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By Jim Cornelius
News Editor 

Sisters man works toward recovery

 

Last updated 2/7/2023 at Noon

JIM CORNELIUS

Steve Rollins visited with Doug Williams last weekend. The two have been friends since they were kids growing up in Sisters.

Life took a hard turn for Steve Rollins on December 2, 2022.

The longtime Sisters mechanic took a bad fall at his home shop that left him with spinal cord injuries and facing a long road to recovery.

“He slipped on ice,” his son Jeremy Rollins told The Nugget. “He said the last thing he remembered was the ground coming up at him.”

What happened, though, was worse than hitting the ground. Rollins fell face-first into the hydraulic arm of a floor hoist used for lifting car engines. The steel cut into Rollin’s forehead, leaving a nasty gash. But the most serious injury was to his neck. The impact whipped his head back and caused his cervical vertebrae to compress his spinal cord.

He lay on the ground for an estimated hour before his dog found him and alerted another person living on the property, who summoned help.

The fall left Rollins in a state of “incomplete quadriplegia,” meaning that he has some movement, but not with complete control, of his arms and legs.


A surgeon operated to relieve pressure on his spinal cord, and he spent weeks in rehab at St. Charles Hospital.

“Dad’s very lucky to be alive, is what it comes down to” Jeremy said. “If he wasn’t the tough, stubborn ol’ boy that he is, I don’t know if he’d have lived through it.”

Now he’s home, working hard on his recovery, and eager to thank the Sisters community for the outpouring of support he’s received.

“If you know Dad at all, you know he’s trying to figure out how to thank everybody,” Jeremy said.

A GoFundMe page has raised nearly $10,000 to help with Rollins’ care. And friends and community members have visited and sent cards and offered up their prayers. It means the world to Rollins.


Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce

“It brought me to tears,” he told The Nugget in an interview at his home last Sunday. “Mostly I want the community to know how grateful and appreciative I am of everybody praying for me. I thank them as much for the prayers as the money. I think that’s why I’m doing so good — the prayers and things.”

Rollins is, in fact, doing well, though he has his ups and downs. His left arm functions well enough for him to feed himself or drink from a cup with a straw, or operate a motor wheelchair. And he’s gained more motion with his right arm in recent days. A home health team visits every day and he works on rehabbing his injuries — which is complicated by a raft of previous injuries and arthritis that had him pretty banged up even before his catastrophic fall.


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While he was pleased with where he was last Sunday, Rollins and his family know there is a long haul in front of him. His son Jeremy and daughter-in-law Tonya told The Nugget that his surgeon said that a prognosis is difficult to nail down with this type of spinal injury: Some bounce back amazingly quickly; some never regain function; some take a year or two to regain some or most of their function.

Rollins can’t leave the house without medical transport, and he has to be hoisted from bed to chair and turned over in bed at night. He requires 24/7 care, and the family is actively seeking a full-time caregiver. Those interested or who might know someone are asked to contact Tonya at Rollins & Sons Automotive, 541-549-1241.


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Steve’s sisters and a niece have been handling a lot of his care, as have Jeremy and Tonya. They are also working to navigate a tangle of healthcare bureaucracies — all while continuing to operate their family automotive repair business, which Steve started more than four decades ago.

“Our day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m.,” Jeremy acknowledged.

It’s a grind, but the Rollinses just buckle down and do it.

“Dad raised me to work,” Jeremy said. “So I know how to do it. We don’t want the community to worry about us at all. We mainly want to thank people for what they have given.”

That ethic of hard work and gratitude is ingrained.

Steve Rollins grew up in Sisters after his family moved here from Arizona in 1961, when Steve was nine years old. His dad was a logger and worked in the woods around Sisters.


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“Sisters has always been my hometown,” he said.

He spent a free-range childhood pedaling his bike all over town, riding horses in the woods, hunting, and fishing, which is still a passion.

“Adams Street, some of them, were still dirt, gravel,” he recalled. “It was a neat place to grow up as a kid.”

He tries to give his grandchildren a taste of that life, taking them out fishing.

Rollins got his start in what would become his career as a teenager — working on a 1938 Ford Coupe.

“At 14, I rebuilt my first engine,” he said. “Of course, my dad helped me.”


Sisters Oregon Guide

He opened what is now Rollins & Sons Automotive in 1975, after a stint in the U.S. Army, where he did a lot of work maintaining trucks. He had thought that he would become a carpenter, but a course in auto tech at Central Oregon Community College steered him back toward working under a car hood.

“When I graduated, I hung out a little sign — Rollins Automotive,” he said.

There are a lot of stories in Sisters about Steve Rollins going the extra mile to help a customer in need — from getting tourists back on the road when they got stranded in town on a Sunday, to making sure that seniors in town could keep their car running without breaking the bank. Doing good work at a fair price was the way Rollins always conducted business — and he worked many a 12-hour day when he was the only pro mechanic in town.


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Rollins told The Nugget that he’s had a lot of time to think since his injury, and he’s reflected a lot on his life and work.

He asked himself, “Did I do it just for money, just to pay the bills — which you’ve got to do, of course?”

He concluded that it was never about the money, past making a decent living for his family. He really enjoyed helping people, and “I really liked working on those old cars... I got to thinking,” he said. “I’ve had a good life.”

Contribute to the GoFund Me page for Steve Rollins at https://www.gofundme.com/f/sisters-resident-of-60-years-needs-your-help.


Sisters - The Old West, All Grown Up

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit www.frontierpartisans.com.

 

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