During spring break, Akiona was trimming a tree in his yard when he fell to the ground.
The 21-foot fall left the principal with a fractured wrist, crushed vertebrae and a broken sternum. He was transported to SkyRidge Medical Center and later to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. Later he received physical therapy at Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation in Chattanooga.
Akiona said he also did physical therapy at the Cleveland Family YMCA.
Akiona said he tried to return to the school in April, but found coming back to work too difficult during his recovery.
The principal did, however, make a point to attend the kindergarten graduation and fifth-grade awards night.
He also made a visit to the school to see the students during dismissal.
On his first visit back all the students wanted to give him a hug. He said the teachers had to hold them back — for his well-being.
“At that point, if I were to fall again, it would have slowed my recovery,” Akiona said.
During his brief visits back to the school, Akiona received a lot of questions from his curious students. Many also gave him get-well cards.
The first time he visited the school he was still walking with a cane. He said students asked him if he would be able to walk and run again. “Eventually,” was the principal’s answer.
However, he admitted that some things will be different, such as interacting with the students at recess.
“It seems like I’ve aged in just a couple of months,” Akiona said.
Although all the students were gone, Akiona returned to work part-time in May and was fully back in June.
There are still limitations on what he can lift and teachers and staff are making sure he follows them.
“I’ve had a lot of help,” Akiona said.
The principal said during his recovery, teachers and school staff have kept things running smoothly. He said he was thankful for the “wonderful job” physical education teacher Chris Doan did stepping in and running the school while he was out.
He is excited to see the students come back to the school, and hopes that his return will give them a sense of normalcy.
He said he is looking forward to seeing the students again and learning new students’ names. This year that goal has an added challenge, with three sets of twins starting kindergarten.
Akiona said the recovery process has given him a chance to reflect on North Lee and how the school can be “even better.” It also gave him time to research the common core standards and the new leadership program rolling out this school year.