By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Monika Watkins’ arduous path to recovery took an unexpected turn on Oct. 19, when her memory suddenly returned, she recovered her communication skills and she rolled her wheelchair up to the piano at Health South Rehabilitation Hospital and started playing.
“I think it was inspirational to the residents there,” Watkins said Sunday afternoon, recalling that moment with perfect clarity and speaking without any difficulty whatsoever.
“First of all, I want to thank the Lord for the blessings he has given me,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who prayed for me and I thank everyone who made a monetary donation to the foundation. When you stay close to the Lord, you are always prepared for Him to call you home. But the Lord said that he wasn’t ready for me that night. He has some more work for me to do here.
“He called Doug, and I know he’s all right now,” she continued. “I believe that if I hadn’t woke up when I did and called the police, I would have just gone on to sleep,” she said. “The Lord woke me up, and it’s a miracle I’m still alive.”
Monika Watkins’ world turned upside down on Oct. 1, when Donald Adams, 55, of Bluefield entered the home she shared with her husband on Burton Street in Bluefield. “I can’t remember if Doug got up to let him in, or if I went to the door and let him in,” she said. “He might have come in through the back door and came through the kitchen. He said: ‘I’m here to kill you and to rob you,’ and then he shot me in the head, cut my throat, beat me in the head with a conch shell.”
Detective B.L. Hamm of the Bluefield Police Department stated in his report that when police arrived, Doug Watkins was found dead as a result of an apparent gunshot wound. Hamm reported that Mrs. Watkins was able to identify her assailant, and reported that he had stolen $200. On Oct. 3, Adams committed suicide while in custody.
“He left both of us for dead,” she said. “When I woke up, I was afraid he was going to come back and finish us off. The culprit had borrowed $20 from Doug and never paid him back. I could have gone to sleep, but the Lord woke me up. I feel like I have Doug’s spirit with me now. I feel like he’s still with me, doing yard work or driving to town. He enjoyed driving to town. All of this is still a big pill to swallow.” Watkins didn’t call Adams by name, but only referred to him as “the culprit.”
After being transported to Bluefield Regional Medical Center, she was transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where she was placed on life support in the intensive care unit. After 15 days in Roanoke, Va., she was transported to Health South in Princeton to start her rehabilitation.
“She could just barely walk using little steps at the time and she had trouble feeding herself,” Watkins’ sister, Melva Carter said. “I don’t know how to say this, but I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I wondered how I was going to be able to take care of her and still be able to work.”
After she got her sister settled in at Health South, the night of Oct. 18, was the first night that Carter had been able to sleep in her own bed since Oct. 2. “They had told me it was going to be a long journey,” Carter said. “That next morning at about 8:30 a.m. they called and asked me if I was coming in. Of course, I was going over there, but then they said: ‘Can you come now.’
“My first thought was that something bad had happened, but it wasn’t that,” Carter said. “Monika had woken up and wanted to know where she was. She was rolling around in a wheelchair and even played piano for some of the residents.” Watkins is the pianist at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Bluefield, but has also played for other area churches. “She got out of Health South four days ago,” Carter said.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform,” Watkins said, quoting a line from an 18th Century hymn. “I was able to plunk a few notes on the piano at Health South. I was an inspiration to a lot of the residents there.
“I kept a prayer box in my house,” she continued. “I had a picture of Jesus and His disciples in the house, a small cut from a log with Jesus’ image on it and another picture of Jesus in the house,” she said. “I feel like the guardian angel was in the room that night. I’m just thankful that the culprit didn’t come back and finish me off.”
Carter said her sister will have to go back to the hospital to have a steel plate inserted into the area of her skull that was crushed. Until that time, she has to wear a protective headpiece that Watkins calls her “protective measure” and Carter calls “her helmet.”
“I still have some trouble balance-wise,” Watkins said. “As far as bending over to pick something up, I can do that.”
“I can tell that she has a little trouble memory-wise,” Carter said. “She has some problems with repetition. The physical problems will heal, but the emotional challenges will take some time.”
“I’ll be back soon,” Watkins said. After being released from Health South, Watkins and her sister went to a store, and even went to vote. “We went right down to the polling place on Stadium Drive,” Watkins said. “I saw Mrs. French there, and I saw other people I knew.”
Her sister is about to get some normalcy back into her life as well. “I’m going back to Mercer School with a smile on my face (today),” she said. “The whole time through this, Monika has always had a smile on her face. Even at the hospital, when the nurses came in to check on her and asked: ‘Mrs. Watkins, how do you feel today?’ she would always say: ‘I’m doing OK. I’m doing all right.’”
Deacon Robert Chambers of Mount Zion Baptist visited with Watkins and Carter Sunday after church, and gave them communion.
“I hope to be with you in church next week,” Watkins said as Chambers left Carter’s home. “Second Sunday.” she added.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org