Finding a new normal

ASHLAND – The power of family and community is sustaining Shane, Rhonda, Wade and Logan Nance as they knit back together lives ripped apart by a tornado that destroyed their home on May 2.
The mobile home in which they lived was tossed about 20 feet into the air, then landed with a jolt that broke Shane, Rhonda and Wade’s backs, their belongings raining down and covering them.
Being conscious throughout the ordeal may have been terrifying for 9-year-old Logan, but his clearheadedness summoned the help his dad, mom and brother needed.
“I had told everybody I was putting my cell phone in my pocket, so he found it,” Rhonda said, as Logan sat shyly by listening to the account of his heroism.
“He called 911 and everybody in the phone he could think of,” Shane said.
He reached Shane’s father, Larry Nance.
The family lived on Nance family property – Old Nance Road – so despite downed trees blocking the usual access routes, Larry Nance found a back way in and, with help, cut his way through to reach the family.
When medical personnel were able to get through, they took the three injured family members to different hospitals – Shane to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, Rhonda to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis and Wade, 13, to LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis.
Two months after the ordeal, their injuries are slowly healing. They spent several weeks in hospitals, then Shane and Rhonda stayed with Larry Nance for a while as Wade’s hospitalization continued.
Both Shane and Rhonda continue to wear body braces, but Rhonda hopes to be out of hers later this month after her next appointment at The Med.
“I had a broken back, three broken ribs and a punctured lung and my lungs had collapsed,” Rhonda said. “When I went for my checkup they found another broken rib on the other side.”
Surgery to insert rods into her back have helped the healing process, Rhonda said.
Shane’s healing will take a bit longer.
“The doctor told me I’d probably be in the brace another three months,” Shane said. “I didn’t have surgery to repair my back, so the healing won’t be as fast.”
In the long run Shane said the natural healing of his back will be slower but is probably the best thing if he’s to return to his profession as a commercial roofer for a Jackson, Tenn., company.
The road to recovery is longer still for 13-year-old Wade, who remains in a wheelchair.
After surgery that put steel rods in his back, and several weeks recovering at LeBonheur, Wade was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for rehabilitation.
“The Shepherd Center is a great place,” Rhonda said. “They still call every day. They got to know him and really care.”
Before Wade returns to Falkner School next month to begin eighth grade, a staff member from the Shepherd Center will come to the Nance home a day ahead of time to talk with him and the family and prepare them for what’s ahead. They’ll also go to school with him the first day to make sure everything he needs is there.
“They do it all, and it takes a lot of pressure off the family and gives us time to get well and learn to do everything,” Rhonda said.
Wade’s lanky frame grew about six inches while he was gone, Shane said, and he was already working out with weights before he was injured.
At the Shepherd Center they taught Wade to get himself into and out of bed and maneuver around in his chair.
“He had spinal cord damage, but we definitely feel that he will walk again,” Shane said.
Emotional healing is under way for the family as well, with plenty of support from family members and community.
Last month they were able to move into a furnished house owned by fellow church members at Ashland Baptist Church, the Gresham family. The house has been made available to them rent-free for six months while a new home is being built.
“Benton and Tippah Baptist Associations are taking up donations and having a new house built for us,” Rhonda said. “Most of the work is donated and everybody is giving labor free. They’re all just wonderful, taking care of things for us, cooking meals.”
Donations have poured in from miles away, and work on the house continues in stages as money is received to buy additional materials. Rhonda said her father and sister, who live in Petal, have been holding fundraiser car washes and other events to help.
“We’ve received help from Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, people we didn’t know and will probably never meet have sent cards from everywhere,” Shane said.
While they previously lived outside the city, the new three-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot house is being built on an acre of property on Ridge Avenue in Ashland that was a gift from their church’s youth minister, Anthony Mitchell.
“Teams from all over are just coming to help, some people driving 100 miles, and community churches are cooking lunch for the workers every day,” Rhonda said. “We are receiving such a blessing and we hope they are too.”

Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio