d arrived at work. When that text or call didn’t come, she called the Concord fire station where he worked. Told he hadn’t arrived, she said, she began to get concerned. Their son, Logan, then saw a post on a social media site about a serious crash involving a motorcycle — along the route she knew Ray took to work.
Even though there were no names or anything identifying in the post, Catherine said she knew immediately that it was Ray.
She and Logan took off for the hospital.
For Ray, the next few days were a blur as he was kept basically unconscious with pain medications, giving his battered body a chance to begin to heal.
He awakened to realize his left leg was gone and remembers using his remaining leg in an attempt to feel the missing limb. “They were afraid I was going to tear out the IVs,” he said.
Elmore said he decided to use his energy toward healing and getting out of the ICU.
“I hated the ICU. You couldn’t sleep,” he said. Within a short period of time, he got his wish, moving to a regular room and beginning the process of learning to live with one leg.
He said he remembers the first time he tried to stand and seeing how skinny his right leg had become. He’d lost 80 pounds, something he now jokes about.
“I tell people that my weight loss plan costs an arm and a leg,” he said.
That’s because he did nearly lose his left arm. It was severely mangled in the crash. Tendons and nerves were damaged, and extensive surgery was needed to repair some of the damage.
All of the damage could not be repaired and, Elmore said, the lack of strength in his arm limits his ability to walk even with a prosthetic leg. He said he can use a walker for short periods of time but mainly relies on a wheelchair for mobility.
He is undergoing rehabilitation to strengthen his arm and is scheduled for another surgery in early spring. That, he hopes, will enable him to regain even more strength and, in the process, mobility.
Another factor in his recovery, he said, is his positive attitude and faith. Elmore admits he does get depressed at times, but focuses on the positives in his life, such as his wife and two children and the large amount of support from the community as a whole.
Catherine said that support emerged right after Ray’s crash, when members of the Winston-Salem Fire Department visited and offered any assistance the family needed. His co-workers at Concord handled the task of getting their daughter on a flight from Daytona, where she lives, to North Carolina.
In the days that followed, gift cards, cash, food, you name it, poured in to help the family.
Their church, Redemption Baptist, and many other churches, including Faith Baptist, came to the family’s financial and emotional support.
“The love and support has been amazing,” Catherine said.
And that support has continued, from Elmore’s firefighting brothers and sisters at Cool Springs pairing with Purple Heart Homes to build a ramp at his home to others chipping in to make the home accessible for Elmore’s wheelchair.
“The group of guys at Cool Springs are awesome,” she said.
Elmore is still carrying on his duties, as much as he can, as the assistant chief at Cool Springs, and he hopes to one day be able to return to work in some capacity.
And he’s also returned to riding a motorcycle, one adapted to accommodate the fact that he’s an amputee. He said he’s not concerned about the dangers. He said he thinks of the movie “Soul Surfer” as inspiration to ride again. That movie details the life of a surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack and conquering the fear of getting back on a surfboard.
Elmore said he saw it as a necessity to get back on a motorcycle.
Catherine, however, was fearful at first. “I think I had more anxiety than he did,” she said. “But I know in my heart he loves it.”
And one thing both of the Elmores want to convey is they hold no animosity to the woman driving the car that hit Ray. “It was an accident,” Ray said.
Elmore said he believes there’s a reason for why he survived the crash. That’s the reason he still tries to help his community as a member of the fire department.
“God is not through with me yet,” he said.