Feb. 5, 2007

Debbie Breyer Benefit sponsored by Waverly Lions

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

A motorcycle accident May 20, 2006 changed Debbie Breyer’s life forever. She was told shortly after the accident that she would never walk again.

It is impossible not to admire this Waverly woman, who has shown so much courage during her six-month recovery period and who continues to have such an optimistic outlook on her future.

“I try to keep positive,” Debbie said. “What can you do? Sh*t happens. I do not feel sorry for myself. I never have and I never will. There are a lot of people who have it way worse off than me.”

When it comes to the actual accident, Debbie does not remember anything at all. Not even the helicopter ride to the hospital, although she has been told she was conscious and coherent at the time.

She does remember the day of the accident. It was her first day out after taking motorcycle training and practicing in parking lots with her own bike.

With her husband, Randy, Debbie took up biking about two years ago. He would drive and she rode. Then, she decided that she wanted to ride her own bike.

“It was our time. It was the freedom to get out and see things. It just felt good,” Debbie said.

The weather was “beautiful.” They had gone approximately 50 miles. Randy was in the lead. He told Debbie he looked in the mirror and she was there. When he looked again, she wasn’t.

The police report said Debbie went off the road and flipped a couple of times. She ended up with the bike on top of her. She was wearing a helmet.

The first thing Debbie remembers was waking up in North Memorial’s ICU.

“I don’t remember a lot because they had me heavily drugged,” Debbie said. “I was pretty much out of it. They told me I was paralyzed. I was drugged, but I realized I was paralyzed then.”

She does not remember a lot of pain at first, but she was in a lot of pain later. She had suffered broken ribs, a broken sternum, broken collar bones, and a broken back.

Three months of her recovery was spent at North Memorial hospital.

She had a full brace a total of four months, and the brace, itself, was very painful. During her time at North Memorial, she had physical and occupational therapy every day.

“My amazing, amazing husband. I don’t know what I would do without him. He is the best!” Debbie said. “He came and visited me every single day when I was at North Memorial except for two days. Then, he arranged for my sister and friend to come and see me so that I would have company. He never missed a day.”

Courage Center was her next stop in her rehabilitation. She was there for an additional two months.

By the second month at the Courage Center, she was able to come home for the day on weekends. Randy would pick her up Saturday morning, and return her Saturday night. Then, he would repeat the routine Sunday.

Debbie’s parents, Clayton and Phyllis Decker, would have the entire family over for dinner for Debbie’s Sunday outings.

“I felt bad for the people at the Courage Center that never got visitors or never went anywhere on the weekend,” Debbie said. It would break my heart because they had no one.”

Her family has played an important role in her recovery. Debbie talked about her dad, who teased her about getting better so she could come home and make her special salsa.

In spite of the fact that her dad does not like salsa, he planted all kinds of peppers and tomatoes, intending to coax her home.

“He had planted tomatoes and he must have had 50 different pepper plants when I was first in the hospital. He would come to the hospital and say, ‘Yeah Deb. You got to get better and get out of here so you can make your salsa.’”

One Saturday, when Debbie came home from the Courage Center, she found herself at her parents’ home with all of the ingredients needed to make salsa. Her sisters were there, and her son-in-law.

“I was basically the supervisor for the day and gave them the recipe. It was a fun day,” Debbie said.

Debbie had to get back to the Courage Center, but her sisters stayed to finish making more than 16 gallons of salsa.

“Now, my sisters call us the salsa sisters. Next year, we are going to make more.”

Most of Debbie’s brothers and sisters live close to her and keep in touch daily.

“I hear from everyone. They are there to pick on me and tell me to sit up straight. I don’t know what I would do without them,” Debbie said.

Debbie is the oldest of eight children. Five of them live within walking distance of each other.

Randy and Debbie’s home was built 29 years ago, right next to her parents’ family farm, where she grew up, in Waverly.

Her brothers, Michael and Pat now own that farm. Her sister, Diane lives two miles away in Buffalo, her sister, Cathy lives in Waverly, and her brother, Tommy lives right across the street from Debbie. Her two youngest sisters live the farthest away – Annie lives in Rochester and Jody lives in Arizona.

It is her family that is planning the upcoming benefit.

“My brothers and sisters are doing a really good job with the benefit,” Debbie said. “I am usually the organizer, so I am a little hurt that they have planned it so well without me. Really! They have done a wonderful job and it should be a lot of fun.”

The money from the benefit is to cover many of the expenses that have come up since Debbie’s accident. All of it to make Debbie’s life as normal as possible and give her the freedom to do more things on her own.

Almost immediately after the accident, when Randy and Debbie knew she would be paralyzed, they began planning a new house. They wanted the house to be entirely handicapped-accessible.

Debbie loves to cook and everything in the kitchen will be made so that she will be able to reach it. One of her very few complaints is working from a wheelchair. The countertops will all be lower for better access, too.

If they had planned to build the house before the accident, they would have been able to save more money because they would have done a lot of the work on their own. But the house is really needed now.

Debbie has been living in the basement of their present home since she got out of the Courage Center Oct. 27.

“It will be nice to get out of here and get in something where I can move around,” Debbie said. “I do love this home. It is where I raised my kids. I would live in a closet, just to be home.”

They are hoping to have their new home done the first part of March. It is just down the road from her parents’ farm.

The benefit will also cover some of the bills that have added up and equipment needed that insurance does not cover. Debbie had been working full-time at Boston Scientific in Maple Grove as a research and development technician for a total of 16 years. They no longer have that income.

Randy and Debbie have been married for 31 years. Debbie is a graduate of Buffalo High School, and Randy is a graduate of Howard Lake High School.

They have two children. Luke is married to Megan, and they have a daughter, Emmerson. They live in Buffalo now, but have purchased the home their parents currently live in.

Their daughter, Ellie, is married to Sean, and they live in White Bear Lake.

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