Kelly Casey: Miracle Man
By Corrie Mae Rollison
During the 11:00 AM services at Coast Hills, particularly insightful statements are often met with a resounding “Amen!” from a voice in the back of the auditorium. Some mornings, these declarations cause Pastor Ken to pause and look up from his notes with an almost imperceptible smile passing across his face, as if he is being reminded to continue spreading the truth of Jesus to all who will listen. In these moments, if you wrenched your neck around and peered towards the back of the sanctuary following the sonorous “Amen!” your eyes would finally land on Kelly Casey. He is a man who has made it his life mission to tell everyone around him about his faith. A man who has brought strangers to Christ by simply sharing a few moments with them. And a man who shouldn’t be alive today.
Since day one, Kelly has been used to proving everyone wrong. Weighing only two pounds when he was born in 1957, Kelly’s parents were told there was a slim chance that he would make it past a few months. Giving up, however, wasn’t part of the plan for Kelly. He eventually came home from the hospital and grew up to be an exceptionally kind and bright boy who loved going to church. He often left small, abridged Bibles everywhere he went as a means to share his faith with members of his community and, much to his sister’s dismay, “never even used a curse word!”
While studying pre-med at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, Kelly broke out of his shy exterior and starred as the lead in a number of plays. In his spare time, he worked at a local UPS warehouse and took care of his two young nephews. He was planning on attending medical school at Chapel Hill and was engaged to a beautiful girl from his theatre troupe. Life was good.
On November 3, 1981, everything changed. Kelly was on his way to work to cover a friend’s shift when his car was struck by a drunk driver speeding around a bend in the road. Believing Kelly had died from the crash, the driver left him on the side of the highway for approximately 90 minutes before one of Kelly’s coworkers drove by the scene and called an ambulance. It was determined that the impact of the crash caused an aneurysm to burst in his brain, damaging his short-term memory and paralyzing the lower half of his body. Three months later, Kelly awoke from his coma to an entirely new life and the looming possibility that he would not live past his 35th birthday. God, it seemed, had different plans for him.
After flying back to California to receive rehabilitation at St. Jude Medical Center and winning an arduous legal battle in the Supreme Court of North Carolina, Kelly realized that his injury had a purpose. As he puts it, “People don’t like to talk about religion … unless you’re in a wheelchair and they don’t want to be rude.” Thus, his new life mission emerged as an everyday evangelist who uses his disability as a way to start conversations and move past people’s emotional walls. He says hello to passersby as often as possible, letting them know that God loves them and providing them with the reasons why he is a Christian. By following his faith wherever it leads, he has been able to share the Gospel with strangers from various walks of life. It is with positivity and gentle persistence that Kelly was able to change the life of a taxi driver who had been in agony over the death of his son, to pray with a young boy on the beach, and to convert Jehovah’s Witnesses in his living room. Although these are just a few of the people that he has touched with his story, it is obvious that Kelly has the keen ability to inspire people to look past their problems, regardless of how daunting they may be, and see God for who He is—love in its truest form.
Arguing that happiness is a choice, Kelly has never been angry about his condition and he makes a point to focus on God’s many blessings. Even after being told for the third time that he would not live following a cancer diagnosis, Kelly continued to trust God and prove medical experts wrong. By placing his focus on eternity, rather than the daily struggle against staph infections, cancer, and limited mobility, Kelly is able to cherish life as a fleeting opportunity to help others see God’s love. His unwavering faithfulness demonstrates to his community that there is always hope in Christ, no matter the circumstances, because heaven is just a blink away. And when we get there, we’ll all be able to see Kelly Casey just as he dreams: “wiggling [his] toes and running for months.”