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Father and son share story of crisis, recovery

WINDHAM - It's been three years since Bobby Dixon awoke from his coma, but his father remembers the event as if it happened yesterday.

Robert Dixon said the experience marked the end of the five most critical weeks in his son's life, during which both men learned the power of hope and human kindness in the face of the unthinkable.

The struggles endured by a devoted father and his injured son, whose life was forever changed when he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, are detailed in their new book, "Look Forward: A Father and Son's Journey to Healing."

Proceeds from the book, which was released Nov. 15, will assist with Bobby's daily needs as he continues to adjust to life without the use of his limbs.

"My hope is that every reader will come away from this book with realization that the world is full of caring people and that what we have in common is more powerful than our differences," the elder Dixon said during a recent book signing at the Chatterbox Café in Windham.

Bobby, now 37, was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle in early November 2009. The accident severely damaged his spinal cord, fracturing seven vertebrae, and nearly cost him his life.

Doctors didn't expect him to live, but he emerged from the coma after four weeks, only to learn that he'd never walk again.

His father, who was working in Shanghai as a manufacturing executive at the time of the accident, promptly rushed home to attend to his son.

Robert Dixon took a hiatus from the business world to devote himself full-time to Bobby's well being. He's since developed an organization called MC4 that helps returning military veterans find civilian careers.

The family recalls many long nights in the ICU at UMass Medical Center, with the elder Dixon writing the occasional blog post to help clear his thoughts.

"When you're in a hospital at night, you notice some interesting things," he said.

As Bobby began adjusting to the new life fate gave him, his father kept up with those posts. It wasn't long before more than one person suggested the pair publish a book.

Father and son had one reservation: They didn't want people to feel sorry for them.

"We really want to inspire people," Robert Dixon said, "because the word 'normal' means different things for different people. After something like this happens, the word takes on a new meaning."

For Bobby, who was working in construction at the time of his accident, life has changed profoundly since that November day three years ago.

Some changes, he said, have been for the better.

"I think it takes a really long time to understand your situation, but I never gave up," he said. "It was never about not being able to do things; it was more about finding a new way."

One major challenge he's dealt with was learning to drive again. Though many advised him that it might be easier to drive a car than a truck, Bobby wouldn't hear of it.

Alterations to his beloved pickup now allow Bobby to travel in style.

"I'm a truck guy, always have been," he said with a grin. "It took lots of time finding a new way to get up into the truck cabin, but I found if I throw my legs up there first, I'm in the driver's seat."

These days, Bobby is keeping busy with college applications. He hopes to enroll in some business programs soon. He's also planning a Sweet Sixteen party for his daughter, Halie Morgan.

"The accident destroyed a lot of things, but it's brought me closer to people," he said.

And, he added, "I think before I do things."

His father offers words of advice for families in similar situations.

"You can do anything you set your mind to do. You can gain control of any situation," Robert Dixon said. "But if you fear too much, you can become paralyzed.

"No pun intended," Bobby chimed in.

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April Guilmet may be reached at AGuilmet@newstote.com.

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