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Wayne and Dea Klumper stand on a path in Olson Park, where the YMCA Fun Run will begin Wednesday. Wayne sustained severe injuries in an accident last year but plans to do the run one last time. Beth Rickers/Daily Globe

Running with Wayne

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WORTHINGTON — One year ago, Wayne Klumper’s three children — Dan, Tresse and Joe — stood by his bedside at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., and told him about the Worthington Area YMCA Fun Run they had just completed. They related stories of all the people who asked about him, said they were praying for him and were wearing “Heals” T-shirts, and how his grandchildren, Olivia, Jade and Brynn, also participated in the event. 

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They also expressed the hope that the next year Wayne would be able to do the Fun Run with them once again.

That fervent wish will come true on Wednesday. Wayne, just a little more than a year after suffering life-threatening and debilitating injuries in a motorcycle accident, plans to run the 5K during this year’s YMCA Fun Run. It’s an event that he helped with during his long career at the YMCA and into retirement, and he’s determined to be part of it once again.

The accident

One year ago today, Wayne had overcome the initial crisis of the June 25 accident, which caused numerous injuries: bruised lung, broken ribs, severely swollen eye, fractured facial bones, broken collarbone, numerous road rash burns and, the biggest concern, bleeding and swelling in the brain. With wife Dea constantly by his side and his children there as much as possible, he’d survived and awakened from his unconscious state. There had been many days of uncertainty in the interim and many drastic measures taken in hopes of preserving his life.

But by the time of the 2013 Fun Run, Wayne had been moved to Select Hospital, a rehabilitation facility within the Sanford complex. He was awake quite a bit, responsive and often agitated. He was alive, but exactly how much he would be able to recover was still very much in question.

Fast-forward to the present

Despite those concerns of one year ago, Wayne has undergone what could only be termed a miraculous recovery. Slowly but surely, Wayne’s body and brain healed.

He regained his ability to walk and talk. Wayne is now able to do chores around the Klumpers’ rural home, drive a vehicle and exercise on a daily basis. He no longer undergoes any type of therapy.

“We’re just waking up every morning and living,” said Dea, flashing a loving smile at her husband.

The most noticeable after-effect of the accident that remains is some speech difficulty. Getting words out is tough for Wayne, and he can’t always formulate what he is trying to express or come up with the right names. But the big grin constantly covering his face says more than words ever can about how glad he is to be alive.

On the one-year anniversary of the accident, the Klumper clan made a pilgrimage to the site where the accident happened on Nobles County 10.

“We went out to the exact spot, and just talked about what happened and all the thousands of people who did so much for us and said our prayers to God,” said Wayne.

Wayne and Dea have also been reading the appropriate entries for the corresponding dates from one year ago in the book written by their son, Dan. “Heals: A Story of Tragedy, Miracles and Love,” was compiled from the family’s daily posts on Wayne’s CaringBridge Internet site, with additional material added to flesh out the true-life tale.

“It’s been a really good way to do it,” said Dea about their reading ritual, “a good way to relive what happens each day, so there’s the progression. We do it each night before we go to bed.”

For Wayne, much of the book reveals information that is new to him.

“I’ve learned a lot about what happened,” he said.

But Wayne is well aware — and extremely grateful — of how the Worthington community rallied around him and his family during the medical crisis, offering up prayers, donations, help and other means of support throughout the duration of his recovery. It’s one of the reasons he’s been so determined to participate in the annual Fun Run.

“There have been so many people who have done so much — all the people and the organizations — that it’s impossible to thank them,” he said. “A lot of people have said they’re going to come out and watch. I hope they come out and run with me.”

In preparation for the Fun Run, Wayne and Dea have been training, running 3.1 miles (equivalent of a 5K) every third day.

“We’re not going to do a blistering pace, but we’ll finish,” said Dea.

Once again, the Klumper kids — minus Joe, who is currently visiting his girlfriend in Norway — and grandkids will also be on hand for Wednesday’s run. When the event is completed, however, Wayne and Dea intend to hang up their running shoes and leave it up to the younger generations in coming years.

“We’re not going to run any more after this. We’re just going to be walkers and bikers,” asserted Wayne, adding with a laugh, “The other part, besides the accident, is that I’m getting older.”

When the accident happened, it curtailed Wayne’s ability to do so many things he loved: farming, caring for his flock sheep, taking a ride with his dog, playing with his grandchildren, walking, running and biking with his wife. This time around, when he quits running, it’s on his own terms.

“We’re just excited for the fact I lived to do this,” he said.

The 32nd annual YMCA Fun Run will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Olson Park Campground picnic shelter. The event includes ½-mile, 1-mile and 5K runs. Registration forms are available at the Worthington Area YMCA or online at www.ymcaworthington.org. For more information, contact YMCA Program Director CJ Nelson, 376-6197; email progdirymca@frontier.com.

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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