Byrd resilient after horrific accident; shares story with local youth
Published 5:10 pm Monday, March 6, 2023
Jeff Byrd answered his phone on a Saturday afternoon in late July of last year.
He was at home in Scotland County, helping his family get organized after a trip to Yellowstone National Park and a stop in Chapel Hill to pick up one of his two daughters from an academic camp.
He was looking forward to having his son, Parker, home in a few days after a summer semester at East Carolina, where he was beginning his collegiate baseball career.
“You have to get to Greenville right now,” a panicked female voice said. “Parker’s dying.”
That’s how the elder Byrd received the news that would change his son’s and his family’s life forever.
The high school students in the First Baptist Church of Washington’s Family Life Center during Friday’s breakfast gathering finished their cheese biscuits and sausage wraps and listened intently as Parker Byrd recounted how he turned a major setback into a pathway to inspire and help others.
Byrd was a standout shortstop for Scotland County High School in Laurinburg and committed to the Pirates after his junior season.
He reported to Greenville for summer school with the rest of the freshmen and was enjoying a summer weekend filled with fishing, boating and other water-related activities with his girlfriend and four teammates on Bath Creek in late July.
A fun-filled Saturday was well underway when tragedy struck. Byrd was thrown off an inner tube being pulled behind the boat. He became tangled in the rope, which got caught in the propeller, which pulled Byrd toward the blades that sliced his legs.
His teammates and a nurse on a passing boat worked quickly to wrap his legs, while his girlfriend called 911 and his parents. Thanks to their quick and effective work, Byrd has a chance, albeit a long shot, to fulfill his dream of suiting up for the Pirates.
“I remember the whole thing,” Byrd told the group. “The pain hit me in the ambulance, but I felt God’s presence and I somehow knew it wasn’t my time just yet. I knew I had to stay awake because my blood pressure was 60/30 and you’re not supposed to live when it’s that low.”
His surgical team had to amputate his right leg just below the knee, but managed to save his left one. 22 surgeries later, Byrd gets around with the aid of a cane and a prosthetic, but most of all with a positive attitude that won’t allow him to think of life without baseball.
“I hit almost every day and do strength and rehab workouts sometimes twice a day,” Byrd said. “I was a part-time student both semesters this school year, so I can preserve all of my eligibility. It’s a step-by-step process, but I’ve come a long way. My family, coaches and teammates have played a huge role in my recovery by supporting me every step of the way. God let me live for a reason and it’s my responsibility to show His light to others. I’m going to Chicago in a few days to get a new leg that gives me more lateral movement. I am working my hardest to play baseball again.”