NORTH FORT MYERS, FL -- Vance Clark, 42, recently
stood at the wheel of a 42-foot trawler yacht
and continued a life-long cruise toward recovery.
Clark has been steering
this heading since 1982 when a car pulled alongside
his BMW touring cycle in the Midwest and a passenger
reached out of a window and popped him in the
back of the head with a baseball bat.
The doctors didn't expect
Clark to live and, indeed, he spent eight months
in a coma. Now, the goal of his doctors is not
merely to keep their patient alive, but to give
him a life
This summer's cruise was
Clark's reward as well as his therapy. He is a
resident of Lake Forest, a long-term treatment
center near Detroit for traumatically brain-injured
persons. On this cruise, his caretakers were also
his boating friends, Dr. Kevin Lynch, a neurospecialist,
and Lenore Truitt, his care manager. They reviewed
the items, all checked, that earned this excursion.
Room clean. No cussing. Words pronounced carefully.
Barb Hansen of Southwest
Florida Yachts, the North Fort Myers, Florida
charter firm, scheduled Vance and his friends
aboard Forever, a 42-foot, Grand Banks
trawler. It was Clark's third charter with Southwest
Florida Yachts and one of about 30 boating expeditions
he has enjoyed since the injury.
"Vance lives for boating
and boating is good for Vance," said Dr.
Lynch. "When he returned from this cruise
it was so clear that he learned new physical skills,
gained more self-confidence, and built a store
of many pleasant memories." Lynch said the
cruise, for Vance and for him, too, was like visiting
a church of the great outdoors. Dolphins surfed
the bow wave. Pelicans rode the thermal astern.
Magnificent frigatebirds soared overhead.
"Vance told me he
truly feels alive when he's boating," said
Hansen. "He's one of our favorite customers
and we hope to see him again and again."
Clark can no longer drive
his BMW, but he can still cruise, still feel the
wind in his face. The voyage continues.