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The Miracle of Mary Nelson

Mary Nelson can catch a tennis ball. With either hand. And while that might not seem like a big deal, given that Nelson and her sister, Rachel, were state tennis doubles semifinalists in 2009, the Nelson family can tell you that it’s nothing short of a miracle. 

Early Nov. 5, Nelson, a 2010 West Holmes High School graduate, and three friends were out for a pleasant drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway not far from Mars Hill College in North Carolina, where Nelson was a sophomore. In the blink of an eye, a simple driver error sent the vehicle sailing over an embankment, spared from a plunge into the French Broad River below when the car slammed into a tree. The driver and two other passengers were unharmed. Mary Nelson, however, sustained multiple brain injuries, sending her into a deep coma. Doctors didn’t expect her to live through the night. 

Nelson proved them wrong. 

Now, just six weeks later, Mary Nelson is able to accomplish what most college students take for granted. A fist bump. A high five. Tossing a tennis ball. She can even brush her own teeth and walk with assistance. She’s on the road to recovery, but, as her sister shared Dec. 13 in a written update, “prayers for healing must continue as Mary fights with all her heart to come back all the way.”

Music teacher Kristen Rodhe and students from the West Holmes Chamber and Concert Choirs are doing what they can to smooth the bumps in that road by offering Christmas Hope, a professional recording of six songs performed by both choirs, with all proceeds to be donated to the Nashville family to ease the overwhelming burden of medical and rehabilitation costs. 

Music was instrumental in Nelson’s early stages of recovery. Her family set up a laptop in the hospital room so that, even while in a coma, Nelson could absorb her favorite songs. All four of the Nelson children, Mary, Johnny, Danny and Rachel, have been very active in West Holmes’ music programs, participating in band, choir and musicals throughout their high school careers. Rodhe wanted to honor that musical investment by giving back to the Nelson family through this recording project, underwritten by Drs. Jim and Holly Conway, Judge Robert Rinfret, West Holmes Music Boosters, Rodhe’s IGA Marketplace and Upperhand Productions, ensuring that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Nelsons. 

The six songs, recorded, mixed, and mastered free-of-charge by Gabriel O’Brien at Upperhand Productions, include Calypso Navidad, Mary’s Lullaby and The Lord Bless You and Keep You. The CDs were made available during the Tuesday, Dec. 13 Holiday Choir Concert and can be purchased for a suggested donation of $5 or more at Rodhe’s IGA in Millersburg, as well as by calling West Holmes High School at 330-674-6085. 

As Rachel Nelson wrote, her sister is a long way from a full recovery, but with faith and hope, she can get there.

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