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Thursday
August 13th, 2020

archer03Dr. Molly Rachow, right, works with C.J. Houser on his physical therapy following Houser’s boating accident at an area lake last year. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

When he was younger, C.J. Houser was very active in different athletic pursuits.

“I was a big sports guy,” he said. “I played a lot of sports – basketball, baseball, going to the gym, you name it, hanging out with friends all the time, just going different places whenever we could.”

In June 2019, though, his ability to do much of that was changed with a trip to HorseThief Reservoir in Hodgeman County in Southwest Kansas.

“We were just hanging out for the weekend out there on the lake,” he said. “We were on the boat for part of the morning, and we went in for lunch. I’d forgotten stuff, and I went back to get my stuff and jumped off the boat.”

It was that jump that changed Houser’s physical abilities.

“Everybody was up there fixing lunch, and I was down there,” he said. “That’s when I dove in and hit the bottom of the lake. It was real shallow there where we docked, and I really wasn’t paying too close attention when I dove in. I just fell straight into the bottom.”

Luckily for Houser, though, nearby was some help for his rescue.

“It was an EMT, a paramedic, a chiropractor and a respiratory therapist,” he said. 

Houser said having the group of medical professionals was not an act of luck, however.

“Right time, right place – it’s what God does,” he said.

Houser’s mother, Sarah Archer, also believed there was some divine work in having the right people in place to deal with her son’s situation.

“Everybody there had medical history,” she said. “They all had some type of medical background, so he couldn’t have had this accident at a better time and place.”

Houser described what happened when the medical team helped him recover.

“They had to drag me out of the water,” he said. “When they dragged me out, my heart was stopped, so they had to perform CPR and restart my heart. They were able to free my lungs of the water that was in me and also stabilize my neck.”

Houser was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Jetmore and later flown to a hospital in Wichita. Since then, he has begun his long road to recovery.

“It was a long road to even begin recovery,” he said. “I spent 18 days in the ICU in Wichita with different infections going on from inhaling lake water to ruining lungs. Then I spent four months in Denver at the rehab facility to learn how to live life in a different way.”

Houser now does continued therapy at Liberal’s Rachow Physical Therapy, and he said from what he has gathered from people who have gone through similar injuries and situations, the road to recovery is never truly over.

“You’re always trying to continually get better at something or aspects of everything. I’m at a good point for how long it’s been,” Houser said. “We’re still just over a year now, and I feel like stuff has come a long ways.”

The injuries Houser sustained have left him wheelchair bound for now, and neither he nor the doctors who have taken care of him know for sure whether he will walk again.

“As far as walking, doctors never really tell you one thing from another,” he said. “They can’t tell you, ‘Yes you’ll walk again,’ or ‘No you won’t walk again.’ It puts a lot of liability on them as a doctor. As far as a doctor saying ‘Yes or no, you’ll walk again,’ it’s tough to say. I don’t know if you can say it’s a 50/50 chance because the odds probably favor one way over another.”

Houser, however, feels confident he will be able to stand again.

“I believe I’ll walk again at some point whether it’s sooner or later,” he said. “I personally believe it’ll happen.”

Naturally, living in a wheelchair has been a completely different way of living for Houser.

“You have to learn to do everything again,” he said. “Even reaching the top shelf in the fridge is not feasible without somebody helping you or some kind of tool. Just figuring your way of life out is eye opening for sure.”

Despite the difficult situation her son has gone through, Archer said helping Houser has been a privilege for her.

“To be able to take care of them as an adult as well, regardless of the situation, it’s been a privilege to be able to do that for all my kids,” she said.

Family members would go to Denver to be with Houser. Archer said that situation was naturally stressful, but this was just the start of some hard times for the family as another of her children, stepson Preston Archer, was dealing with his own difficulties.

“Preston called us and told us, ‘I fell at work. I lost consciousness, and because of that, they sent me to the hospital. I’m okay with that, but they found a brain tumor,’” Sarah said. “I’m like, ‘Okay.’ We talked about it, and it was like, ‘You know what? We’ll get through it.’”

A few weeks later, Sarah found out she was pregnant with another child.

“I just thought God was funny and had a good sense of humor,” she said.

And about a month after that, Sarah’s sister, Jennifer Navarrette, would die, bringing even more hard times for the family.

“Just when we thought we’d gotten through the stressful times, even more stressful times came,” Sarah said.

At the same time Navarrette passed, Sarah had to travel to Wichita to clean out her sister’s home, all the while staying with her mom and planning for Navarrette’s funeral.

“I was home for not even 12 hours,” Sarah said. “I stayed with Mom for a week.”

The day of Navarrette’s funeral, though, was also the day Sarah needed to get back to Denver to fly out to San Diego for Preston’s brain tumor surgery. Despite all this, Sarah remained optimistic.

“All the challenges we met along the way were met with answers,” she said. “The first major one was they told us a lot of the air ambulances are not covered by insurances. You really have to fight with them to get them covered.”

Sarah said those costs were astronomical, but as with everything else, an answer was found to the problem.

“Everything we went through was met with an answer,” she said. “They came in and said, ‘We got that covered.’ It wasn’t a problem to cover. We needed to finance a bathroom for home remodifications.”

Answers to this problem would come from the boss of Sarah’s husband, Jeremy Archer, who had set a GoFundMe account to cover the cost of the repairs.

“It was just stuff of that nature,” Sarah said. “Every time there was an obstacle coming in, there was an answer that came in. When we got out to San Diego, we rented a car. It got bumped up.  We got this really nice car for what we didn’t pay for. My aunt happened to give us some money. She said, ‘Here’s some money for you to go to San Diego with.’”

Another obstacle for the Archers came when they were trying to find a place to stay in San Diego.

“There was a hurricane on the East Coast, and they were shipping some of the guys from the East Coast to where we were supposed to be staying at, so we could no longer have a room there,” she said. “We had to go find a hotel room. That was fun. The money she gave us actually covered that. Every time we had an obstacle, there was answers after answers.”

Jeremy and Sarah operate local party store Celebration Nation, and Sarah said there have been challenges there as well.

“The biggest thing has been trying to juggle everybody to meet their schedule, that’s been the hardest part, but I think we’ve got it figured out now,” she said. “We’ve been open since November.”

About the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March was when Sarah said she thought she and Jeremy, who is also a former employee with the local Weatherford office, had everything figured out for their business, but as it turns out, they did not.

“The hours, we cut them in half almost,” she said. “We keep long days on Saturday night. Other than that, it’s been open from noon to 5 every day because that accommodates everybody. It gives us time to rest. It gives him time to go to his physical therapy. We have his stuff scheduled in the mornings.”

For most, the pandemic has been a scary time, but Sarah said it is not so for her family.

“It was actually a blessing for me to figure everything out and how everything was going to work and get used to how we going to work it,” she said. “Coming out of it, it’s been really smooth. Now, the heat’s here, and we’re working with that too.”

Sarah said she has kept a brave face through everything that has happened with her family.

“You don’t let it get the best of you,” she said. “You’ve just got to take it for what it is and just say, ‘What can I do about this? How can I go about changing this? Can I change it, and if I can’t, what can I do about it?’ Deal with it, and move on from it. You can’t dwell on it. If we dwell on it, the whole family’s going to get stuck.”

An already strong family faithfully, Sarah said the situation has made the unit event more faithful, but there have been moments.

“Through it all, it made me feel closer to knowing who God is,” she said. “There was a time when I was angry, and it was like I know who You are. I know what You are, and I know what You can do, but right now, it’s a push. I need to be mad. I need to be sad. In a sense, we’re mourning not just a death. We’re mourning a physical loss. We were mourning anger with my stepson because he’s now going through a lot of change he had no control over.  It was like right now, I just need to go through my human emotions to be able to get back to faith again, and that’s been an ongoing process and journey for me.”

Sarah gave some advice for people who may be going through difficult situations, reminding them that those difficulties are only temporary.

“It’s a season,” she said. “It’s all a season. Seasons change, and durations of season are all varied. It’ll change. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. You’ll come out of it and go into something else whether joyous, happiness, whatever it is. One chapter will close, and another will begin, but the book is never done.”

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