Despite Jarring Accident, Kelly Ellis is Better, Not Bitter

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Kelly recumbent bike225The recumbent bike Kelly Ellis rides represents a new chapter in her life.Kelly Ellis gingerly gets on her recumbent trike’s seat, slips her feet into the pedal stirrups and, with the grace of a gazelle, effortlessly sets the three-wheel bike in motion down a nearby sidewalk.

In a real sense, Ellis’ self-propelled jaunt represents a victory lap for what the Lord has accomplished in the valley of her life.

“I live by the promise of Jeremiah 29:11,” said Ellis, referring to the Old Testament Scripture which affirms God’s plans to prosper His people with a hope and a future.

“What Satan plans as a disaster is an opportunity for God. We can choose to become bitter or better,” added Ellis. “I refuse to become bitter.”

Ellis is the director of Base Camp, an inner-city youth ministry under the umbrella of Sabaoth Ministries. Base Camp provides after-school tutoring, Bible studies and health and wellness lessons at Solomon’s Porch church in Jenison to kids who primarily live in the Burton Heights/Grandville Avenue/Hall Street area of Grand Rapids.

There was a time when it was doubtful if the Allendale resident would ride a bike of any kind again due to a jarring motor scooter accident on April 29, 2013 that threatened amputation of left leg from the knee down.

The mishap occurred while Ellis and her boss, Mike Peters, were driving east on Butterworth St. SW in Grand Rapids to have a windshield installed on Ellis’ motor scooter. They then turned right onto Garfield Ave. SW, which segued into a 90-degree curve onto Wealthy St. SW, where it had recently been paved with pea gravel.

By then, Peters was ahead of Ellis who warned her via the Bluetooth in his helmet to be careful negotiating the curve because of the loose gravel on the road.

“Before I could do anything, I felt my back tire start to go,” said Ellis. “I landed on my left leg. I heard the bones just break. I thought I just dislocated my knee.”

But the injury was much more severe than that.

Ellis later learned her left leg’s tibia and fibula were broken. It’s known in medical circles as a tibial plateau fracture, a critical weight-bearing area of the body that affects the knee joint, stability and motion.

“The bones were very smashed, shattered for a lack of a better term, and my circulation was poor,” Ellis said.

Kelly 26.2 tatBut it was tattoo on the top of her right foot that reads “26.2” that contributed to saving her left leg. The tattoo refers to the number of miles Ellis ran in the 2011 Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon.

A trauma surgeon at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Health Hospital in Southeast Grand Rapids noticed the tattoo and immediately understood its significance. He doubled-down his effort to save her left leg, said Ellis, who endured the first of four surgeries on April 30, 2013.

“He knew what that tattoo signified, that running was real to me,” said Ellis. “He spent four-and-a-half hours piecing my bones back together. He did everything in his power to save my leg.”

Eventually, Ellis’ surgeon told her running short or long distance was not likely in her future. She was crestfallen for more than one reason.

“The extent of knee damage is such that arthritis has sent in and I have no ACL,” said Ellis, referring to her anterior cruciate ligament, one of the four major ligaments of the human knee.

The news was not easy for Ellis to take. She not only enjoys the challenge and thrill of long-distance running, but the opportunity it affords her to deepen her relationship with Christ, particularly when she’s preparing for a foot race.

“I don’t want to run with anybody but with my Savior,” said Ellis. “I’m spending quality time with Him. It’s a way God reveals Himself to you in the midst of His creation.”

To be sure, the news that running was not likely in Ellis’ future wasn’t easy to accept and to an extent, it still isn’t today. But that is when she discovered, in a deeper way, who she is in Christ, without glossing over her sadness and the pain that continues to course through her body.

“My identity in Christ is much more solid,” said Ellis. “Am I happy all the time? No. Happiness and joy are two different things. I will not let Satan rob me of my joy. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s an intentional choice.”

Ellis recently learned in a clear and definite way the love people hold for her.

It started while she was at a McDonald’s drive through to order her favorite soft drink, a Diet Coke. She noticed a couple in their 70s were each riding recumbent trikes. They talked with her about it and she took an instant liking to how low set the trikes set to the ground.

Kelly pain-victory tat“I felt safe and I didn’t feel the pain,” said Ellis. “I felt secure. It’s much less stress on my leg riding a recumbent bike.”

Ellis and her boss drove to the TerraTrike shop in Southeast Grand Rapids. With accessories, the 28-speed recumbent bike cost $2,400. Peters then launched an online capital campaign that included two people willing to match others’ donations up to $1,500. As a result, in a matter of days, 18 people contributed enough money to purchase the bike and enable Ellis to get on the road again.

Since her accident, Ellis has had a second tattoo inked on her left foot in July of this year that reads: “Today’s pain is tomorrow’s victory.”

“It doesn’t matter the pain you’re going through today, there’s always victory,” said Ellis.

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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