New York State Funeral Directors Association

David Murphy wasn’t expected to live after suffering life-changing injuries in a 2013 motorcycle accident.

Murphy was riding along a country road when an SUV ran a stop sign and hit him broadside.

The second-generation, Upstate-NY funeral director was airlifted to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

He survived.

A severed spinal column, multiple organ injuries, smashed ribs and a crushed leg, among other injuries, left him with a one-percent chance of ever walking again.

A few years later, he walked the course of a 5K benefit event to raise money for charity.

He’s the type of person who hates it when people say he can’t do something.

Murphy, 50, just keeps telling himself `I'm going to do it.’Screenshot from UR Medicine Orthopaedics video "David Murphy's inspirational story" shows aftermath of crash that seriously injured Funeral Director David Murphy

“That’s how I’ve gotten through this whole thing," said Murphy, who served as a firefighter for the Newark Fire Department and as a member of the Newark Rotary.

Since the crash, the avid outdoorsman, who ran a fishing charter service called “Fishin’ Mortician,” has made it back to the water for fishing.

He’s been hunting for turkey and deer and he’s tagged both since the crash.

Murphy has drawn hundreds of people to blood drives and, by sharing his story, he’s helped raise money for healthcare concerns.

Now, he wants to climb the staircase at the Empire State Building to raise money for a needy charity.

SUPPORT

That near-fateful day – and an entire summer lost – is hard to forget, said Murphy’s wife, Tracy.

“I think about it almost every day,” Tracy said.

She stayed by her husband’s bedside for days fearing he’d awake from the coma and find himself alone.

She heard “less than once-percent chance of walking” several times, and kept it to herself.

“I never said it out loud … if you say it out loud that makes it true,” she said.

Despite hearing the word “paraplegic” numerous times, she encouraged him to try to move – even just a toe.

“I said you don’t know my husband. If you tell him he’s not going to walk again, he’s going to walk,” Tracy said.

She’d speak to him softly in his hospital bed – urging him to just move a toe. Then one day, he did move his toe.

Then he could bend it. After nine weeks, he was moving his right foot back and forth, Tracy said.

The family renovated their home to ensure handicapped access, and Tracy said she can’t help but follow her husband cautiously when he’s up and about – she wants to be there to catch him if he falls.

She went from being cared for to the one taking care of things. It isn’t easy going from not worrying about things to worrying about everything, Tracy said.

“He’s always been the one to take care of everything. If there’s a problem, he takes care of it. It’s been a huge role reversal,” she said. “It’s just a new way to live, I guess.”

The toll of a devastating injury in the family is exhausting, costly and life-changing. But Murphy has been surrounded by family.

Early on, the house was full of relatives and friends wishing well and trying to help. The number dwindled to 15, then to 10 and then to the “handful of people we can count on,” Tracy said.

Still fresh are memories of the crash’s aftermath: A teenager at fault with no excuses, no apologies and a low-cost traffic citation issued as justice. It was all a major letdown.

“I’m still very angry,” Tracy said.

REMEMBERED FOR BEING THERE

Murphy heard `thank you’ and many other expressions of gratitude in more than two decades as a funeral director.

But he realized after the devastating crash that simple acts such as holding an umbrella for someone entering a funeral home really do matter.

“I had no idea how many people cared about me,” he said.Funeral Director David Murphy celebrates completing a 5K marathon

Due to profuse bleeding from his lung, he needed more than 50 units of blood in the first 48 hours after the crash.

He was in a coma when a blood drive in his name drew hundreds of people. So many showed up they had to turn folks away.

He was in a wheelchair for another blood drive where, once again, the turnout exceeded the collection’s capacity.

That day, he recalls holding the hand of one of the donors who was nervous about giving blood.

“I am a walking example of a life saved by donated blood,” Murphy said.

He believes support from his wife, along with prayers and help from friends, were essential for his recovery.

“The whole town was praying for me.” These were the townsfolk he’d been serving for years as a funeral director.

“We are there for people at all hours and it does have a huge impact on people,” Murphy said.

RECOVERY CONTINUES

One of the locals who knew of Murphy, Leland Powers, was an acquaintance and reached out to help with his recovery.

“Now, we’re like brothers,” Powers said.

Powers started stopping by once a week to help Murphy stretch out.

“Before you know it, he was standing then he was walking. A couple weeks ago he went up eight flights of stairs three times.

There’s nothing keeping him down, it’s just unbelievable. It’s a miracle,” Powers said.

“Life is taken for granted, we all take it for granted,” said Powers, a machinist in Palmyra.

“Sitting up, sitting on the bathroom, getting up from the bathroom, all these things we take for granted. That makes me more grateful, I believe. It’s turned my perspective around on how I view things,” Powers said.

Murphy said the fact that his friend Lee Powers is a Marine and a body builder worked out in his favor.

“He’s the best. I want to make shirts that say `we should all be more like Lee,’” Murphy said.A fishing guide prior to the crash, Murphy caught this monster a year after the accident

Since the crash, Murphy said he’s become a “torch carrier” to compare problems of others.

When people hear his tale, they often mention some lesser ailment they’d been complaining about.

Over the course of his recovery, he’s endured great pain. He describes an excruciating sensation of electricity he figures is due to his nervous system trying to bring itself back.

Nerve pain shot through his body. He said it felt like he was being electrocuted, or like fish hooks were piercing his skin.

“I’d wake up screaming,” he recalled.

Exercises are critical for recovery, he said. But he believes thinking about recovering – imagining himself taking these steps to recover – is an essential element of progress, too.

He doesn’t feel heat at all, and for a while didn’t have feeling in his legs.

Not far from memory were the occasions when “everything hurts all the time.”

“It’s management. My whole life is like managing to make the most of any time.”

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

Murphy said he’s been helping out at his father’s Paul L. Murphy & Sons Funeral Home and at funeral homes of friends when he can; but he’s unsure if he’ll go back to being a funeral director full time.

He has many options.David Murphy enjoys a dance with his wife Tracy for the first time since his devastating injuries

He earned degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology/Environmental Chemistry and Biology at SUNY-ESF and studied Ecology and Environmental Technology at Paul Smith’s College; so going back to school for a Master’s degree is one option.

“I don’t know what I’m going to end up doing,” he said.

His achievements since the crash are many.

They include the 26-pound king salmon he caught on the one-year anniversary of the crash; and the nine-point buck he tagged during the 2017 deer season.

He used to take elevators when available, now he never skips a stair.

Issues persist following all the surgery. But using crutches is a step up from using a walker, he said. He’s got a blood clot filter inside him that he expects will never be removed.

“I’m not worried about it,” he said.

Murphy expects whatever he does in the future will entail helping others – something he’s done his whole life.

Ultimately, he said whatever he does will be worth it “if I can go to bed at night knowing I helped somebody else.

“I’m excited for my next thing. I have no idea what it’s going to be.”


 

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