Podiatrist shifts from physician to patient after crash

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MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Tom Freeman is used to helping people get back on their feet. So when another doctor told him he had to stay in a wheelchair and off his own feet, the veteran podiatrist faced a challenge, for sure.

"I'm used to being mobile," Freeman said. "So this is hard."

Freeman was in a serious motorcycle accident on Oct. 17, on U.S. 35 between Muncie and Richmond. The recovery and rehabilitation have been long and complicated, but it's better than the alternative that so many feared in mid-October when word spread of the veteran physician's accident.

Freeman has touched thousands through his practice, Preferred Footcare of Muncie, as well as the lives of his children. East Central Indiana basketball circles watched his son Tommy play for Central High School. News of the accident on a Friday afternoon circulated rapidly in Muncie and on social media.

Freeman was flown by helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, and his condition was critical. Six weeks later, Huffman was matter of fact about what saved his life: the protective gear he wore that day and every other day he climbed on his motorcycle.

"Absolutely that saved my life," Freeman told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/1BAAGF0 ), referring to the boots, body armor and helmet. "That, and a lot of prayers."

Still, the road back to normalcy wasn't, and isn't, an easy one. Freeman suffered two broken ankles, plus a damaged right knee, a broken sternum and lacerated spleen and liver.

Freeman said his memory of the accident was pretty vivid. After a week in a coma, he was able to tell the doctors and insurance representative the moments leading up to the crash. He can't discuss every detail because of ongoing legal issues, but he said a car pulled out in front of him while he was southbound on 35.

"I looked back from my mirror and he was right in front me," said Freeman, the father of four boys, Tommy, David, Cody and Zachary.

One thing that Freeman does not know is why on that Friday afternoon he decided to take the curvy, hilly stretch of U.S. 35 that is often the scene of accidents, too often deadly ones.

"I've always avoided it with the bike," the 57-year-old said, his love for basketball obvious as a game played on TV in the background while he was talking. "I don't know why I decided to go that way on that day."

The time in the hospital and in the wheelchair as well as trips to the doctor for rehab have kept Freeman out of work for an extended period. His patients have been temporarily cared for by another podiatrist who has offered her services to help out.

"It's hard not working," Freeman said, his desire to speed up the process noted by his constant gripping of the wheels to roll himself back and forth as he talks. "It's been 26 years of fun. The only thing I like as much as work is basketball. My patients are getting taken care of. And I've had such a great outpouring of support from them and so many other people."

Freeman's recovery has coincided with a new chapter of his life, too. One day after being released from the hospital, he married his longtime girlfriend, Lori.

"We had dated hard for several years," Freeman said of his new bride, who is a postal employee in Ohio and awaiting a transfer to Muncie.

A trip to the doctors in Dayton this week will hopefully advance Freeman from the wheelchair to crutches and help identify how quickly he can return to work.

"It'll just depend on what the doctors say and also on how well I can get around on the crutches," he said. "I want to get back to work; it will probably just have to be with a limited number of patients at first."


Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Star Press.

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