Mickey Gilley Talks Rehabbing From '09 Spinal Injury
Monday, in Rocks Off's our review of Jerry Lee Lewis's show in Winnie, Texas, we mentioned that Mickey Gilley, legendary country pianist and proprietor of probably the most famous honky-tonk in the universe was sitting at stage right.
Gilley and Jerry Lee are cousins, about a six months apart in age, but while Jerry Lee was hammering at his keys with the same old dexterity he's always had, Gilley, who did not perform, required the assistance of two people to stand and wave to the audience when he was introduced by the MC.
A reader wrote to us explaining why:
Mr. Gilley was involved in a horrible accident falling back down some stairs while helping a friend move a couch. The previous year, he suffered from a condition that required fluid removed from his brain. The accident left him in intensive care, paralyzed from the neck down.
It turns out that following the fall, which happened in July 2009, Gilley spent nearly eight months in rehab at the Memorial Hermann Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, also known as TIRR (above), the same facility now making headlines for treating U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
sulla55 via Flickr
We'd heard that Gilley had nothing but glowing praise for the facility, so we reached him on his cell phone to talk about his stay at TIRR, his continuing recovery efforts, and his return, last year, to the Branson Theater that bears his name.
"It's a wonderful hospital," he said. "I can understand what the Congress-lady is going through, due to the fact that it's tough - that rehab is really, really tough. But you've got to stay with it. When I got there I couldn't move my left leg at all. I'm walking a little bit now and I'm getting along quite well. They did one heck of a job on yours truly."
Gilley said he fell less than two feet off a series of steps, but landed right on his neck, damaging his C-3, 4, 5, and 6 vertebrae, plus part of his seventh.
"My spinal chord swelled up and for a little bit over a month I was paralyzed from the neck down. I couldn't move anything, I couldn't do anything," he said. "I'm very fortunate I didn't break my neck.
"I've come back to the point that I can get around fairly well now. I can do a lot of things for myself without any help. I can take a bath, I can shave, I can wash my hair, I can dress myself. There's a few things that I can't do but the majority of the things I can do very well. I can drive my car. I'm not back a hundred percent but I'd say I'm back about 60 percent of what I used to could do."