Hammond man returns home after months of recovery
A story in the Dec. 30, 2010 issue of the News, titled, "Hammond man thankful for neighborly rescue," told of Royce Fritz's struggle to stay alive after a traumatic fall on a cold night.
After five hours of surgery at Regions Hospital and 63 wire staples in his two knees, to trim and reattach the tendons, Fritz was sent to the American Heritage Care Center, in Hammond, to recover.
When the News met with Fritz on Dec. 15, he was feeling down both physically and emotionally.
In December, doctors were not sure if Fritz would ever regain full use of his knees, as the tendons had been shortened during surgery. He was told he may not be able to bend like he once could, which the truck driver found devastating at the time. Fritz was also under the impression that he would have to make drastic modifications to his home to make it accessible to whatever physical shape he was in after recovery.
In December, Fritz was confined to a wheelchair, with his legs elevated horizontally as his tendons healed.
Despite how terrible Fritz felt physically, he said all the staff and residents at the Care Center helped to make his recovery time not only bearable, but enjoyable as well.
In the last two and a half months, Fritz regained his health, made new friends and gained a new appreciation for life, through his own experience and talking with others at the Care Center.
"Two months, two weeks and four days" after Fritz was admitted to the Care Center, he walked out, fully healed and anxious to return home for good.
He was emotional as he walked out of the Care Center, saying farewell to the many residents and staff members he had bonded with during his stay.
A number of the staff members joked with Fritz, warning him to "stay off the ice."
Fritz said he fully intends to avoid any ice or potentially slippery areas. When asked who would be taking out the garbage, Fritz said, "Not me!" as his slanted driveway is still slick thanks to recent winter weather.
Fritz said it's important he walks as much as possible to regain the strength he had before the fall.
He won't be walking outside yet he said, because of his uneven driveway and sidewalks.
Menards, Fleet Farm and walking the halls of the Care Center to visit people, are Fritz's choice workout places.
When out in public or in busy areas, Fritz will need to wear supportive leg braces and use a walker, until doctors are certain his tendons and knees have fully recovered.
Fritz said doing exercises to regain his arm strength is also very important, especially since it was his upper body strength that helped him drag himself up his driveway after his fall.
"I've got a big job ahead of me," Fritz said.
Fritz said he is looking forward to having the freedom to do the things he wants, like visiting his children, grandchildren and father.
From his neighbor Jim Campbell, who Fritz claims saved his life, to everyone at the Care Center and those individuals who reached out to him after hearing of his accident, Fritz and his wife Cindy said they cannot express in words how grateful they are.
Fritz said he was contacted by many people he hadn't spoke to in years, after news of his accident broke.
"It's surprising who comes out of the woodwork," Fritz said.
Fritz said the staff at the Care Center went above and beyond, from the administrators and nurses aids to the kitchen and cleaning staff, he credits the Care Center for his quick recovery.
Both Fritz and Cindy said they "can't say enough good things" about everyone at the Care Center.
"If I wouldn't have gotten the care I got here, I'd probably be weeks down the road, as far as recovery," Fritz said.
He joked that he'll "miss the breakfast and the people." But said returning home for good is "something I've been waiting for for a long time."
Throughout Fritz's recovery, Cindy said that God had a plan for her husband. Fritz agreed, saying, someone was watching over him that Thursday night back in December.
While they were getting ready to leave the Care Center for good on Feb. 18, Cindy said, "Get your butt to church on Sunday."
Fritz said his injury and time at the Care Center has given him a "whole new outlook on life."