Around 18 months ago, Jay Rapley was left paralyzed after an accident. Today, he is the Lee’s Summit 2019 Citizen of the Year
Rapley was walking his dog on Jan. 23, 2017 when a truck struck and injured him. Doctors told Rapley, who is an orthopaedic surgeon at Rockhill Orthopaedic Specialists, it was unlikely he could get back to work for at least a year – if at all.
“I didn’t really want to hear it,” Rapley said.
Rapley worked hard on his physical abilities and therapies. His staff researched and developed new processes to help accommodate his changed accessibility. He was back on the job helping other people recover from their own injuries within six months.
“It was difficult, but I had lot of help, Rapley said. “We did a lot of dry runs in the operating room. One of the crew, who I work with on a daily basis, went to chat with another surgeon to get ideas. So many people helped me being able to do it.”
Rapley’s perseverance and strength when faced with extreme adversity is the reason Mayor Bill Baird chose Rapley as the 2019 Citizen of the Year.
“Despite a devastating and life-changing injury, Jay never wavered in his determination to return to giving his talents to serve others,” said Mayor Baird in a press release. “His inspiring journey is one of courage, perseverance, focus and faith.”
Rapley also resumed his volunteer work in the community. He serves as the football team doctor at Lee’s Summit West High School. This is a role he took on before and continued after his accident.
LS West High School Football Coach, Vinny Careswell, says Rapley is an excellent doctor and always makes times for the athletes. Rapley’s continued presence on the sideline at home games also sends the students an important message.
“From what he’s been through and been able to come back from, I think it is a good lesson for our kids to battle back through adversity. Dr. Rapley has definitely done that,” Careswell said.
Rapley says he wants to continue to help athletes because of his own experience growing up in sports.
“I was there. In growing up playing sports, if you got hurt, it was nice to have an opinion right away,” Rapley said.
Rapley offers Friday night clinics for players who get hurt on the field. He finds it helps players, like himself, get back the game as quickly as possible.
“I just want to do what is the safest thing for them and give them the best care. I try to keep in mind, what might take a short time of them being off now, might save time in the future for them,” Rapley said.
Rapley says it was a great honor to be selected as the 2019 Lee’s Summit Citizen of the Year.
“When they told me I said, ‘Are you sure you have the right person?’ There are so many people more deserving than I am. I was just surprised,” Rapley said.
Rapley received the Lee’s Summit Citizen of the Year award at the annual Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s Toast to Our Towns Gala September 28. He was one of seven honorees representing municipalities in the area including Independence, Blue Springs, Sugar Creek, Raytown, Grain Valley and Lake Tapawingo. At the same event, Truman Heartland Community Foundation also presented an area Heartland Humanitarian Award, Corporate Citizen Award, Heartland Service Award and Advisor of the Year Award.