Maybe you can say that longtime Carrollton attorney Tommy Vance has a hard head.
After butting heads on the football field at Bowdon High Schools back in the day, and surviving a plane crash 11 years ago, he continues his recovery from a Jan. 25 bicycling incident on the University of West Georgia campus on January 25.
After sustaining a broken collarbone, two cracked ribs, and a brain injury in the bike accident, the 74-year old Vance came home from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta on May 6 and returned to work the next day at the Tisinger Vance law firm in Carrollton.
“It’s good to be back. I’m moving a little slowly, but it’s nice to be back in the office.” Vance said Friday morning, recounting his experiences.
Hospital stays and weeks of rigorous rehabilitation at the world-renowned Shepherd Center saved his life, put him on the road to recovery, and returned him to the office.
“I’ve slowed down, but I’m not retiring just yet,” he added.
During an hour-long interview this week, Vance became slightly emotional when he expressed his feelings and appreciation for his wife, Karen, and his sons, Casey and Andy, and for the doctors and physical therapists at Shepherd Center.
“Karen and the boys have really been there for me, and the people at Shepherd were something really special,” he said.
“In 20 weeks at Shepherd after the plane crash and again then after the bike accident, I never had a bad experience,” he said. “All of them were pleasant, attractive, well-spoken, knowledgeable and kind. It’s a wonderful place.”
Vance’s first visit to the Shepherd Center was 11 years ago, following a Sept. 8, 2010 plane crash in which he sustained 13 broken bones and a brain injury. The flight accident, which occurred in foggy weather en route to taking a deposition in McRae, Georgia, took the life of his instructor, Dan Marnell of Douglasville, who was piloting the plane.
“Actually, it was way more worrisome after his bike accident than the plane crash,” Karen said, “as odd as that may sound. They told me right after the crash that he was going to be fine and not to worry.
“But after the bike accident, I was told it was very, very serious,” she said.
Vance was found unconscious on the ground near the University of West Georgia Student Center by Elizabeth Smith of UWG’s Department of Auxiliary Services, who worked nearby and immediately called 911. Vance was transported to Atlanta Medical Center by West Georgia Ambulance. Karen was driven to the hospital by UWG Police Chief Ned Watson.
Vance said he remembered nothing from the afternoon when he left for his daily bike ride until he was admitted into Shepherd’s rehab facility on Feb. 23 . That was followed by 29 days of being on a ventilator and feeding tube at Atlanta Medical Center.
It was also the first day he can remember talking.
“When we checked in at Shepherd they asked me his birth date,” Karen said, “but before I could answer, Tommy spoke up and said, “It’s December 17, 1946.”
The time at Shepherd was difficult because this was at the height of the pandemic, and visitor’s there were not allowed inside,” she explained, “so they would wheel him outside, and I would have to talk to him through the fence as cars went flying up and down Piedmont Road.”
She said that when she was allowed to visit in his room during rehab, her husband continually looked at his watch to see when his next round of physical therapy was coming.
“To say that he was extremely eager for those therapy sessions, well, that would be an understatement,” Karen said.
During downtimes, Vance watched television and read.
“I didn’t know how bad daytime television is,” he quipped.
Although he sold his bike and is no longer riding five days and 100 miles per week, Vance is walking every day. He also played in the Memorial Day Scramble Golf Tournament at Sunset Hills Country Club. His foursome, including good friends Chuck Harmon, John Harmon, and Greg Denney, placed first in their category.
“It’s just good to be able to carry on conversations with friends and associates and to be back at work,” Vance said.
You will not see Tommy Vance on a bike anymore, but you will undoubtedly see him walking around Carrollton and on the golf course occasionally. A plane crash and a traumatic bike accident won’t keep this former Bowdon Red Devil on the sidelines.