In one moment on a dark night on the Interstate, Jerry Bowles’ life changed forever. He witnessed a horrible automobile collision. A body was flung into the highway. He stopped to help. As he was getting a flashlight from the trunk of his car, another car plowed into him and both of his legs were crushed, requiring amputation above the knee. He also suffered a broken hand, shoulder and wrist. After many months of hospitals, surgery, therapy and trying to reconstruct life, some people would have become sedentary and bitter, but not Jerry Bowles.
Each week, Mr. Bowles comes in his power wheelchair to the Methodist Rehabilitation Center where patients deal with the effects of stroke, spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury. His actions are a shining example of the true spirit of volunteerism, sharing his time and talents to improve the quality of life for patients whose lives have been altered by severe injury or illness. Everyone at Methodist Rehabilitation Center knows him and looks forward to his upbeat attitude and happy smile. Mr. Bowles says, “Life is too short for me to think about what happened in the past.”
Isolation and depression are severe problems for anyone suffering from a disabling incident. Many believe that life is over for them. Mr. Bowles visits patients’ rooms, and tries to make the transition into the hospital easier. He delivers mail, newspapers and greeting cards, and sometimes he just talks to them – or simply lets them talk to him. When they meet him and see how he has not only survived, but also thrived, they know that they too can have hope.
Mr. Bowles discovered that the patients at Blair Batson Children’s Hospital need books, so he regularly goes to book fairs and buys books to donate to the hospital and to Mustard Seed, the local home for mentally disabled adults. He also spends time combating the isolation and loneliness that is so common for the elderly. He visits, takes goodies and just makes the day brighter for the residents of the area nursing homes. He said, “I am so blessed! I have the privilege of meeting and visiting people I would have never met if I had never had my accident and never had to change my life.”
Mr. Bowles helps to give people the desire and ability to return to an active life. He does not try to tell patients that life is still worth living, he shows them – with his attitudes, his actions, and his body language. Sometimes he brings a special book for an individual or goes to the coffee shop and buys special coffee or other treat for a particular patient because he learned that they would enjoy it.
Jerry Bowles has been volunteering his time at Methodist Rehabilitation Center since April of 2002, as soon as he was able after his accident. Jerry was a representative in the wholesale clothing business before the accident and still is involved with the business and the people he met there. Recently he bought two wristwatches and gave them to the hospital to raffle and raise money. He also serves as President of the homeowners association in The Villas, the subdivision where he lives. Before his accident he was an avid square dancer and round dancer, and he still coordinates the clogging and square dancing exhibitions for the MS Square Dance Association at the MS State Fair even though he is unable to dance now.