This time last year, Randell Drover of Upper Island Cove was recovering in the Miller Centre in St. John's after being struck and knocked over by a forklift in mid-August.
He had been unloading crab from his boat at the Harbour Grace wharf when the accident took place.
His ordeal made Christmas a different sort of celebration for Drover and his wife Janice, who stayed by his side throughout the holidays.
This year, the Drovers will spend Christmas at home.
"We've had a tree up now for three weeks," said Janice, talking to The Telegram last week by phone.
"Nice and early for what we missed out on last year."
But there was some celebrating to be had last Christmas at the Miller Centre, and for good reason.
It was initially thought that Randell, now 63, had only suffered a concussion, but bleeds on the brain, a broken jawbone and a fractured skull were detected. He later developed lung problems.
The bleeds on the brain limited his brain activity and he survived on life support for 42 days at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. There were questions of whether he would ever be able to communicate with others or remember those he knew before the accident.
A tracheotomy was eventually performed to help him breathe, and a hole was drilled into his skull to reduce pressure on the brain.
After 10 weeks, Randell was moved from ICU to special care. He eventually regained some motor skills and started to respond to the presence of others.
He moved to the Miller Centre on Dec. 13. Janice was with him every day, and on Dec. 27 almost 100 people stopped by to visit, including nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
"He was starting to come around a bit then," she said. "He had lots of prayers said for him."
Santa asked to perform a miracle
During that time, Janice said she never managed to decorate their home in Upper Island Cove.
"We didn't put up a tree or anything last year," she said.
One of Randell's grandchildren, Noelle Drover, wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking him to perform a miracle and help her grandfather get home for Christmas.
"She got him this Christmas," said Janice.
Randell was released from the Miller Centre in April. He continues to take part in periodic therapy sessions.
Janice said her husband's speech and memory capabilities have come a long way, and his sense of humour has returned. There have been some setbacks, but she said her husband bounced back each time.
"He still needs assistance getting up and down, but he's doing good with that, too, compared to what he was, because he wasn't supposed to make it," she said.
On Dec. 23 (known locally as Tibb's Eve), relatives and friends will visit homes in the community, and the Drover household will be one of those destinations.
"There's two groups that go around, and we'll make sure we're here this Tibb's Eve," said Janice.
On Dec. 25, she said, they will sit down to enjoy Christmas dinner, after which their seven grandchildren will drop by for a visit.
"They'll be all there for Christmas Day after dinner," Janice said.
This Christmas will also likely mark the last in their current home. The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador is arranging to have the couple moved into a wheelchair-accessible home with wider hallways.
Reflecting on how her husband's health has progressed since the accident, Janice said she could not have imagined 16 months ago that Randell would ever be as well as he is now.
"I guess we got all we wished for," she said.
"As long as he keeps on improving, that's the main thing. We'll get through the other obstacles."
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