By Brad Dison
Lloyd Jeffries of Memphis, Tennessee, suffered from Cerebral Palsy (CP), a group of disorders which affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. In severe cases, a sufferer of CP might require specialized lifelong care. Lloyd’s case was severe. In 1968, when Lloyd was just sixteen years old, he suddenly lost the ability to speak. He could only produce a sort of crowing sound. Doctors gave Lloyd’s mother the grim prognosis that Lloyd had a paralyzed larynx and would never speak again. Lloyd eventually lost his ability to stand on his own and required a wheelchair to get around. When it became too difficult for his family to properly care for him, Lloyd became a resident of the Shelby County Home for Incurables.
One morning in 1980, Betty Dozier, Lloyd’s nurse, came into his room and greeted him with a “good morning” as she did every morning. She waited patiently to hear his normal crowing sound. Lloyd started to crow, but then something unexpected happened. His crowing sound merged into an intelligible reply. Lloyd said “good morning.” Lloyd had been unable to speak for 18 years.
At first, the nurse thought Lloyd was using some sort of electronic device to speak, but that wasn’t the case. Lloyd and his nurse both looked at each other in stunned silence. Lloyd tried another word, and then another. After a short conversation, Lloyd said he wanted to call his mother.
Lloyd’s mother was at home making a glass of tea when her telephone rang. She answered it and heard Lloyd greet her with just three words. At first, Mrs. Jeffries thought someone was playing a cruel joke. “It’s me,” Lloyd said. “I can talk again.” Mrs. Jeffries was in shock. Tears welled up in her eyes as that three-word greeting replayed over and over in her mind. Tears turned into laughter as their conversation continued.
Lloyd was thrilled. After his lengthy conversation with his mother, Lloyd wheeled himself around the nursing home and conversed with the other residents. Everyone wanted to hear him speak and they certainly got their chance.
Several doctors examined Lloyd but were never able to explain how he regained his ability to speak. To Lloyd and his mother, it was nothing short of a miracle. Mrs. Jeffries said, “I was always a believer in God – but now I’m really a true believer.” What were those three words, the first three words Mrs. Jeffries heard Lloyd speak in nearly two decades? Mrs. Jeffries answered the phone and heard Lloyd say, “Happy Thanksgiving, Mother.”
- The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), November 29, 1980, p.3.
- The Daily News-Journal (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), November 30, 1980, p.6.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Cerebral Palsy.” Accessed November 13, 2021. cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/facts.html
Shown below: Lloyd Jeffries (in wheelchair) with nurse Betty Dozier (left) and nurse Grace Mallett (right).
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