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Family adapts with spirit of gratitude

Through faith & fellowship

Devon Colbert enjoys getting to know Yukon John, aka Johnny, his Patriot Paws service dog.

ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX (June 25, 2014) When doctors told Emily Colbert her husband Devon would be paralyzed from the neck down she emphatically told them: “No, God hasn’t put His hands on us yet!”

And she was right.

“I got angry at the doctors,” said Emily, Devon’s biggest cheerleader.

“The doctors were so final about it,” said Devon, a soft-spoken 30-year-old Rockwall resident and Rockwall High School graduate who suffered a severe spinal chord injury in an accident.

Devon and then-two-year-old son Levi were going Christmas shopping Dec. 17, 2012, when a vehicle slammed into the side of theirs, causing it to roll into a ditch. Fortunately, Levi wasn’t injured.

Life before

The Colberts lived on Heath Street in the city’s Historic District. Devon worked as a Garland firefighter, donated time as a Rockwall volunteer firefighter and took part-time jobs. Emily was a stay-at-home mom taking care of sons Levi and Deagan. Both were involved in the Rockwall community.

“I worked very hard for her to stay home with the boys,” he noted. “We’re very traditional.”

Devon said he loved being a firefighter – it wasn’t a job, it was a great life that allowed him to provide for his family and “raise upstanding boys.”

A “people person,”Devonwould stop at places such as the bank or 7-11 just to visit. He took his sons to the park, and, “I would help people whenever I could,” he said.

A fitness fan, family photos show a muscled up 235-pound Devon, a runner that worked out five to seven days a week.

“We felt we had everything, and that was all we needed,” said Emily.

Life after 

Colbert family photo by Robin Sherman Photography.

Devon left Parkland Memorial Hospital Dec. 27, 2012, for Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation and intensive rehab. He came home in April and the rest of 2013 was spent “rehabbing.” 

He has regained use of his shoulders, arms and wrists with limited use of his hands – but he is practicing writing. The couple’s faith tells them Devon will walk again. 

From that first night at Parkland, the family has been wrapped in the caring arms of their “fire family” and the Rockwall community. 

Colleagues and friends have pitched in to help with such things as finances, household chores and transportation needs. They have held fundraisers to help with astronomical expenses, which, Emily said, are the only way Devonis able to have extensive therapy. They moved them into a larger home with wood floors and firefighters widened doorways so Devoncould maneuver his wheel chair. His equipment at home has cut his rehab trips to two a week. 

Devon visits his buddies at the Garland Fire Department. He was a Garland firefighter and a volunteer with the Rockwall Fire Department at the time of his accident in 2012. Photo submitted by Emily Colbert.

Because the family depended on Devon’s salary and so he could devote his time to rehab, firefighters cover his shifts so he continues to be paid. They also transport him to the Garland fire station for regular visits with his buddies. 

Although weak from losing 60 pounds, Devon moves around easier. 

“There’s a lot of learning that goes into this,” he said. “I’m making progress by leaps and bounds – slow but fast! I shouldn’t even be in this chair and moving my arms.”

Life ahead

Devon recently returned from a trip to West Point, N.Y.for a wedding – his first time on an airplane since the accident!

Next month, after he is trained, Yukon John (Johnny) – a Goldendoodle Patriot Paws service dog – will join the family.

Devon’s determination to walk is matched by Emily’s resolve to keep their family headed in a positive direction.

“So much has been taken from us,” said Emily. “I won’t let it take anymore.”

Devon undergoes automated locomotion therapy on a treadmill, using a device known as a Lokomat. Photo by Emily Colbert.

Devon wants no sympathy. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. The biggest thing he and Emily have done, he said, is adapt.

“I feel fine. I can feed myself. I get frustrated because of things I want to do. I want to help Emily more. She’s taking the brunt of all this,” he said, citing her many duties.

They want people to know they are making the most of what they have.

“We want to express our gratitude. Thank you doesn’t cover it,” said Emily. “In our darkest time we had our faith; the community and fire family lift us up and get us where we are today.”

“We will be forever grateful,” said Devon. “We will never take it for granted.”

Devon is still the same person, Emily said. He wants to take care of his family, visit people and help those that need it.

“Not being able to do it all right now doesn’t change his heart or mind,” she said. “I’m so thankful to have Devon and be able to share things with him.”

“I can’t ever put into words how overwhelmed I am by that,” Devon said.

By Judy Evans, Blue Ribbon News contributing writer. She is an award-winning journalist who spent her career in Rockwall as a reporter, editor and columnist working with The Rockwall Success/Rowlett Record and The Dallas Morning News. 

Colberts wish to ‘pay it forward’ with 2014 Firefighters’ Ball 

Enjoy casino gambling, dinner, dancing and a live and silent auction during the 2nd Annual Firefighters’ Ball on Saturday, August 16 at the Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront at The Harbor. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for the black tie event benefiting firefighter Devon Colbert.

“We weren’t sure if we would host the Ball again this year,” said Rockwall Fire Marshal Ariana Hargrove, who helped organize the inaugural Ball, hosted by the Rockwall Fire Department and the Garland Firefighters Association. “After talking with the Colberts, we decided to do it – this time, with a new mission added.”

Hargrove explained that the Colberts expressed their desire to ‘pay it forward.’

“They say they don’t know how they would have made it through the past year and a half without the support from their firefighter brothers and sisters. They want to use proceeds from this year’s Ball to establish a fund to assist fellow firefighters and their families during times of financial strife, brought about by illness, injury or other circumstances,” she said.

The second annual event is hosted by firefighter friends and family of the Colberts. Volunteers are welcome.

“By participating, people can help firefighters in their time of need and have a great time doing it. It’s a black tie affair to support our brothers and sisters in the big red trucks,” Hargrove said.

For tickets, visit firefightersball.splashthat.com.

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