Portales native recounts surviving 30-foot fall

Christina Calloway

Robert Bell is reflecting on how grateful he is for being alive as the one-year anniversary of his accident approaches. He fell 30 feet down an elevator shaft.

The 25-year-old Clovis resident and Portales native was loading furniture on the lift of a freight elevator for a customer at his grandmother’s antique store in downtown Clovis when the elevator fell with him inside on Jan. 12, 2011.

“While I was falling, I had just long enough to think, ‘Oh God I want to see my family again’,” Bell said. “That was the only thought I was able to have.”

Bell said he stepped on the car with his right foot, the air whistled past him and then he was on the ground.

After spending four hours in Clovis’ Plains Regional Medical Center, Bell was airlifted to the University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, with a long list of injuries.

In the course of about a week and a half, Bell underwent three surgeries in result of various injuries to his right heel bone, right femur, ball of the right hip, a shattered right shoulder and his l-2 to l-4 vertebrae.

Considering all the damage, both doctors and his loved ones said his survival was nothing less than a miracle.

“At the time I was 6’5 and I weighed about 230 pounds and I moved stuff about 400 to 500 pounds on a daily basis so I was in really good shape,” Bell said. “The doctors said that was one of the main reasons that I survived, that had it been anyone else, their chances would have been slim to none. I was 6’5 when before the accident and due to compression I am now 6’2.”

It was projected that Bell would have had to be in physical rehab at TrustPoint Hospital in Lubbock for at least two to three months. But his stay was only three weeks.

Bell was out of his wheelchair and has been walking without a cane since July.

Bell admits his life-changing accident brought hardships but his biggest worry was that if something happened to him, he couldn’t take care of his wife and four-year-old daughter.

“We live every day to the fullest,” said Tiffany Bell, Robert’s wife. “We are thankful for family and it’s a daily reminder of what we almost didn’t have. We got through it as a family and now we’re here and it’s all good.”

Although physically things don’t work as well as they used to for Bell, he realized while he was in rehabilitation that there were others in worse situations.

“I never blamed God because I’m still here and I’m grateful because I understand that things could be so much worse but there was never a time I wanted to not be here,” Bell said.

Bell refuses to allow an accident of physics to dictate the terms of his life. He does not use a handicap placard in his car and has not filed for disability and he says his wife, child, and grandparents sustained him during his recovery.

“God has been very good to us and we know where our blessings come from,” Elwanda Bell, Robert’s grandmother, said. “Without God’s love and support, we wouldn’t have my grandson. We appreciate all the prayers that went up.”