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After graduating from medical school, Eugene Alford built a lucrative career as an ear, nose, and throat specialist and a facial plastic surgeon at Methodist Hospital. In the summers, he and his wife Mary, a dentist and former paediatric nurse, would join a church-sponsored medical mission to Honduras, where he operated on the needy in a rural clinic.

At home, Alford treated many prominent Houston residents, but he also waived his fee for less fortunate patients. Carolyn Thomas, for instance, went to see him with a large gauze bandage over a cavity in her face. She had been shot by her boyfriend, who had also killed her mother. The bullet had blown away Thomas’s nose, upper jaw, and right eye. Reconstruction would have cost a million dollars, but Alford, his medical team, and his hospital did it for free.

Whenever Alford needed to relax after a particularly gruelling period of work, he’d drive to his ranch in Bellville and lose himself in farm chores. He didn’t make it out there as often as he would have liked. As a plastic surgeon at Methodist Hospital, he had performed 800 operations over the previous year and was booked solid for months ahead.

So on a chilly Sunday a few days after Christmas, Alford headed out through the pine bush, intending to clear a trail for deer hunting. As he cut through underbrush in the south pasture, Alford brought the tractor to a halt in front of a dead white oak standing in his path. He nudged the trunk with the tractor’s front-end loader, expecting the tree to topple neatly to the ground. Instead the top half of the oak swayed towards him. In seconds, more than a ton of hardwood slammed down on him, crushing his spine.

Pinned to the steering wheel, Alford could barely breathe. He tried to hit the brakes, but his legs failed to respond. When he found he could move his hands, he turned off the ignition, then with great effort pulled his cell phone from his shirt pocket and called his wife on speed dial. ‘Mary,’ he gasped, ‘a tree fell on me. I’m going to die.’ ‘Don’t quit!’ she shouted. ‘We’re coming to get you!’ Alford was still conscious when his neighbours Kevin and Snuffy, alerted by Mary, hauled the tree off him. A rescue helicopter touched down minutes later, and Alford advised the paramedics on which drugs to administer to him. Then he blacked out.

He was flown to the trauma unit at Medical Centre in Houston, then quickly transferred to Methodist. The operation was successful, but the patient was still in danger. After almost two weeks in the TCU, Alford awoke, and his condition improved enough for him to be taken to a rehabilitation unit, where he began physical therapy and learned to use a wheelchair. In February 2008, six weeks after the accident, Alford returned to his 100-year-old home in Houston. At first, he was so weak that he could sit up only when strapped into a wheelchair.

Before the accident, Alford had been a solidly built six-footer and was used to being in charge. Now, entirely dependent on others, he fell into despair. ‘If it weren’t for my wife and kids, I would have killed myself,’ he says. But then the love started pouring in. Alford’s brother maintained a blog to provide updates about Alford’s recovery. Over the next three months, he received 40,000 messages from colleagues, former patients, acquaintances, even strangers. The outpouring raised his spirits. It also gave Mary a new perspective on him. For years, Alford’s schedule of 15-hour days hadn’t left him much time for her and the kids. ‘I’d just about decided you liked work more than us,’ Mary told him one day over lunch. ‘But now I realize you didn’t want to leave the hospital because there were so many folks that needed you. You couldn’t just abandon them.’

The couple refurbished their house with ramps, a wheelchair-accessible bathroom, and an elevator. They bought an extended-cab pickup truck and fitted it with a wheelchair hoist, a swivelling driver’s seat, and hand controls so Alford could drive himself.

But Alford’s goal was to make such adjustments temporary. After a month of physical therapy, he graduated from an electric to a manual wheelchair. The daily workouts built strength in his back and abdominal muscles, improving his ability to hold himself upright. Soon he was able to stand with the aid of a tubular steel frame; seated in his chair, he could now draw his legs toward his chest.

In May, Alford began the next phase of treatment. By putting a paralyzed patient through his paces, therapists hoped to grow new neuromuscular connections. After three months of this routine, Alford’s coordination had improved markedly. He felt ready to pick up a scalpel again, with the hospital’s approval. Alford still goes for four hours of rehab every morning and spends his evenings stretching and riding a motorized stationary bike to keep muscle spasms at bay. But in the hours between, he sees patients or performs surgeries—as many as five a week.

He’s eager to do more complex surgeries and plans to increase his workload. Walking remains uncertain. ‘I always tell him if I had a crystal ball, I’d be a millionaire,’ says Mar-cie Kern, one of his physical therapists. Still, the doctor considers himself a lucky man.

ВОПРОС 1 Eugene Alford
1) treated only prominent Houston residents.
2) did some charity work.
3) had fixed fees.
4) often visited his ranch in Bellville.

ВОПРОС 2 In paragraph 3 ‘gruelling’ means
1) extremely boring.
2) quite exciting.
3) very tiring.
4) highly uncomfortable.

ВОПРОС 3 As a result of the accident, the oak broke Alford’s
2) legs.
4) chest.

ВОПРОС 4 Before the accident, Alford
1) was in charge of the hospital.
2) liked his work more than his family.
3) worked 15 hours a week.
4) could not spend much time with his wife and children.

ВОПРОС 5 To make Alford feel more comfortable
1) the family equipped their house with necessary facilities.
2) his 100-year-old house was redecorated.
3) the family bought a new house.
4) his old pickup truck was fitted with a wheelchair hoist.

ВОПРОС 6 After physical therapy and daily workouts
1) Alford didn’t need a wheelchair.
2) Alford’s stamina came back.
3) Alford started to perform simple operations.
4) Alford’s coordination improved markedly.

ВОПРОС 7 At present Alford
1) feels sorry for himself.
2) is planning to practise medicine as well as he used to.
3) is going to start walking.
4) wants to become a millionaire.

ВОПРОС 1: – 2
ВОПРОС 2: – 3
ВОПРОС 3: – 3
ВОПРОС 4: – 4
ВОПРОС 5: – 1
ВОПРОС 6: – 2
ВОПРОС 7: – 2