When Jay Rapley went for an early morning walk with his neighbor and their dogs nearly three years ago, he didn’t know his life was about to change forever. His life might look different now, but thanks to the strength he has found from his faith, family and friends, he’s not allowing difficulties to define him.
Rapley—a husband, father of four and local orthopedic surgeon—started out the morning of January 23, 2017 in an ordinary way as he headed out for the walk. He suddenly heard a car coming, and what happened next was surreal. The driver hit him, resulting in multiple fractures and a spinal cord injury. He was rushed to the emergency room where he also faced significant bleeding.
As a physician, he immediately knew the extent of his injuries and that they meant he would not regain use of his legs. He was paralyzed.
“I knew what was wrong with me, and I knew what was coming,” Rapley says.
After two weeks in intensive care and a stay at a rehabilitation hospital, he began to adjust to the new normal for his life, which involves a wheelchair.
“Pretty much any aspect of life that you think of that can be affected has been,” he says.
He can no longer run after his four daughters, and it can be difficult finding wheelchair-accessible places to meet up with friends. He and his family moved into an accessible home, and he had to make modifications to his work schedule and responsibilities.
Despite it all, he was able to return to work six months after the accident. He says he couldn’t handle the idea of being at home and doing nothing, and today he continues to see patients and perform surgeries.
“I worked too hard to give up,” he says.
He might work fewer hours now at Rockhill Orthopedics, but he says the group has been very willing to accommodate him, and he is also back to assisting with high school athletics. He has a new perspective as a doctor on what his patients might be going through as they deal with injuries, surgeries and pain.
As he was recovering, friends helped manage various aspects of day-to-day-life for him and helped move his family into their new home.
Rapley’s skills with his hands are evident not only in his ability to perform surgery, but also in making handcrafted guitars—a hobby he still continues to enjoy.
Lee’s Summit Mayor Bill Baird named Jay Rapley the 2019 Lee’s Summit Citizen of the Year in recognition of his strength and perseverance. He was also named a 2018 Top Doctor in Lee’s Summit.
His life has taken a huge shift from what it was before 2017, but through it all his faith has been instrumental in helping him face the challenges.
“The key to overcome adversity is my faith in God,” Rapley says. “If I didn’t have that, I don’t know where I would be. When everything is taken away, what’s enough for you?”
Ultimately, he’s learned that while some days might be harder than others, his faith in God is what is enough to sustain him.
“There isn’t one of us who can escape pain, grief, injustice, fear…the question is how we respond throughout the course of it,” Rapley’s wife Ashely says. “Jay’s daily response has been a heart of submission (to God) and humility. Jay chooses daily to continue serving me, his daughters and his patients with such intentionality because Christ continues to fill his lungs with breath.”