This is an amazing story.
Bill Atkinson was an exceptional athlete and ruggedly handsome young man from the Philadelphia area. He attended Catholic schools throughout his life in the 1960’s including Monsignor Bonner High School.
The Atkinson family was a wonderfully faithful Catholic family. In fact, the New York Jets nearly didn’t draft his older brother, Al, as a linebacker because they feared he would become a priest. He didn’t. Bill did.
Bill attended a pre-seminary program in upstate New York where one winter morning he was terribly injured when a toboggan he was riding down a hill along with three friends crashed into a tree. His friends weren’t sure he would survive being carried to the station wagon in near blizzard conditions. They weren’t sure if he would survive the 45 minute drive to a nearby hospital. Doctors weren’t sure he would wake at all. His family, especially his mother, prayed constantly at his bedside. She kept vigil next to him and when he would stop breathing, she would whisper fervently in his ear “Breathe Bill, you have to breathe.” She prayed her utterances would help give him the will to live. But for days there was no movement.
His fever reportedly rose to 108 degrees and doctors opened the windows to the brutally cold winter outside in an effort to lower his temperature. Doctors did all they could. Friends and family prayed. And then he woke.
He learned he was paralyzed. His spine had essentially shattered. Every day was difficult. So difficult. His weight dropped from an athletic 190 to less than 90 pounds.