Joe Haynes leaned back in a well-worn chair at the KSTA radio station in the small west-central Texas town of Coleman. The studio is crowded with memorabilia: Coleman Bluecats rally gear, inspirational messages, and a large framed painting of Jesus walking on the water. “My whole life has been about overcoming odds,” said the
beloved local radio personality and pastor of nearby Leaday Baptist Church. “I was born with cerebral palsy. They said, ‘You can’t go to school. You can’t drive a car. You
can’t go to college. You can’t get married. You can’t hold down a regular job. You can’t. You can’t.’ But I always believe you can.”
Haynes has always walked with crutches due to his cerebral palsy, but on February 3, 2018, an already challenging life became much more difficult. While traveling with a friend to watch his son’s band perform, they stopped for dinner at a restaurant in Early, Texas. Haynes parked in the wrong spot and asked his friend to move his truck while he began to negotiate the steps with his crutches.
HAYNES DESCRIBED THE EVENTS OF THAT DAY.
“I asked my friend to move my vehicle,” he said. “The next thing I know, my truck is crossing the parking space and in essence, pinned my person to the steps of the restaurant. My right leg was crushed. There was a gentleman, Dwayne Lyons, who saw this happen. He was getting out of his vehicle, and he raced over and yelled into the restaurant for someone to help. They got a belt, an actual men’s belt, and the man wrapped the belt around my damaged leg to make a makeshift tourniquet. In a matter of about two minutes or so, the Early Police Department and other rescue crews arrived. Officer Andre Smoot began to ask me questions: who I was, where I was, what day it was. He needed to place another tourniquet on my leg. I never looked at the leg, ever, I just remember what it felt like. It was the worst pain I could ever imagine. When the officer said he needed to put another tourniquet on my leg, I began to think this was more serious than I had thought.”
Haynes recalled lying on the ground in front of the restaurant, hearing the medical personnel doubting that he would live. He began to pray. “I was lying on the top landing of the restaurant steps, and it was a February afternoon,” Haynes said. “The sun was brilliant, blue skies, and I could see up to the sky. It was the most beautiful day, and I looked up to that sky. I’m a believer, a person of faith in God, and I looked up to the sky and I said, ‘If it is my time to die, I am ready, and if it is not my time to die, then give me the strength I need to overcome this.’ And it was the most peaceful feeling that came over me, that I have ever felt in my life.”
Haynes was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Fort Worth, where he was confronted with the imminent loss of his right leg. “The surgeon told me that my leg was not salvageable and that he would need to take my leg off from above the knee,” he said. “I gave them permission to do it. The procedure lasted about two hours, I was told. The next thing I [knew], I [woke] up in the recovery, and my brother was there. He is a doctor who lives in Weatherford. I asked him how it looked, and he said, ‘Well, you don’t have a leg. If there’s anyone that I know who can overcome this, it is you.’ And I said, ‘If I can, I will.’”
“When I woke up again, there were people in the room with me, gunshot victims and others badly wounded,” Haynes continued. “They were screaming and yelling, and believe me, I felt like that too. But as much pain as I was in, and as much pain as I may have to endure, it is nothing compared to the sacrifice that God made for me. Whatever I have to do, from this point forward, as long as I survive, I thought, ‘I will express my faith in any possible way that I can.’”
The recovery process has been long and arduous, filled with difficulties and triumphs, but Haynes is not a person who is easily intimidated. “I am a radio broadcaster by profession, and so I have occasion to talk every day,” Haynes said. “I am also a minister, by vocation, and so there’s another opportunity. Faith has played a big role in where I am. I had six weeks of intensive rehab. My brother is a doctor in physical therapy. Who could have ever put me in a better position than to have my own brother, who has grown up with me all my life and knows my physical conditions, to be my doctor?”
Haynes came back to Coleman on March 19, 2018, and returned to work only 40 days after the accident. “It was my determination that I was going to try to get back to work as quickly as I could,” he said “There were those who said that I did not need to worry about working anymore. Well that’s not me. I have to try to live,” Haynes said, a fervent light shining from his eyes as he spoke.
“Anything is possible,” he said. “I have had to make adjustments. Adjustments to help me get in and out of bed, around the house. I drive with a specially modified gas pedal in my truck. I continue to drive. I continue to work. I am learning to use a prosthetic leg. I still have the opportunity to speak. As a matter of fact, today I’ve just gotten through visiting with the Kiwanis Club in Coleman, talking about positive things to impact our town.
“I think each one of us has something about us that allows us to make a positive contribution,” Haynes continued. “I heard something said just the other day that
sort of sums up a lot,” Haynes said in his rich, level tone. “Our career is what we get paid to do, but our calling is what we were made to do, and I think I am in that season of my life where, because of this accident, I see what my calling is. The calling is not about how much financial ability I may have, but it’s about how much lasting impact
I can have on someone else. I think we all have a calling.”
Through his active Facebook page and his service to the Coleman community in many roles, Haynes encourages hundreds of others every day to never give up. “My ultimate goal is to be a motivational speaker, and I’m in the early stages of putting together a book,” Haynes said. “I thought I had a good story before this happened, but now there are a few extra chapters. What this has taught me is that we all have a choice every day, and the choice is to be angry about what has happened, that’s one choice; the other choice is to ask how can I make my situation better today so that tomorrow will be even better? I choose to make every day a little bit better. If I can be a little bit better today than I was yesterday, and you keep stacking those together, your life is bound to improve. If I can share that with people who are challenged, people who have much more difficult physical challenges than I have, or other types of challenges—not every challenge is a physical one—that is my calling.”