Following an accident that left his leg severely injured, an Oklahoma man and his family are on the verge of becoming homeless in Springfield, Missouri.
Terry Wadlow, Rachel White and their four children, ages 4 to 10, have been in Springfield since Sept. 4, when Wadlow was transported to Cox Hospital from Zena, for treatment.
On Sept. 3, he said he was standing by his vehicle on the side of the road when another vehicle crashed into him and broke his leg.
White and their four kids were there. They had run out of gas. His 10-year-old son saw the accident and is still troubled by the memory, White said.
An Oklahoma Highway Patrol report confirms Wadlow's version of events.
Wadlow said he was taken to the Joplin, Missouri, hospital by helicopter and then sent to Cox in Springfield. He said he was in intensive care for about four days.
White said she slept three nights in the Cox South ICU waiting room and later was put in a room with their children at the CoxHealth Plaza Hotel with support from the CoxHealth Foundation.
The family has gone back and forth from the CoxHealth Plaza Hotel, the hospital's patient and family lodging facility, to the Arbor Suites Medical Mile, where Wadlow gets the hospital discount rate of about $70 per night.
But as of Tuesday, Oct. 9, they owed for the previous three nights and had no money to stay longer.
Wadlow said he must stay in Springfield for at least the next two months because he has appointments at Cox twice a week for check-ups and to change the dressing on his wounds. He's had numerous surgeries and skin grafts with more to come. He won't be able to put weight on his leg for a few more weeks.
Wadlow's tibia and fibula were broken, his pelvic bone has a slight fracture and he's had two skin graft surgeries. He now has a permanent steel rod and metal plates in his lower leg.
He is attached to a wound vac, a device that decreases air pressure on the wound and helps the wound heal more quickly.
The Arbor Suites hotel manager lets Wadlow borrow a wheelchair when it comes time to visit his doctor. Hotel staff drive Wadlow to Cox in a hotel-owned van.
Wadlow and White have enrolled their three older children at nearby Cowden Elementary. The kids love their new school, Wadlow said, and the family would like to stay in Springfield even after he is recovered.
"We feel like God really brought us to this situation," Wadlow said. "We feel really blessed. A lot of people have helped us."
Wadlow praised his doctors and staff at Cox South for saving his leg and for treating him and his family so well. He said Cox nurses even pitched in to buy clothes for his children and help pay their motel bill.
Between that assistance and some financial help from relatives in Texas, Wadlow said they've managed to stay in Springfield for 34 days.
But now, the help is running dry.
When the News-Leader visited their motel room on Monday, Oct. 8, Wadlow was on the phone with One Door, a Springfield nonprofit that helps prevent homelessness.
After he hung up, Wadlow said he was told there are "no immediate funds anywhere for something like this."
Wadlow said he was told there might be an emergency shelter for him and for White and that the kids could go to Isabel's House or Great Circle, emergency shelters for children whose families are in crisis.
He was given the number for Salvation Army, which operates the Family Enrichment Center for families that are homeless. The couple called on Oct. 8, but were told there are no rooms for families available. The caseworker took their information and urged them to call back every day to check for availability.
Being from Oklahoma, Wadlow said he didn't know anything about Springfield's homeless shelter services, and their closest family is more than two hours away.
"I'm feeling kind of desperate, really not knowing what to do," Wadlow said. "I'm down here to take care of my medical part and my kids are in school. I don't have no answers left. I don't know what to do."
Adam Bodendieck, director of One Door, couldn't speak specifically about Wadlow's situation. But he acknowledged that there wasn't much One Door could do for Wadlow's family as far as paying for the motel room.
From November to February, One Door has limited funds for hotel vouchers to prevent families from being out in the cold. But in the middle of October, Bodendieck said that program doesn't exist.
Bodendieck suggested that Wadlow and White come to One Door as soon as possible for an assessment and to work on a homelessness diversion plan.
He also suggested the family start calling churches, which Wadlow did on Oct. 8.
On Oct. 9, Wadlow told the News-Leader he reached a Nazarene pastor who was going to see if the church had funds to help with Wadlow's hotel bill.
A few hours later, Wadlow said that pastor was unable to help.
"We're right back to where we started," Wadlow said.
The family owes about $220 and did not have money for Tuesday night.
Wadlow and White were also given a list of area motels. They said they are calling around, trying to find something cheaper and yet close to Cox South.
They have no vehicle. They said it was totaled in the crash that injured Wadlow.
"I want to stay here (in Springfield). I don't like to get the kids in school and yank them back out," he said. "I'd like to let them finish the school year and go from there."
As Wadlow was told by a One Door case worker over the phone, Bodendieck said the only shelter options for the family right now in Springfield would be sending White to Safe to Sleep, Wadlow to Victory Mission (if there are beds available) and the children to either Isabel's House or Great Circle.
Wadlow and White say they don't want to be separated from their children.
"That is not an option. That ain't going to happen," Wadlow said, shaking his head. "I don't like the separation idea at all."
Wadlow said he was working in the heating and air conditioning industry in Oklahoma before he was injured. Though it's going to be a while before he can walk, he said he hopes to find that sort of work here in Springfield.
Following a doctor's visit on Oct. 9, Wadlow said he intended to spend the evening calling churches again.
Then, around 3:40 p.m., the school bus pulled up outside the motel. White ran out of the room to greet their three school-age kids: 6-year-old Athena, 8-year-old Kayla and 10-year-old Brheadon.
Their little sister, 4-year-old Emerald, seemed thrilled to have them home again.
Kayla, a second-grader, said she loves Springfield.
"I do not want to move," she said.
Asked if she's got a best friend at school, she grinned and nodded.
"The whole classroom," she said.
Editor's Note: Jackie Rehwald is a reporter for the Springfield News-Leader. She continues to follow up with the family on a regular basis. Since the story initially ran, the family has received help and are out of immediate danger of becoming homeless.