By Bailey Robbins
It was no different than any camping trip of the past. All the sights, sounds and smells were the same. Birds sang from tree branches as the smoke from a campfire wove into the fresh, spring air. The world was oblivious to what would happen next; when the life of business major Andrew Wilcox would change dramatically in a matter of seconds.
He and a few friends were climbing trees when Andrew decided to come down. As he descended, he stepped on a dead branch. Before he knew it, he was falling about 25 feet to the ground.
Andrew’s mother, Christina Wilcox, got the startling phone call from her other son on March 10 around 8 p.m. She was having dinner at a friend’s when she learned Andrew had been taken to Vanderbilt Hospital. Immediately, Christina rushed to see him.
“It didn’t dawn on us until the next day,” she started. “[The doctors] told us they had to put him on the ventilator, and he had broken three bones in his neck. Then, they said he probably wouldn’t walk again. That’s when it sunk in.”
Growing up, Andrew had always been very involved academically and athletically. In high school, he was a member of the swim team for four years. Today, Andrew is an honor student at the university and the social chair at MTSU’s Catholic Group.
“Andrew is a great young man with a great personality, strong work ethic, smart, funny and energetic,” said Jennifer Perry, a family friend. “I cannot think of a negative quality for the guy.”
When Jennifer heard about the accident, she helped create a GoFundMe page for Andrew to raise money for medical bills and new equipment. The fundraising gathered speed quickly.
“Andrew fell on a Monday and by that Friday night a group of Christina’s friends had formed to brainstorm ideas of how we can help,” Jennifer said. “It seems that everyone in the group had their own areas of expertise – mine is accounting. We have medical professionals that researched the best rehab center for Andrew and talked to the families about their options. We have singers/songwriters that are planning a benefit concert for the fall. We have a graphic designer that designed the logo for our shirts and signs. And luckily, we had a friend in the group that knew a little about the GoFundMe website, so I researched it and we had a site for Andrew by Monday, one week after the accident.”
Jennifer has been a friend of Christina’s for about six years. Throughout that time, she has become very acquainted with Andrew and his brother, Kevin. She’s seen them go to prom, graduate high school and start college, so hearing the news about Andrew’s accident moved her just as much as any family member.
“I knew that there was nothing I could do to help him walk again or regain full motion of his arms,” she said. “I knew there was nothing I could do to take the heartbreak away from my dear friend. But, I could do my best to make sure that they would not be in need of medical treatment or the latest technology that they cannot afford. I know that medical expenses are insanely high and even with insurance paying a majority, the bills can still mount quickly. And then of course, there are the little things that needed to be factored in as well like gas money to drive back and forth to Nashville – and now Atlanta – every day.”
Andrew’s injuries are improving with each day, according to his mother. He’s been at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for about four weeks, with another four weeks to go. So far, doctors have taken the I.V.’s out, neck brace and full cast on his right hand off. The next big thing is taking him home to house that is going to be appropriately accessible.
“The main goal is going to be adaptive equipment,” Andrew’s mother said about her ultimate objective for fundraising. “Just getting him around in the car with his wheelchair. We’ll need to get a car that’s adaptable to him. Most of it will go toward home remodeling though. The whole house is dated and we’d love to add faux panels to the outside of the house and we could also do with some new furniture, but this is not the sort of thing that fundraised money will go towards. We will save up for those sort of things ourselves, but we want to use this money to change the house so that he can get around on his own. Like widening doorways and adding ramps rather than steps, for example. It’s just a huge amount of stuff to make it more wheelchair accessible.” She continues adding that her son had also shown interest in getting step lifts at home. She has been looking for a local step lift manufacturers similar to Terry Lifts that she hopes would make their home a lot more accessible to Andrew.
Aside from the website, Andrew’s friends and family are doing their part to raise money. On May 10, a yard sale will take place at the Episcopal Church on Cason Lane. Then, on May 17, the local girl scouts are selling hot dogs, sodas and chips at the Tractor Supply Company near the Sam’s Club. Meanwhile, T-shirts and arm bracelets that say “Angels for Andrew” are also available for purchase.
Support and fundraising for Andrew has taken off. Donations for the website have reached about $7,300 since it started in mid-March. Now, it’s just a matter of spreading the word.
“He truly is as the bio on the GoFundMe site states, ‘The guy you want your son to be and your daughter to marry,'” Jennifer said.