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Welcome home, miracle man

Published 8:28pm Friday, November 23, 2012

The past year and a half has been unbelievably hard for Lon Bickham. But on Thanksgiving Day, he and his family and friends had plenty of reasons to be grateful.

Not least on that list is the fact that he’s still alive. In April of 2011, the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy alumnus was one of four men performing maintenance on a wood chipper in Emporia when there was an explosion. One of Bickham’s coworkers was killed in the accident. Two others were seriously injured. Bickham, now 32, suffered burns over 94 percent of his body; only his face, covered by a welding mask, and his feet escaped burns. Friends have said the doctors at the Medical College of Virginia told them they’d never seen someone survive after such traumatic burns.

But there were miracles in store for the young man. And a whole lot of work by Bickham, his family and his medical team. After spending more than 13 months in a hospital, including a year on a ventilator, after undergoing 35 surgeries, after suffering numerous infections and problems with his kidneys, and following a long stint in a rehabilitation center that in truth marks just the beginning of a long recovery, Bickham returned home this week in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family.

His homecoming in Chuckatuck was full of joy and tears, and one can imagine that Thursday’s holiday was about far more than just turkey and trimmings to his family and his fiancée, who calls him her “miracle man.”

There’s hardly a better antidote to Friday’s stories of consumerist chaos than Bickham’s story of grace and life. Welcome home, Lon Bickham.

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