Byrd resilient after horrific accident; sharing the story with local youth
Posted at 17:10, Monday, March 6, 2023
Jeff Bird answered his call on a Saturday afternoon in late July last year.
He was at home in Scotland County helping his family get organized after a trip to Yellowstone National Park and a stop in Chapel Hill to pick up one of his two daughters from an academic camp.
He was looking forward to his son, Parker, coming home in a few days from the summer semester at East Carolina, where he began his college baseball career.
“You have to get to Greenville now,” came a frightened female voice. “Parker is dying.”
So the elder Byrd received news that would change his son’s and his family’s lives forever.
Seniors at First Baptist Church of Washington’s Family Life Center munched on cheesy biscuits and sausage at breakfast Friday and listened intently as Parker Byrd shared how he turned a major setback into a path to inspire and help others.
Byrd was a standout shortstop at Scotland County High School in Laurinburg and transferred to the Pirates after his junior season.
He came to Greenville for summer school with the rest of the freshmen and enjoyed a summer weekend filled with fishing, boating and other water-related activities with his girlfriend and four teammates at Bath Creek in late July.
A fun-filled Saturday was just beginning when tragedy struck. Byrd was thrown from the cell, which was being towed behind the boat. He became entangled in a rope that caught on a propeller, which pulled Byrd toward the blades, which sliced through his legs.
His teammates and a nurse on a passing boat worked quickly to resuscitate his legs while his girlfriend called 911 and his parents. Thanks to their quick and efficient work, Bird has a chance, however remote, to fulfill his dream of joining the Pirates.
“I remember everything,” Byrd told the group. “I was in pain in the ambulance, but I felt God’s presence and somehow I knew it wasn’t my time yet. I knew I had to stay awake because my blood pressure was 60/30 and you shouldn’t live with it that low.”
His surgical team had to amputate his right leg just below the knee, but managed to save his left. After 22 surgeries, Byrd gets around with the help of a cane and a prosthesis, but most of all, with a positive attitude that prevents him from thinking about life without baseball.
“I hit almost every day and I do strength training and rehab sometimes twice a day,” Byrd said. “This school year I was a part-time student both semesters, so I can keep all my rights. It’s a step-by-step process, but I’ve come a long way. My family, coaches and teammates have played a huge role in my recovery, supporting me every step of the way. God has allowed me to live for a reason and it is my responsibility to show His light to others. I’m going to Chicago in a few days to get a new leg that gives me more lateral movement. I’m working hard to play baseball again.”