- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Ronald and Stephanie Fletcher see God’s grace every time they gaze at their baby son.

Ronald - Bubba to his family and friends - was paralyzed from the waist down by a one-vehicle drunken-driving crash in 2007, putting the couple’s plans to start a family on hold. Despite Ronald’s devastating injuries, Stephanie held fast to their dream, never realizing the road to motherhood would almost cost her life.

“We had one more shot at trying,” Ronald said, cuddling Jackson Robert Fletcher in his arms. “We had one more egg frozen.”

They started planning a sports-themed nursery five years ago, but the room remained empty. Stephanie suffered miscarriages with each attempt. Two years to the day before Jackson’s birth, she developed an ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo grew outside her uterus. Had she waited longer before heading to the hospital, she would have died.

She and Ronald discussed adoption and started fostering newborns and babies.

Foster parenting helped Ronald realize he could care for a baby while in a wheelchair, the same way he’s adapted in other parts of his life.

“He was so good with it,” Stephanie said. “I couldn’t potty train for anything, but he was so patient with them.”

Ronald continued rebuilding the other parts of his life as the couple worked to start a family. He went back to work at Shreveport Tractor Co., but instead of working on tractors, he took on a desk job and became the service manager. An enthusiastic athlete before the crash, he started exploring adaptive sports. He hopes to try adaptive water skiing this year.

He also became a speaker for ThinkFirst, a nonprofit that encourages teens and young adults to avoid behavior that causes brain and spinal injuries. Ronald spares no details when he describes his crash and its aftermath to audiences.

He headed home after beers with friends. In a hurry to get to bed, he sped onto an entrance ramp for state Highway 3132 in Shreveport and ran off the road. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and when his SUV started rolling, he flew out the window. The SUV rolled over him, severing his spinal cord.

“I was dead on the scene when they found me,” he said. “People say ‘accident,’ but it wasn’t an accident. I made a decision to do what I did.”

That knowledge weighed on him as he and Stephanie faced the possibility they wouldn’t have children of their own. As an only son, Ronald hoped to carry on his family name.

After Stephanie recovered from the ectopic pregnancy, they decided to try one more time for a baby. Except for gestational diabetes, Stephanie’s pregnancy progressed normally, and Jackson came into the world at a healthy 8 pounds Nov. 6.

“I’m my father’s only son,” Ronald said. “To find out I was going to have a boy, that my son gets to carry on my name, I was overwhelmed. I’m thankful that I can hold my child, that I have control of my hands and my arms.”

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