ELKINS - One day in October, Elkins resident Mark Phillips woke up to a nurse asking if he knew where he was. He told her he thought he was in the hospital in Elkins, but she told him he was in West Virginia University Hospital in Morgantown, and had been there for three days.
Rewind back to Oct. 11, when Phillips was injured while he was providing commentary as an employee on the Cheat Mountain Salamander passenger train as it made its way from Elkins through the stop at High Falls and on to Cheat Bridge.
"That day I was sitting reading a magazine and I saw we were approaching Cheat Bridge, where we pick up more passengers," Phillips said.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Elkins resident Mark Phillips continues to recuperate from injuries sustained in a train wreck in October. Phillips said he is now thankful for each day.
"I picked up the microphone and was beginning to tell everyone about the history of Cheat Bridge.
"All I got out was that we were approaching old Cheat Bridge and there was a loud explosive sound and it felt like the train stopped suddenly. I felt like I was being mashed into something and my vision became blurry."
Phillips said when he regained consciousness, he found himself in the vestibule between two cars of the train. He was lying in the corner with debris floating down all around him.
"I knew my right arm was broken and I could not get up," Phillips said. "A little later I could hear sirens, and I could hear people trying to keep others calm."
Phillips said an emergency squad worker came to him and stayed with him until he was put into the ambulance.
"I don't remember the person's name, but he stayed with me the whole time, trying to lift me out of the window," Phillips said. "It was comforting that he never left me. I told him I was too big for him to lift."
Phillips said he was taken to the Davis Memorial Hospital by a Barbour County Emergency Squad ambulance.
"When I arrived at the hospital, they said I had a broken arm and a collapsed lung," Phillips said. "Then they transported me to Morgantown by ambulance," a fact he does not recall.
Phillips remained at WVU Hospital for nine days, where he had surgery to repair his broken back. When he regained consciousness, he had been on a ventilator for two days.
"The doctor who performed the surgery on my back said I was so bad off when he first saw me that he did not think I would live long enough to have the surgery," Phillips said.
"I have a long way to go to get back to 100 percent. I am very blessed to be alive."
Phillips said he is truly thankful to everyone who has helped him through his ordeal.
"All of the nurses, doctors, hospital staff, emergency personnel, firemen, friends and family, they are wonderful and I cannot express enough thanks for their help," Phillips said. "My fiancee, Debbie Mayle, stayed right with me 24-7 - she helped me with everything and I am so thankful. Also my son, Adam Phillips, and daughter, Jennifer Smith, have helped out so much."
Phillips said he is grateful for the support from the Durbin and Greenbrier Railroad for securing a hotel room for his family in Morgantown while he was recuperating.
"It was great that they had a place to go to take a shower and rest," Phillips said. "All of my colleagues have been calling and checking in on me as well. I really appreciate their help and support."
"I am blessed to still be here," Phillips said. "I want to thank everyone for their prayers, cards, phone calls and visits."
Phillips said he has a request for everyone.
"When you go to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with your friends and family, take a moment to look at each one at the table and focus a minute on them," Phillips said. "Be thankful for having them in your lives.
"I am blessed to still be here and thankful for my family and friends. Be thankful for all the gifts given to you and take time to thank God and our savior Jesus Christ for all he has given to you and what he means to you. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to you all."