John Wayne Thompson, whose arms were ripped off in a farm accident and reattached by doctors, returned to a hero's welcome at his high school Monday, where fellow students chanted, "Duke! Duke!"
"I'd just like to say thanks for letting me come back. It's good to be here," said the 18-year-old Thompson, who shares the nickname with the late actor.Following the rally at the Bowdon High School gymnasium, Thompson left for his history class, then physical therapy at St. Aloisius Medical Center in Harvey, 25 miles away.
"Everything went fine," said Principal Norbert Schlegel, who teaches the class. "Of course, he didn't do a lot of writing."
Thompson was working alone on his family farm Jan. 11 when he lost his arms in an accident with a piece of machinery. He staggered 400 feet to his house, where he used his mouth to turn a door knob, then used a pencil to punch out a phone call for help.
Doctors at North Memorial Medical Center near Minneapolis reattached both arms. Thompson has regained partial use, but still requires extensive physical therapy.
"I'm mainly worried about school," he said. "I want to make sure I'll be able to keep coming."
He plans to attend one or two classes a day, then go to physical therapy sessions. But he said he still plans to graduate with his nine-member senior class on May 17.
"We've already rented the civic center in Hurdsfield for his reception, so we'll see you there," Thompson's mother, Karen, told reporters.
Thompson didn't move his arms during the rally, attended by about 70 students and teachers, and this time reporters didn't ask him to.
"I do this every day and it gets kind of old," he said during a demonstration after his return home from the hospital last Tuesday. He said then he has regained feeling down to his elbows. Doctors said it was unclear if he would regain use of his hands.
Mrs. Thompson said her son has had a "few rough nights" since returning from Minnesota. "He's been worried and depressed about a few things," she said.