It's almost been a year since the accident that nearly killed Todd Ritter. On May 14, 2011, the longtime Mesquite baseball coach was doing yardwork when a seven-foot brick wall collapsed on him, pinning his torso against a hot tub and leaving him unable to move. “It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt,” Ritter told SportsDay's Matt Wixon. Since the accident, Ritter has been through it all – painful surgery, intense rehabilitation, bouts of depression and even a trip to a psychiatric hospital. And yet, despite the physical and emotional toll the ordeal has taken on him, Ritter is glad it all happened.
Ritter, 47, has long been a family man, with three children from his first marriage. He was going through a second divorce when the accident occurred, and had decided that he needed a major lifestyle shift, one more attuned to his religion. He asked God for guidance. "I need you to completely take control of my life," Ritter prayed after he'd moved out of the home he shared with his second wife. "I need you to gut me from head to toe."
A week after Ritter's prayer, he made his way back to the Dallas house where he had lived with his second wife, Lynda, to take care of the yardwork. Just as he was about to finish up, the wall fell, pinning him to his mid-chest. Fortunately, Ritter's ex-wife was home and called paramedics.
Courtesy The damage was extensive. Ritter's pelvis had been crushed, his hip joint and tailbone were broken, and his abdominal muscles were torn. He underwent surgery to reconstruct his pelvis, followed by three months of painful physical therapy. Doctors told Ritter that his physical recovery would take 12 to 18 months, and though he was ahead of schedule by the start of the school year, the emotional toll the accident had taken was becoming more evident.
Ritter was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he began taking an antidepressant called Pristiq. But the drug didn't help much, and Ritter began questioning why God let the accident happen. "I could still feel the wall on top of me, and I just couldn’t get over it," he said. "I hated that wall, and it was destroying me."
Five months after the accident, Ritter began having thoughts of suicide. It wasn't until Ritter's first wife, Grace Riley, checked in on Ritter in early October that the extent of his depression finally became apparent. Riley found Ritter angry and spilling over with emotion, and she called police at the advice of Ritter's psychiatrist. Officers escorted him to Green Oaks Psychiatric Hospital, where he stayed overnight for an evaluation. He was picked up the next day by his son. "Seeing the humiliation on his face," Cliff Ritter said, "it was the worst day of my life."
Ritter hated the stay at Green Oaks, but he’s thankful it happened. Seeing the plight of the other patients helped shake his suicidal thoughts. He kicked his medication, stopped seeing a psychiatrist and turned his life over to God. Though he'd already been baptized once as a Catholic, Ritter decided to be baptized against at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall.
Ritter says he's about 75 percent recovered physically, but 100 percent changed as a person. He walks and runs three miles each day, he's much closer with his children, and he's a proud grandpa of a 4-year-old boy. "It was terrible what happened, but it brought our whole family closer," Ritter's son Cliff said. "Now he’s content, and he knows why he's living, and he's trying to take advantage of every second."
Ritter still has high expectations for his team, but he's not quite as consumed with Mesquite's on-field accomplishments as he once was. Now, he takes as much joy out of watching his grandson play T-ball as he does out of a big Skeeter win. "I see things differently now," he said. "I see serenity. I see peace. I’m more compassionate."
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