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Neighbors helping neighbors

Russ and Trish McKeehan were confident in their decision to purchase a home on Del Rio Road in Woodmen Hills five years ago. “It just felt right to us,” Trish McKeehan said. “Our kids, Haylee, Mckayla and Jackson, loved the neighborhood and their school; and we became instant friends with our neighbors.” The McKeehans didn’t know at the time how important their neighbors would become.In August 2006, Russ McKeehan’s heart rate suddenly jumped to 300 beats per minute, resulting in an emergency heart cauterization. The doctors suspected it was related to a car accident he had in 1992. “He suffered serious injuries in that accident, including head trauma; but other than severe migraine headaches, we thought he had recovered completely; that is until August 2006,” Trish McKeehan said.The following nine months were a blur to the McKeehans. Russ McKeehan suffered multiple relapses, resulting in several hospitalizations. He wasn’t able to return to work as a medical technician, and the McKeehans faced the possibility of losing their home as the bills mounted. “Christmas was coming, and we couldn’t afford gifts for the kids,” McKeehan said.The McKeehans were invited to dinner with a neighbor just before Christmas last year and returned home to find their front porch filled with wrapped presents for their children, unsigned cards with cash inside and enough food to fill the pantry. “We were so moved and grateful that all I could do was cry,” McKeehan said. The neighbors of Del Rio road had come together to support the McKeehans.The Christmas surprise was just the beginning. Meals were delivered four times a week. The McKeehan children had plenty of caregivers when Russ McKeehan was hospitalized. Grace Community Church sent holiday meals and Pastor Pat Jeffery visited the family. “The love and support was overwhelming,” McKeehan said. “We are people of faith, and God put us in this home, on this street, in this community for a reason.”Last May, religious leaders Frank and Linda Gray visited the McKeehan’s. “They put their hands on Russ and prayed for him, and for the first time in months he felt better,” McKeehan said. Russ McKeehan continued to improve and returned to work on a limited basis. The McKeehans were thankful that their lives were slowly returning to normal. “We thought we had got through the worst of it,” McKeehan said.On Nov. 20, Russ McKeehan had a medical procedure to relieve his migraine headaches. He had hoped the procedure would allow him to return to work on a more regular basis. He had successfully received the same procedure four previous times. The procedure deadens the nerves in his neck.This time, however, something went wrong, and when Russ McKeehan awoke, he was paralyzed from the neck down and in severe pain. He was rushed to Memorial Hospital where they suspected an injury to his spinal cord during the procedure. His condition was grave, and he was put into a medically induced coma to give his spine time to heal. Four days later, the doctors brought him out of the coma and moved him to rehabilitation.Russ McKeehan is expected to remain at the rehabilitation center at Memorial for eight to 12 weeks. “He has regained some feeling in his right arm and leg but his prognosis is unknown at this time,” McKeehan said.Meanwhile, back on Del Rio Road, the neighbors regrouped and again set up meal deliveries, babysitting, fundraising, and, in early December, they decorated the McKeehan house with Christmas lights. “Russ is like the Griswold’s in the movie; he loves Christmas lights,” McKeehan said. “He had tears in his eyes when I showed him the picture. Recently, an occupational therapist visited the McKeehan home to discuss the changes needed in their house before Russ McKeehan can come home. After touring the house, the OT told Trish McKeehan to sell it and look for a home more suitable for a person with physical disabilities. She rejected the suggestion without hesitation.”Selling is not an option. If it wasn’t for the support we receive from our neighbors, Grace Community Church and this community, I don’t know how we’d get through this. We are staying right here,” Trish McKeehan said.”Del Rio Road has embraced my family, and I love them all.”

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