Furton, 49, returned to work this month as a physics teacher at Grand Valley State University. He is now walking without the aid of a walker or cane to get around, and he is once again participating in family activities. He has also resumed writing his “What’s Up” astronomy column for the Grand Haven Tribune.
Seven months ago, Furton lay in a hospital bed in intensive care after the motorcycle he was driving was crashed into by a Chevrolet Suburban.
Furton decided to drive his motorcycle to a ham radio swap meet in Marshall on a sunny and warm St. Patrick’s Day (March 17). He was returning home and was stopped for a traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Port Sheldon Road in Olive Township when he was hit from behind by a drunken driver.
Furton remembers laying on the ground and a woman holding his hand.
“I knew I was seriously injured,” he recalled.
Furton managed to call his wife, Ann Marie, to tell her he had been involved in a crash.
He was first taken by ambulance to Holland Hospital, where he was stabilized. Furton was then transferred to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids for more intensive treatment.
He had fractured his pelvis and a vertebra, and ruptured his bladder, as well as some minor injuries.
“The pain was overwhelming,” Furton recalled. “It was circuit overload.”
After three days of intensive care at Butterworth, Furton was transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center in Grand Rapids, where he would undergo three weeks of rehabilitation.
“I had a positive attitude throughout all of this,” he said. “The prognosis was good, so I worked hard to get better.”
Furton credited doctors and therapists for aiding in his rapid recovery. “I received incredible care,” he said.
After those three weeks, Furton was able to return home. A ramp had been built for him and a hospital bed had been placed in the family room.
At first, Furton began to take steps with a walker. He then graduated to a cane. By July, he was able to walk around the block on his own.
There were some setbacks on the road to recovery. He developed a blood clot and “popped” an incision to his hernia. And he had to have cervical fusion surgery.
But by September, Furton’s recovery began to accelerate.
“I made a big improvement and I could do a normal day,” he said.
He wasn’t scheduled to teach classes this fall, but one of the physic professors was having visa issues with the federal government and could no longer teach. Furton was pressed into duty.
“I came off the injured reserve,” he said.
Although Furton was seriously injured, he feels fortunate to be alive. He was wearing a helmet and didn’t hit his head. He believes that the motorcycle was propelled forward and he was sent flying to the pavement.
“I could have been killed or paralyzed,” he said.
The Furtons didn’t shield their son, Simon, from the accident. Ann Marie took Simon to see his father in intensive care. And Doug Furton took Simon to court last week when the driver who ran into his motorcycle was sentenced for drunken driving.
While the recovery has gone better than expected, Furton knows he still has much work to be done. He is still undergoing rehabilitation at Generation Care in Grand Haven and is doing exercises at home.
His positive attitude has gone a long way in his recovery effort.