Parents will do anything for their kids. Last year when Doug Meadows, owner of David Douglas Diamonds & Jewelry, learned of his then soon to be daughter-in-law Kathleen’s dream of getting married to his son, Peter, on her family’s farm, he went into action. As Doug, his family, friends, community and even the industry would soon learn, the best of intentions can sometimes meet with the worst of consequences.
Doug’s jewelry store is based in Marietta, Georgia. With Kathleen’s family farm based in Acworth, Georgia, the 22-mile commute was an easy one with weekends spent sprucing up neglected farmland. Getting Kathleen, her horse Ranger, and many of her belongings to the Atlanta area was the start of the many arduous tasks to make the family farm wedding day dream a reality.
It took Doug, Peter and Kathleen three days of driving a 26-foot U-Haul truck and a horse trailer from her home in New Mexico to Georgia. With everyone settled in their new homes, next came the task of making 20 acres of neglected farmland and a barn ready for a dream rural wedding and reception on April 11, which was less than a month away.
“The main task was clearing the 20 acres of tall grass,” says Doug. “It had grown about three feet tall since it was last mowed. As you might have guessed, cutting the grass was easier than the clearing of it.”
Although overgrown, Kathleen’s family farm had many of the amenities and machinery needed to manage the property. Doug discovered an old John Deere tractor stored in the barn. Doug fired it up and much to his surprise it “ran like a Deere.” What Doug didn’t anticipate was tractors frequently get stuck in mud. After a couple of weeks of clearing the property, a late March rainfall got the tractor badly stuck.
“I’m a jeweler, not a farmer, so I did what most people would do – looked up how-to videos on YouTube,” says Doug.
On March 26, Doug was drawing on his new-found knowledge from watching videos online. He was snapping through 4x4s chained to the tractor’s rear wheel quickly, so it was time for Plan B. Doug cut down a six-inch diameter tree. Based on another online video, Doug was confident this would work. He turned on the engine, gave the tractor some gas and then a moment of truth turned into many moments of horror and agonizing pain.
“The tractor did a big wheelie and flipped back on me,” says Doug. “I was pinned down for roughly five minutes before family members figured out how to free me without causing further injury.”
Adding to the commotion was the need to contact medical emergency crews and not knowing the farm’s exact address. Doug’s son Samuel, who was taking videos of attempts to free the tractor from the deep mud, ran to the mailbox and called 911. Fire and medical emergency crews arrived within another five minutes.
During those 10 minutes of utter pandemonium and excruciating pain, many thoughts teemed through Doug’s mind – chief among them would he live through this experience to be at his son’s wedding in less than two weeks. With these troubling and distressing thoughts in mind, Doug was remarkably calm.
“God gave me an incredible amount of peace while I was pinned under the tractor,” says Doug. “It was through this peace that I knew everything was going to be okay.”
Doug was quickly brought to a local hospital. The old tractor put tremendous weight and compression on his chest, breaking eight ribs and forcing much blood to his upper-chest and face. In addition, his body was covered with deep cuts and bruises as well as a sprained finger. Factor in the physical and emotional trauma, and Doug was in a world of hurt.
While lying there in his bed at the Intensive Care Unit at his local hospital, Doug began to realize he had the potential to pull through this farm accident. But all he could think about was the work left needed to do for the wedding.
“We were nowhere near done,” says Doug. “More tall grass needed to be cleared, literally tons of gravel had to be hauled in and poured down, electrical and water lines needed to be laid down, the list seemed endless and impossible in that hospital bed.”
In addition to these stresses, Doug was faced with a catastrophic health care situation without health insurance to cover the costs. It was a stress trifecta – son’s upcoming wedding, massive wedding preparations, and no insurance coverage. Still, Doug was determined to dance with the bride on her wedding day.
There’s the old saying that when your son gets married you lose him and gain a daughter. For Doug, he gained Kathleen’s love of family, love of life and love of God at that critical time when all seemed so hopeless. “Kathleen kept reassuring me that God would help pull things together,” says Doug.
Faith in overcoming overwhelming odds started to take many forms. The farming accident happened on the afternoon of Thursday, March 26. By Sunday, Doug’s brother, Dave, had called on family members and friends to continue with the grass clearing. “Everyone with a lawn mower or weed-whacker of some kind showed up to help,” says Doug. The family pulled together to put down gravel and completed the water and electrical line work, but clearing the land without the tractor seemed an impossible task.
Jen Taylor Foster, store manager at David Douglas Diamonds, spread word to customers and the community. Doug needed much in terms of financial support. Jen encouraging people to stop by the store to donate to Doug’s cause or donate online at a dedicated GoFundMe account to “Restore Doug.”
A loyal customer of many years came in to contribute and asked if he could help. Knowing that he owned a landscaping company, Jen shared that they were having trouble getting the land cleared in time for the wedding. His landscaping company came through by sending a team to finish the tall grass cutting and clearing of the land.
Next was keeping the store going. “Many in the industry know me, but they didn’t know if I was a one-man operation,” says Doug. “I’m blessed with an awesome staff and key people kept up with repairs, appraisal work and even my bench work.”
With his body healing, the landscaping work handled and the store operating on its own, Doug needed to concentrate on two major items in front of him – a huge hospital bill and getting physically and emotionally ready for his son’s wedding.
When Doug was discharged the hospital bill totaled $60,000. Owing that amount of money was daunting, but Doug now had to concentrate on actually showing up for his son’s wedding, the reception, and, of course, dancing with his new daughter-in-law.
“The day came and I took my regular dose of pain meds and upped the ante a bit to get through the big day,” says Doug. “Although the meds helped, I think the adrenaline helped more than the pain killers.”
Kathleen went down the aisle on horseback with her trusted steed Ranger. The dream wedding on her family farm came true, and Doug had just enough energy and will to dance with her at the reception. When the wedding weekend was over, Doug was completely and utterly exhausted.
But, Doug’s day-to-day life was waiting for him after the mist of the dream wedding cleared. Donations covered $25,000 of the $60,000 hospital bill, which is still owed today. “It’s unsettling and nerve-wracking because the hospital hasn’t contacted me after all these months about the bill, but I’d like to get this settled somehow, sometime soon.”
Donations are still being accepted at GoFundMe.com/RestoreDoug. Doug has gone from a large tractor weight on his chest to a big hospital bill on his back, but he continues to recover well. He has gained a daughter, and his faith in God and people has been renewed in so many ways.
“I can’t begin to tell you how deeply touched and blessed I am to have so many people help me during this time of need,” says Doug.