Ernie Thacker facing amputation of his lower extremities

Ernie Thacker is a deeply beloved bluegrass artist, both for his soulful singing of traditional mountain music, and for the way he has handled severe adversity in his life.

Up until April of 2006, Ernie was one of many young men trying to carve out a career in bluegrass. As a teen, he had demonstrated his skill as a vocalist working as Ralph Stanley’s lead singer, and his early recordings as a solo artist had showed great promise. But that April 18, as he was driving to his brother’s house near his home in the Clinch Valley region of Virginia, his car went off the road and he was thrown from the vehicle. He has no memory of the accident itself, but it left him with multiple, very serious injuries.

Twelve ribs were broken, his aorta was crushed, both collar bones broke, and his spleen was ruptured. Waking up in the hospital several days later, Thacker fit the profile of the expression, lucky to be alive. But while he was out, doctors trying to control his internal bleeding cut nerves to his lower body, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He faced several months in intensive care, and years of ongoing therapy.

But Ernie remained upbeat throughout, eventually returning to the stage to play and sing the music he loved. Touring full time is too large a struggle, however, and doing any sort of work is both difficult and exhausting for him. A specially-fitted vehicle is required for him to get around, and those are quite costly.

Still, friends report that Thacker always has a smile on his face, and has been working since the accident to return to performing again.

Ernie Thacker

Now, Ernie is facing another serious challenge, and he and his wife, Karen, are asking all their friends and his fans to please pray for them. Because of a bone infection that has spread from his hips and tail bone into his femur, doctors are preparing to amputate the lower half of his body today in Lexington, KY. As you might imagine, this is a lengthy procedure with all sorts of hazards, and Ernie and Karen are both devastated and terrified by the prospect.

His doctors believe that this is their only option to save his life, and he is expected to remain in the hospital for several months.

Best of luck, Ernie, with your surgery. We hope to hear good news soon!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.