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Examiner
  • Patrick Farnan still relearning life

  • When Patrick Farnan began riding a motorcycle years ago, not wearing a helmet was out of the question.


     


    “When I started, I never rode without a helmet,” he said. “But over the years, I started taking the helmet off. I never worried because I still felt like I was still riding safe.”

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  • When Patrick Farnan began riding a motorcycle years ago, not wearing a helmet was out of the question.
     
    “When I started, I never rode without a helmet,” he said. “But over the years, I started taking the helmet off. I never worried because I still felt like I was still riding safe.”
     
    While Missouri has a helmet law for motorcyclists, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas do not. So it would not be unusual once Farnan crossed the state line to take his helmet off. That all changed six months ago.
     
    Farnan was in Arkansas with his wife Deann and 11 other motorcyclists Oct. 20 looking at a site for a future motorcycle ride benefit. The day started off like many others. Farnan ate breakfast with the rest of the group and got gas at a station near Eureka Springs, Ark. He then waited for a couple of stragglers while the rest of the group took off. When he connected with the last two riders, they met up with the rest of the group.
     
    “I only remember what I have been told. Once my friends started telling me about the day, it started coming back to me,” said the Buckner Elementary School principal. “After we came back to the group, I don’t remember anything.”
     
    According to a fellow rider, it appeared that Farnan caught the edge of his bike on the roadway as he was rounding a corner, something that Farnan said has happened many times before. But as Farnan was correcting, he said it appeared that the motorcycle drifted over.
     
    “My friend said a sign came out of nowhere,” Farnan said. “When my saddle bags hit the sign, he said all hell broke loose.”
     
    Farnan said that after the accident, Deann, his wife of 29 years, was the first to reach him. A registered nurse, the first thing she said was that Farnan’s neck had to be secured, and he needed rescue breaths.
     
    “She’s my hero,” he said quietly. “I am not so sure that I could have been that cool in a situation like that. I have been upon accidents, and I have answered the phone when my son was killed and when my grandson died. I just don’t know that I could have been that calm.”
     
    Farnan was taken by air ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo., where he was in intensive care for almost a week. The crash left him with several broken bones and a traumatic brain injury.
     
    Family members kept the community – both in the Fort Osage School District where Farnan has worked for almost 20 years and in his hometown of Weston, Mo. – updated on his progress through the Prayers for Patrick Farnan Facebook page.
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    One post read, “Patrick will be moved out of ICU today. That’s amazing news! He had a great night, will wake up, chat up a storm then fall back asleep. He knows his name! The prayers are powerful! Thank you, we appreciate the support.”
     
    Farnan was transferred from Springfield to the MidAmerica Rehabilitation Hospital in Overland Park, Kan., in early November. He said the first clear memory he has was right before Thanksgiving.
     
    “I had this incredible dream where I thought I had gone to Thanksgiving dinner with my family, not just my immediate family, but all of my family,” he said. “Two days after that, my wife said it was like I was someone else. Someone had changed the screen, she said. Someone would ask me a question, and I would answer. Everything was different.”
     
    Farnan said throughout his recovery his mind was always on his staff and students at Buckner Elementary.
     
    “Buckner is like a second home. I spend as much time here as I do at my actual home,” he said. “It was great knowing that I had good people here who were ultimately doing what was best for the kids. But I still would worry about it because I was not here.”
     
    After the accident, Farnan had to relearn to do almost everything – sit up, stand, walk, bathe and eat. But he said the hardest thing was reliving some painful memories over again, including the deaths of his son, Spec. Colby Farnan, who was killed in Iraq in 2005, his father Joe Farnan and his grandson Finnigan, who passed away unexpectedly in 2010 just before his third birthday.
     
    “I did not remember my son had been killed. I did not remember that my grandson or dad had died. That was one of the worst parts,” he said. “The doctors told my family that I had to live through those same things again. December was a little rough emotionally because I started making connections with those traumatic events. Those connections were missing, and I needed them (my family) to say yes when I asked if they had died, so all of those connections would hit.”
     
    Farnan said there were days when he wanted to give up, when he did not want to continue working toward recovery. However, he had one goal in mind – to walk his 3-year-old granddaughter Kinslee down the aisle at her wedding.
     
    “I remember my dad coming to me in a dream. He said, ‘You have fallen down, but you are going to be fine. You are going to get up, and you are going to make it through this.’ I thought this must not be my time,” he said. “A lot of times I wanted to give up, but I think it was through lots of prayer and not necessarily by me, but by the people around me.”
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    By December, Farnan had returned to his home in Weston, and it was not long after that he wanted to get back on a motorcycle. The first time he asked, his wife told him no. But a few weeks later, Farnan rolled his wife’s motorcycle out of the garage to clean it.
     
    “She asked if I was going to go for a ride. At first I said no. I thought I wasn’t ready,” he said. “But then I picked up her helmet and drove it out of the driveway. I went to a parking lot across the street where I taught my wife to ride. I did a couple of figure-eights, some stop-and-gos. It was great. Then I rode it down the block and back up the block.”
     
    Farnan said he has learned a number of things since the accident. The first, he said, is to always wear a helmet. In fact, he said he does not even talk on the phone when driving a car any more.
     
    “There are more important things, like my life. They can leave me a voice mail,” he said. “The doctor said he couldn’t tell me if I would have gotten a traumatic brain injury or not if I had been riding with a helmet. He said it might not have been as bad, but he couldn’t tell me if I would not have been injured at all. I look at it as $300 for a helmet or $28,000 for a ride in an air ambulance. I don’t know that a helmet would have saved me from a traumatic brain injury, but it sure couldn’t have hurt.”
     
    The other thing Farnan learned is that having family and friends is immeasurable. He was released to go back to work part-time starting May 1 and next year, he will be back at Buckner full time. But even after the accident, he really still only has two questions for God.
     
    “Why Colby and why Finnigan? Those are my questions. Those are the things that changed my life,” he said. “But what’s important to me is that little girl (referring to Kinslee). She is the world to me. My daughter is too, just like my son was. I need to hold on to that as long as I can.”
     
     

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