The Waverly community is coming together to rally around a beloved community member and his family.
On the evening of November 13th while taking out the trash, Jim Watts fell on his front porch steps. Watts suffered a complete spinal cord injury at the C4 level, leaving him immediately paralyzed from the neck down.
Watts was rushed to the hospital by the Waverly Fire & Rescue Department, who Watts was Fire Chief of for many years. He spent four weeks at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, before being transferred to Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago on December 13th to begin physical rehabilitation.
Community members have come together in Waverly for the Watts family in various ways. This weekend a group of volunteers along with volunteer help from Ameren, Illinois will be working to install equipment at the Watts’ home ahead of Jim’s anticipated discharge from the AbilityLab next week.
Valerie Duewer, Volunteer Protect Manager for what has become known as Watts on Wheels, says that due to Jim’s condition and tall lanky frame, many renovations are needed for him to be able to stay in his Waverly home, which he and his wife Rhonda have lived in for over 30 years.
Duewer who is owner of Waverly Cabinet Company, says that her and a group of local residents with home building and or remodeling expertise, are taking on the renovations.
“We knew what we were up against with having to get the proper equipment in there because Jim Watts is a very tall guy, he’s like 6′ 6”, and it is difficult to get him moved around to the proper things that he needs to be doing for his overall health and well being. So we took an analysis of what the bedroom would look like and how he would come into the house and how would this whole house operate best for him.”
Duewer says that many area businesses have donated materials and are assisting with the large amount of work to the home, which includes extensive expansion in bed and bath areas for the equipment needed for Watts to live in the home.
Duewer says that the big push is happening this weekend, including a large amount of help from Ameren Illinois to construct a ramp for Watts to be able to get into his home.
“ They are customers of Ameren, plus Jim worked for the Illinois Commerce Commission for many years. I think it is Ameren’s Employee Resource Group, they offered to come in and design the ramp, get the materials and build the ramp with some of our volunteers. They are also working with Macon Resources Incorporated which helps people with disabilities, and so all of the ramp materials and labor, all the design work, it’s all being done through Ameren and Macon Resources. So we will be providing volunteers and getting that ramp built on Saturday.”
Duewer says that the volunteers will be working on the ramp project tomorrow along with interior renovations as well, and that a little winter weather is not going to slow them down.
Duewer says that the home renovations are just the start of continuing needs for the family, as the power wheelchair and a van large enough to fit Watts’ are needed, as well as more equipment for life inside the home, care giving help, and many other needs.
According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, an average estimate for the cost of complete quadriplegia for the first year alone is over a million dollars. During each subsequent year of the patient’s life, quadriplegia results in about 185 thousand dollars in costs.
Friends and neighbors have organized a benefit for Watts that will be held at the American Legion in Jacksonville on Saturday, March 7th, and a gofundme page has been set up for donations to help the Watts family with Jim’s care needs.
Duewer says that for those that are not comfortable with online transactions, they can mail or drop off donations to the Community State Bank in Franklin, where an account has been set up to help with the Family’s needs.
The GoFundMe page for Jim Watts can be found here: <div class=”gfm-embed” data-url=”https://www.gofundme.com/f/wattsonwheelsspinal-injury-renovationsampequipment/widget/large”></div><script defer src=”https://www.gofundme.com/static/js/embed.js”></script>\
Duewar says that they have several volunteers for Saturday’s work, but if anyone is interested in donating time to the project, they can call her at 217-415-8463 for information on how to help.