Thursday, February 26, 2009


Violinist plays for those who saved his arm
'I wanted them to see the work they'd done 
was successful'

Ken Wollberg plays his violin in a lobby at 
Barnes-Jewish hospital on Friday in St. Louis,
 as a thank you to the doctors at the hospital 
to helped repair his arm after a serious 
truck accident in 2007.

Jeff Roberson / AP
ST. LOUIS - The melodic strains of a violin that emanated Friday 
from a lobby at Barnes-Jewish Hospital carried the gratitude of 
a former patient who nearly lost the ability to play the instrument.

"I suppose it's a way of saying 'thank you' to the hospital, but 
it's a lot of things." Ken Wollberg said. "It's a way to share a 
beautiful thing."

Wollberg, 58, began playing the violin in a fourth-grade music
 class in Omaha, Neb., and became "almost addicted to it, in a
 way." His love for the instrument eventually led to a master's
 degree in viola performance from the University of Iowa.

Although he enjoyed playing professionally, his real passion 
was teaching viola and violin. He performed with music groups
 and symphonies, but it was hard to make a living off his music.

So he and his wife, Peggy, decided to launch careers as truck 
drivers and in 2002 began hauling rigs cross-country. Eventually,
they bought a truck and leased their services.

Wollberg and his wife were hauling three flatbeds, stacked on 
the back of their truck on Dec. 27, 2007, when it hit a patch of 
ice in Montana and slid the length of about four football fields 
before toppling to its side.

Peggy Wollberg and the couple's Yorkshire terrier puppy, also
 in the cab, were not injured. But the driver's side window had
 shattered, and Wollberg's left elbow took a beating. His triceps
 muscle detached, and bone scraped away from his elbow.

"I told him from the get-go that it was uncertain if he'd be able
 to play again, depending on the amount of nerve damage, 
weakness and stiffness," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jay Keener.

'It was a struggle to play again'
Keener reattached Wollberg's triceps muscle to the bone. 
Plastic surgeon Dr. Ida Fox performed a skin graft to cover
 the outside of the wound. A second operation last July 
released scar tissue and stretched the elbow.

After months of exercises and therapy visits, Wollberg 
returned to teaching music.

"That whole time, I didn't realize how serious it was. 
My hand worked," he said, but it was a struggle to play
 again. "It took a month, maybe, to reach the bottom string."

He said his arm is still weak, but last fall he performed 
with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra in Kentucky.

When Wollberg returned to Barnes-Jewish Hospital 
recently for a checkup, he brought along his violin.

"I wanted to show I had my violin-playing back. I wanted
 them to see the work they'd done was successful," he said.

The doctors were impressed and the hospital asked the 
patient to schedule another appointment — but as a 
performer this time.

Wollberg and his friend, guitarist Jim Stieren, appeared 
Friday at the hospital's Center for Advanced Medicine 
in St. Louis. Peggy Wollberg joined them and sang a few
 songs, including "Amazing Grace."

Cherry Brown, 58, paused after a vascular test to join 
the crowd in the lobby.

"The fact that he's able to play after the accident is a 
wonderful thing," she said. "That's a God-given talent."


Debbie in CA : ) said...

Beautiful piece of news! Thanks for sharing this uplifting reminder of amazing grace.

I recall many a fabulous concert while Andrew was in hospital. Such a gift . . . such a need to share with those who actually have time and desire to sit and soak in the fleeting beauty in life.

(I'm off to go get a tissue. You and Laura-Peach have caused me to spring a joyful leak.) : D

Becky said...

So nice to hear some good news. Thank you.

Niki RuralWritings said...

Inspiring! Thanks for passing this good news along, I sure needed some! I'm so behind on my blog reading...but I always love visiting you :)

mary said...

Hi sweet friend!
Thanks for checking on my Michael. They finally made it to New York, but had ANOTHER wreck (a minor one) before they got there. Michael had been awake for 48 hours, so he slept and then called us around noon yesterday. The swelling in his face has gone down, but he has two black, swollen eyes and a lot of pain in his nose. He was making calls to try to find a doctor to see him on Monday. His new job is based on straight commission and face-to-face sales, so I was a little worried. His new boss has been wonderful, and she has assured him that he will be taken care of financially until this ordeal is over. Thank you for praying! God has been so good to Michael and his worried mom :)

Karen Deborah said...

I am so grateful for good news! I'm sick of all the heartsick fear and yada yada of the day. Our TV is officially OFF! This is a great story.