Paralyzed Gaylord tornado survivor credits U-M Health for his recovery

The people here at the University of Michigan Health change lives every day — including people like David Boughner. The Gaylord tornado paralyzed David back in May.

Now a team of physical therapists are helping him adjust to his new normal.

"The first thing I remember is seeing something fly by my house - the car port roof," he said. "I turned around to warn my son to brace for something, and I had a tree come through my house. Next thing I know I was being sucked out of the house through a wall."

That’s most of what David Boughner remembers about the tornado, which devastated Gaylord last spring.

"I just remember saying, ‘Ow' a lot," he said.

David suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs and fractures from his skull down to his back.

For the next few weeks, he spent his days and nights in a hospital bed, in surgery, and briefly hooked up to a ventilator — at University of Michigan hospital.

From his worst moment — came an unlikely bond in physical therapy.

FOX 2: "Tell me about that first day that you had meeting Tracy, and finding out she was your physical therapist?"

"There was quite… as you said — anxiety. just getting used to the way I am — paralyzed and all that," he said.

"When I see him on Monday, he’s got a lot of anxiety with coming in. When I come in, I’ve got a lot of energy too. So trying to balance the energy with his anxiety," said Tracy Newsom.

"Yeah, I gave her a little crap. Told her I didn’t want to do anything. I wasn’t ready for it, but once we got to know each other, we clicked and I looked forward to seeing her every day we had physical therapy," he said.

"We started to have that bond over time," she said. "Then, towards the end when he was leaving. It is sad to see your patients go, but you’re happy for them and happy for them to move forward. They appreciate what you do for them."

Physical therapist Tracy Newsom worked with David for a month.  He returned home to Gaylord last month.

David can’t currently work as a lawn care specialist. But he’s still able to do some of his pastimes — like fishing.

"What does it mean that you go into physical therapy, and you have all these injuries, (that) while you’re getting better, you strike up a friendship with someone who is trying to help you along the way?"

"It means a lot. I’m going to get emotional I’m sure. But by the end of the whole thing, she became a good friend," he said.

David is now going to physical therapy in Gaylord. Someone offered him — and his family — a place to stay.

When he visits U of M Health, he places to catch up with Tracy and the other therapists who helped him. 

David Boughner

David Boughner