The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 9, 2013

Akers feels good, making progress

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — It certainly was wonderful to hear from Willie Akers last weekend that he feels good and has been showing daily improvement.

The former West Virginia University basketball star of the late 1950s was seriously injured last Feb. 13 in a damaging fall at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.

Watching his grandson play basketball, Akers tripped at the end of the playing floor, collapsed backward and fell on his face.

“If you’d seen me a couple of months ago, you wouldn’t have believed that I felt good,” said Willie, who has been in his Logan home for six weeks.

He had been hospitalized in the Shepherd Institute in Atlanta for 93 days of treatment.

“I was walking and started talking and tripped over the edge of the court, an inch-and-a-half high or so, (and) apparently I fell backwards face down,” he said of his terrible misfortune.

It was a week to 10 days before he was conscious of what had happened to him.

He fractured six vertebrae which had to be repaired in West Virginia, and then an ambulance transported him to Atlanta for his lengthy spell of hospitalization there.

Willie’s wonderful wife Linda has been at his side constantly since the mishap.

Happily in his home now, the Mullens native is walking in a walker with a couple of wheels and he’s walking with a cane and props.

“I am making a lot of progress,” Akers said. “But my right thigh and my right leg are still paralyzed.

“I’m also affected by my right shoulder and hand, but they’re improving quite a bit.”

Akers said he has been told by doctors that “it’s a 50-50 chance that I probably won’t be able to walk.”

He believes he’s past that now, however, and would love to prove that projection wrong.

Akers is grateful that people at WVU “have been wonderful” during his rehab efforts. “President (Jim) Clements sent me flowers and talked to me. Bobby Huggins has sent me gear to work out at home and Oliver Luck came to Atlanta and had lunch with me and a visit,” he noted.

“So I’m feeling good and I’m sitting here in a chair talking to you.”

Jerry West, Willie’s best friend and fellow Hall of Famer, and he have been in close contact since his fall.

The Akers family also is appreciative of so many of the “get well” messages he has received.