I Never Thought this Could Happen to Me

I Never Thought this Could Happen to Me

There was a time in Pete Patton’s life when he had amassed a Ph.D., a 4,500 square foot Victorian house, an SUV, and two Porsches. He had beaten colon cancer years before as well as a club foot as a child. He had been shot at by a gang member as a part of his inner city ethnographic research at the University of Toledo (a quarter in his pocket prevented the bullet from penetrating). After being told he was sterile from the cancer treatments, he found out otherwise after his son Jake was born. He felt good about life. Then one day, that life slowly toppled down on him.

After serving as visiting lecturer at the University of Illinois then the University of Toledo, Pete moved back to Champaign-Urbana to be near his son. He took a job as Crisis Line Supervisor with the Mental Health Center, regularly referring clients to Restoration Urban Ministries. Eventually, his career morphed into case management consulting.

Then one day the unthinkable happened.

Just two days before his new health care was to kick in, Pete went to a client’s office for work. After searching in some file cabinets stacked high with a mountain of heavy old computer monitors, Pete next remembers waking up in the hospital.

The monitors had toppled, burying him and leaving him partially paralyzed and with multiple concussions.

Without health insurance, this former college professor’s savings, then the sale of his home and automobiles, kept him afloat for over four years. But eight months into his fourth year, he was left on financial fumes – all of his belongings were gone and there was nothing left to sell to pay for his care.

At 50, Pete Patton found himself destitute. Living in an old truck, he kept thinking “I’ll recover soon and be okay”.

In 2008, Pete found himself at Restoration Urban Ministries, a place he himself used to refer clients to as a Crisis Line Supervisor.

His paralysis was slowly leaving him, allowing him to more fully participate in activities. So instead of dwelling on his losses, Pete poured his education and talents into teaching GED classes to other Restoration clients and serving in a handyman role to rewire some of the organization’s facilities.

“I was surrounded by friends at Restoration – I felt like part of a family,” Pete says of his time there. “It’s not just a housing center – it’s a new way of thinking and a perfect place to recover.”

After 11 months in Restoration’s programs, Pete moved into an Urbana duplex and is currently seeking to buy a house. Still on disability for ongoing health impacts from his accident, he also serves as Restoration Urban Ministries’ Employment & Education Coordinator.

“People are defined by how they react to situations, not by the situations themselves,” says Pete of his circumstances. “I can have the worst things happen to me time and again and end up better in the long run. After facing my biggest adversities, Restoration Urban Ministries helped me learn to calm down and grow spiritually.”

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