For what seems like forever, John and Melba Moorhouse have provided tiny miracles to any number of people through their generosity.
A year ago, they got one of those miracles back.
John, who was 77 at the time, was working in a barn across from the couple’s home with his son, Richard.
“We were getting the hay equipment out and getting it around,” John said.
John was working on a tractor, standing between the front and rear wheels. He tried to fire the engine, not expecting it to start right away.
But it did. And it was in gear.
The rear wheel of the tractor ran up his leg.
“It pulled me down,” John said. “It knocked me down onto the cement.”
And then the wheel — filled with fluid not air — ran him over. John said if the tire were on its side, two grown men couldn’t lift it.
He didn’t know it at the time, but he’d broken his back in two places. Seven ribs were broken on one side of his chest, three on the other. His left lung was punctured and collapsed.
All he knew at the time was that he couldn’t take in any air and he hurt.
“I said, ‘Richard, help me up, I can’t breathe,’” John said.
Richard, who was on the phone to 911 immediately, said he was advised not to move his father. But John struggled and got himself to his knees.
“I fought and moved because I couldn’t breathe,” John said.
Richard eventually helped him onto a metal chair.
The EMS arrived and he was carted away.
According to the medics on board, Moorhouse lost all of his vital signs en route to Parkview Regional Hospital.
“I was a goner,” John said.
Medics were able to revive him.
Later, his doctor and other health care workers told him the weight of the tractor tire should have killed him.
But if the fates wanted John Moorhouse, they were going to have to send a bigger tractor.
“Being bullheaded and stubborn had to help,” John said. “It had to help.”
If anyone deserves a miracle, it’s John and Melba.
In 2016, the couple were named the grand marshals of the Onion Days Parade. Melba was born in Luckey Hospital in Wolf Lake. A year later, the Albion Rotary Club honored them as its Citizens of the Year.
The Moorhouses have been heavily involved in 4-H, with John serving as president of the 2016 Noble County Community Fair. They are also involved in Noble County Relay for Life and with Sparta United Church of Christ. Melba recently oversaw a church outreach program that saw more than 120 sugar cream pies baked.
John retired as a truck driver from Prince Manufacturing in Garrett when he was 67. Melba retired from Dana when she was in her mid-50s, but started working at the Albion Pizza Depot approximately 13 years ago.
The couple purchased the business and building approximately 8 1/2 years ago.
“Where they truly shine though is in their truly giving spirit,” a Citizen of the Year nomination form submitted by the Albion Chamber of Commerce said. “They have sponsored several fundraising events for people in need.”
The Moorhouses were also nominated by the Eta Theta chapter of Tri Kappa.
“They are always donating to various organizations and clubs in Albion,” Tri Kappa’s nomination form read. “They let groups put displays in their front windows to promote the organization and share with the community. They provide a safe place for kids to come after school or activities. They allow groups to hold meetings at no charge.”
The Moorhouses will be donating 15% of all sales at the Albion Pizza Depot to a fundraiser for the Central Noble Food Pantry’s new building fund on April 17. The restaurant will also serve as the host of a silent auction for the pantry that same day.
John is stubborn as he is generous.
The road to recovery was long for him, but that stubbornness runs deeper than any track that tractor tire would lay into soft ground.
After he got onto that chair in the barn on April 9, 2020, John called Melba.
“I’ve had a little accident at the barn,” Melba remembers her husband of nearly 60 years saying.
Doctors wanted to do surgery to fix his broken back, but the weight of his body crushed the air from him when they laid him on his stomach and surgery had to be called off.
John was put into a Rotoprone machine, which slowly rotated his body 360 degrees, all the while keeping him weightless. He spent a total of 18 days in that machine.
He spent 19 days on a ventilator.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Melba was not allowed to visit her husband.
“We didn’t get to see him,” Melba said.
Many nights, she would call the hospital at 2 a.m. to check on her husband’s condition. The nurses generally weren’t as busy at that hour, she knew.
“They would say, ‘Melba, don’t you think you should be asleep?’” she said. “It was hard. It was hard on all of us.”
“I put her through a lot,” John said. “I know it.”
The couple praised the care and attention John was given.
John doesn’t have many clear memories of his initial hospital stay, but things became more clear when he was transferred to Parkview’s rehabilitation hospital on Randallia Drive on May 8.
By that point, cards from well wishers had been pouring into the hospital. In one day, he received 86 cards.
“People were concerned,” Melba said. “It was amazing.”
Family and staff at the Pizza Depot rallied around the couple, too.
“They absolutely just took over,” Melba said. “Our crew really stepped up.”
John later learned from a friend who is an Amish Church bishop that he was on the prayer list at two separate Amish churches.
Initially, he was fitted for a wheelchair. He was told when he was released on May 27, that would be his mode of transportation.
The family had a ramp installed on their home so it was wheelchair accessible.
John wasn’t having any of it. More and more, he asked to be allowed to use a walker instead of the wheelchair. The day before he went home, he and a nurse made an entire lap around his floor — a distance of 485 feet.
The nurse told him he wouldn’t need the wheelchair.
“I said, ‘I wasn’t planning on it anyway,’” he said.
As for the ramp? It’s still attached to the house. But only John’s dog uses it.
“He’s old and crippled up, too,” John said.
John began doing more and more with less and less assistance while he recovered at home. He knew that once the fall hit, the Pizza Depot would be shorthanded as some workers returned to school.
And besides, he missed making his daily lunch deliveries.
“I really wanted to be a part of our business,” he said.
The walker gave way to a cane. And he has been able to resume most of his former activities.
He still hurts. And when it’s cold, he can tell you exactly where those metal rods are in his back. But other than being unable to raise his right arm very high, he is a walking, talking, thankful, stubborn miracle.
The experience has changed him, he said. He is more emotional now. Always close with family, he wants them even more close now.
His family and his wife have been his constant support system.
“She gave me the devil sometimes because I was doing too much,” John said of Melba.
He reached out and patted his wife’s arm.
“I wasn’t ready to leave any of this go,” he said.