posted on Jul, 16 2003 @ 12:03 PM
SLOWLY but surely, Terry Wallis is rediscovering his world. After 19 years in a coma he has a lot of catching up to do.
But now the crash victim's family are steeling themselves to break the news that during those lost years his wife had three children by another man.
They will also have to tell him the daughter he remembers as a six-week-old baby is now working as a stripper.
Then there is the feud between his wife and his parents that will eventually come to court.
So far, 39-year-old Mr Wallis's family have tried to shield him from the barrage of grim tidings, which they fear could hinder his recovery.
But his wife Sandi says he will soon have to know the bitter truth. She is going to court to fight an order making Mr Wallis's mother his legal
guardian after his accident in July 1984.
He was left unconscious and paralysed after a friend's truck rolled off a road and into a stream near his home in Mountain View, Arkansas. His friend
died in the accident.
He and Sandi had been married only a few months and had a six-week-old daughter, Amber.
Yesterday Mrs Wallis claimed she had been cut out of her husband's life by his mother Angilee and father Jerry when she panicked and broke down after
the accident. She was 17 at the time.
Mr Wallis's parents say their daughter-in-law sent them a letter saying she had to move on.
"I didn't expect to be cut out of his life completely," Mrs Wallis said.
"It's too sad. I was too young and had the baby to look after, and everything seemed too much for me.
"The truth is, Mrs Wallis and Jerry never thought I was any good and that's why they took guardianship. Now they cut me dead in the street and
won't even talk to Amber."
Mrs Wallis said she had "an unusual relationship" with the father of her three other children - whom she would only name as Mike.
When they first met, she said, she told him they could not marry because she would never divorce her comatose husband.
So Mike married another woman, Eleanor, and they care for the three children, aged 14, 15, and 16.
Mrs Wallis said: "The kids live with Mike and Eleanor and call her Mum. But they call me Mum too. They know I'm their biological mother and we are
all good friends and see each other all the time."
Amber, 20, has been a striptease dancer in a nightclub in Memphis in the neighbouring state of Tennessee for two years.
She visits her father, who remains unaware of her job.
He tells her how pretty she is and says he is determined to walk again so he can walk down the street with her.
But Mr Wallis faces a long and uncertain recovery. He is a quadriplegic and is expected to spend many months in rehabilitation at the centre where he
is looked after in Mountain View.
The remarkable fact that he emerged from a coma was put down to his family's devotion.
They kept visiting him and talking to him. But he lay in a semi-vegetative state, not seeming to recognise anyone, his mind apparently trapped in 1984
when Ronald Reagan was President and Dallas and Dynasty were on TV.
Then on June 12 while his mother Angilee was keeping one of her regular bedside vigils, a nurse at the centre asked, as usual: "Terry, who is that?"
His eyes opened and he whispered: "Mum."
His mother was so dumb-founded she couldn't speak. Then Mr Wallis croaked "Pepsi", followed by "milk".
Next day he was able to talk a little more and he has been improving ever since.
"He doesn't stop chattering," his father has revealed.
Rehabilitation centre director Dr James Zini said: "The family included him in all of their conversations, as if he were aware they were there."
Mr Wallis's parents yesterday refused to comment on the split with their daughter-in-law.
A hospital spokesman confirmed: "Terry's mother is his legal guardian. She takes care of all his health care and financial matters."
Sandi Wallis said: "Terry is still my husband. I always knew I could never divorce and abandon him. Now I want to be a bigger part of his life."
[Edited on 16-7-2003 by MiStErBeLLaTrIx]