One Year Out of Hospital, Stricken Sergeant Strides On

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Donnie Manry's story is known to most everyone in the region, and if you don't know it, he wants you to know.

A year ago Saturday, Manry walked out of the St. Joseph Rehabilitation Center. Month earlier, he lay in the facility paralyzed from the waist down, all because of an extreme case of West Nile Virus.

It doesn't feel like a year for him, though.

"I guess time flies when you're having fun," the former Bryan Police sergeant said with a laugh.

There were many times where it was no laughing matter for Manry and his family, a wife and three kids.

"One bite overnight, and there you go. Your whole life is taken from you," he said.

What wasn't taken was Manry's determination, and after months of hospitalization and countless hours of rehab, his strength to strive for strides got him home.

Now, he might not be as agile and mobile as he once was, but Manry is getting back out and about, including a trip to the hunting grounds with his daughters Saturday.

"Momma texted Daddy yesterday while we were hunting -- 'Happy Thank God You're Home Anniversary,'" the elder daughter, Chelsea, said. "I was like, 'It has been a year.'"

At least three days a week, Donnie is working out at rehab. He's quick to point out that he wants to get back to work, but so long as he's got crutches under his arm or walks with a cane, or even rolls with a wheel chair, the prospects aren't as great. Add to that the required rehab, and the margin slims.

That doesn't stop Manry from doing what it takes to make it back to some semblance of health.

"I think he wants to work and be active," Stephanie, his wife, said. "He spent all of his life doing that, and it was abruptly taken away. Then, maybe he'll run in a marathon."

There was always the thought in the Manry family that Donnie would be back up and around at some point, but such a fast progression has taken some aback.

"I thought it would have taken a little bit longer," daughter Haley said. What does that mean her dad is? "Very strong," she said simply.

For now, a slow saunter around their property means everything, each step defying odds, each step increasing confidence, each step one closer to normalcy.

He still preaches protection when it comes to those pesky bugs that put him in the position he is, but there are two more elements to his new life, the first being support.

"We don't go anywhere where someone doesn't come up to us and say, 'How are you doing? Man, you're looking great. Your progress is good,'" Donnie said.

Indeed, community efforts have included a major fundraiser that provided the family with some needed funds. Manry's law enforcement career came to an end when his health problems began. That's when the community began to help.

"The only word I keep coming up with is humbling, but it's so far beyond that."

That second element, one that was close to him in sickness, and close to him in growing health is a saying painted on a wood block, one that hung in the hospital, one that hangs in their home: "Life is what we make it."

"You can sit there and be bitter and say, 'Why me?' You know what? That's not going to get you back up on your feet," Donnie said.

Donnie and Stephanie had been only been married about a year-and-a-half when West Nile struck, but just a few months ago, the two renewed their vows.