Brad Morris said if anything positive came from his near-fatal traffic accident in May, it was the outpouring of support he felt from the Gainesville community.
Cards, e-mails, calls and visits came from close friends and people the career criminal defense attorney barely knew. Even his fiercest courtroom adversaries stopped by with prayers for his recovery.
"It’s kind of surprising, because I have sort of an acidic personality," Morris said in typical self-deprecating manner during a phone interview Friday from his room at a DeKalb County physical rehabilitation center. "It’s just a nice community and a lot of people have been concerned and very attentive."
Morris, the circuit public defender for Hall and Dawson counties, was driving a motorized scooter the afternoon of May 19 when it collided with a car that swerved into his path on Ronnie Green Parkway. He was propelled into the car’s windshield and broke both legs, both hips, an arm, seven ribs, his left hand, suffered two collapsed lungs and various other internal injuries.
He was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he spent more than two weeks on a ventilator. He has undergone three extensive surgeries, with more likely to come.
Whenever a new doctor looks at his chart, "they have a quizzical look and say, ‘you’re really lucky to be alive,’" Morris said.
Today, Morris is at Northeast Atlanta Health And Rehabilitation Center, where he undergoes three to four hours of physical and orthopedic therapy each day. He has grown a bushy, reddish-brown beard and lost 30 pounds. His mind is sound and his voice just slightly raspy.
He is back overseeing office matters by phone and e-mail several hours a day, sometimes going over cases with lawyers in person at the center.
Morris hopes to get back to Gainesville in the fall, but knows his recovery will be a long, tough slog. The plan is to go from wheelchair to walker to eventually walking again.
"I had a pretty bad lick," Morris said, noting that in the early going after the crash it was "pretty touch-and-go." Doctors told his wife, Renee, that most people with similar injuries would be either paralyzed, brain-damaged or dead.
"I have a pretty deep well to come out of, but it’s just going to take a certain amount of work," Morris said. "But the positive has been the number of people who have been concerned and interested and nice to me."
Morris has only vague memories of the accident and the aftermath, when emergency medical technicians carried him to the side of the City Park football field. In the place he often spent fall Friday nights in the grandstands, a helicopter landed to airlift him to Grady.
Nearly three months later, Morris said that "from the waist up, I feel pretty good."
"I feel that intellectually and physically otherwise, I’m pretty well back. It’s just the mechanics of getting my legs and hips working again so I can have better mobility."
Morris believes the attorneys and staff he has in place at the public defender’s office have done a good job done in his absence.
"I think our office is running pretty well," he said. "They’re pretty serious about what they’re doing. It’s not just a job for them ... it’s a pretty dedicated group."
Meanwhile, it may be some time still before Morris is back in a courtroom.
Not having to look presentable, he hasn’t done much trimming to his beard, and he hasn’t had to wear a tie in a while.
"I wouldn’t mind putting on one now," he said.