Originally written by Amanda Dodson and published by The Stokes News

On the evening of March 11, Melvin Clarke reached above the fireplace in his home to change the time on his clock. He lost his balance on the hearth, fell down and hit his head. Knowing he needed medical assistance, his family called an ambulance, and he was rushed to the hospital. Once there, Clarke was diagnosed with a brain bleed, and a few hours later went into a coma. He remained unconscious for 14 days and doctors predicted the worst.

The 86-year-old had lived an active lifestyle before his accident. He served in Gideon International for more than 50 years, was a deacon and Sunday School teacher in his church at Mount Olive Baptist in King, and was also a caregiver for his wife.

Two weeks before his fall, Clarke planted 69 Leyland cypress trees at his grandson’s house and push mowed several yards for local widows.

“I retired in 1991 and then started working in a nursery. Before this, I usually cut 16 yards a week and managed 10 flowerbeds. I love it,” he said.

When Clarke transitioned to Priddy Manor Assisted Living in King to undergo physical and occupational therapy, he had to relearn many of the things he’d taken for granted for the past eight decades.

“When I got out of the coma I couldn’t read, write or talk. I wasn’t myself and it was one of the hardest things to accept, but since I’ve been here I’ve gotten stronger every day. In the very beginning my doctors set a goal for me to be home by Christmas and they made sure it happened.”

Clarke left Priddy Manor on Friday afternoon, just in time to spend the holidays surrounded by family and friends.

“He has one of the most dedicated families I’ve ever seen,” said Christy Bower, Priddy Manor’s Executive Director. “Melvin’s attitude, persistence, and overall journey has been an inspiration to his family, the community, and Priddy Manor’s staff and residents alike. We’re saddened to see him leave us, but we are so proud of how far he has come.”

Clarke said his doctor and therapists attribute his successful recovery to a healthy lifestyle over the years.

“I use to walk three-and-a-half miles before breakfast every morning. It just made me feel better to move around before the day started.”

Packing up to leave the staff and friends he’s made at Priddy Manor is bittersweet, Clarke said.

“I’m going to miss the people here, but I’ll definitely be back to visit. They won’t be getting rid of me just yet.”

Clarke plans to start 2018 at a slightly slower pace.

“I’m very thankful the Lord has brought me through this and I know I’ll need to take it easy for a little while. I like crossword puzzles and I’ll sit down and read my Bible,” he said. “But I’ll be on my feet too. I have five-and-a-half acres to mow at my house.”

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