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Gural Hensley, 56, above with his wife, Barbara, was seriously injured just miles from his West Fork home on Nov. 15 when the truck he was driving crashed. The wreck left him with a broken nose, four broken ribs, a fractured L2 vertebrae, a four-inch cut on his head, a mild contusion and short-term memory loss. In fact, Hensley doesn’t remember the wreck or the 21 days of physical rehabilitation that followed his 26-day stay at University of Louisville Hospital. Photo by Chris Adams

Long road to recovery

November crash leaves West Fork man with short-term memory loss

March 13, 2013
Life can change in the blink of an eye. For 56-year-old Gural Hensley and his family, that blink was around 11:20 on the morning of Nov. 15.

Hensley, a truck driver, was on his way home to West Fork after days on the road. Near the old Sulphur Park along S.R. 62, he was just a few miles from his Mifflin-West Fork Road residence when his semi crashed.

No one knows why, and Hensley doesn't remember the wreck that left him with a broken nose, four broken ribs, a fractured L2 vertebrae, a four-inch cut on his head, a mild contusion and enough lost blood to cover the floor of the truck's cab.

"I heard on the scanner that a semi had wrecked," Hensley's wife, Barbara, said. "So, I started calling, and I couldn't get him to answer. When I finally did get an answer, a woman answered and asked whose cell phone she had."

That was Lt. Debra Young of the Crawford County Sheriff's Department, who told Barbara that her husband was being flown by helicopter to University of Louisville Hospital.

Gural was in bad shape. The wreck had broken his false teeth, which became lodged in his throat. Emergency personnel had difficulty getting the truck's doors unlocked. Gural's heart actually stopped beating, and he had to be resuscitated.

At U of L, his condition was touch and go, and he remained in the hospital for 26 days, with most of that stay in the Intensive Care Unit.

"The first day, when I saw him and I looked at him, I didn't think there was any way he would live," Gural's brother, Clint, said, adding that he never felt so helpless in his life. "The only thing I could do was pray to God and ask God."

Unable to breathe on his own, Gural was hooked up to a ventilator, and when hospital staff took him off, he didn't stay off long.

"It was, like, four or five hours that they put him back on because he was gasping for air," his daughter, Michelle Morris, said.

However, with his family, which also includes sons Travis and Justin, by his side, Gural regained consciousness and began breathing on his own. He was then transferred to Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital in New Albany, where he spent 21 days undergoing various physical therapy.

Gural, however, doesn't remember undergoing treatment. In fact, he has a difficult time remembering many things from the near past.

"It's really messed his short-term memory up," Barbara said.

Likening his muscles to rubber bands that have been stretched too far, therapists are hopeful that, as Gural heals, his memory will improve, Morris said.

"It aggravates me, yes," Gural, who also underwent in-home therapy, said of his memory issues.

Having never had a wreck on the job, Gural likely will never drive a truck again. The only thing he has ever done professionally, driving was more than a job to him.

"I always tormented him that the truck was his first wife and mom was his second wife," Morris said.

Despite being unable to drive a truck anymore, Gural was denied disability. He has applied a second time, but it could be another six months before he learns if his application is successful. Plus, while he currently has insurance through his employer, he is unsure how long that will last, since he is unable to return to work.

In the meantime, he and Barbara have been living on their checking account and relying on the generosity of family, friends and neighbors.

"People have helped us, churches have helped us, family has helped us," Barbara said. "We're getting by."

A benefit was held March 2 at the old 4-H building in English. The event, hosted by the group Friends Helping Friends, included a chili supper and silent auction.

"It means a lot to us," Barbara said of the benefit. "Some people don't realize when you go through something like this what you really go through."

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