Meet Waterloo’s ‘miracle man’

Richard Diggs

After sustaining multiple serious injuries from falling off of a ladder, long-time Waterloo resident Richard Diggs has made nothing short of a miraculous recovery. 

Diggs had a broken collarbone, at least eight broken ribs, a collapsed lung, fractured spine, multiple pelvis breaks, shoulder injuries and more. 

It did not seem he would ever be able to live a normal life again, nevertheless even survive. 

“They told my wife not to expect me to live, and when I did live, (the doctors said), ‘Don’t expect him to walk.’ Well, I walked in here,” Diggs said during a visit to the Republic-Times newspaper office.

Diggs sustained his injuries early one May morning. Being a full-time caretaker for his wife, who has suffered multiple brain aneurysms, Diggs said he could not sleep one night and decided to get some things checked off his to-do list. 

He headed out to do some yard work around 2:30 a.m. 

Then, he noticed a branch looming over his house. Fearing a storm would cause it to fall and damage his house, he took action into his own hands. 

“I climbed the ladder … I didn’t want to wake up the neighbors so I used a bow saw and I was trying to build my muscles up a little bit,” Diggs said. 

He cut a branch or two before everything went black. Between going in and out of consciousness, Diggs realized he was now on the ground and had fallen from the ladder. To this day, he still does not know exactly what caused the fall – although a picture of the tree suggests a branch could have struck the ladder, causing Diggs to fly off. 

“Apparently I was passed out and I woke up and prayed,” Diggs recalled. “I said, ‘God, if I see you this morning, it would be a wonderful thing. But, if I don’t see you that means I’m still on the earth and I’ll pray to you every day. Before I let you go here, could you do me one favor and cover my hands because they’re cold?’” 

Diggs was alone, in his backyard, unable to move with no phone to call for help.

Doctors said if it were not for a Good Samaritan who was walking her dog early in the morning, Diggs would probably not have survived. 

The mystery woman called for help and the next thing Diggs knew, he was in a bed at Mercy Hospital South in St. Louis County. 

“Bless her heart,” Diggs said, telling the woman, “Thank you. If there’s anything I can do to help you, I will. She saved my life.” 

The road to recovery was anything but easy, though, as Diggs’ brother-in-law Michael Holder witnessed. 

“When I first saw him, I said, ‘Oh my God.’ But, I know him and I’ve known him since he was a teenager. I said, ‘Well, he’ll make it. It’s going to be a long time, and the worst part is he’s going to be stuck in a bed and that’s going to be very hard for him because he’s an active person,’” Holder said.

Diggs’ recovery process spanned over four months, with him still having to work to keep up his strength. He was at Mercy South for about six weeks before transferring to Granite Nursing & Rehabilitation Center LLC for in-patient treatment. 

Holder and Diggs were impressed with the care Diggs received, with Holder calling special attention to Mercy South staff. 

“The ICU nurses have the toughest job in the world and they did an excellent job at Mercy South,” Holder said, mentioning how they would provide him updates as much as possible. 

Now, Diggs is back to his Waterloo home and his normal self. One look at Diggs’s cheerful demeanor and one would not even think he had fended off death months before. 

“I’m a jokester. I don’t really like to get serious as much, but you have to have levity in comedy,” Diggs said. “If you don’t have it then you’re stoic and so you can’t laugh. For the people that can’t laugh, I laugh for them.” 

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