His administrative assistant, Alyce Farrar, has been keeping the practice going in Houk's absence, scheduling patients for a substitute doctor one day a week at the York Road office or at the offices of other physicians who agreed to cover for him.

"A lot of patients don't want to see the doctors he has for them," she said. "A lot of them are pretty adamant about just waiting" until Houk gets back, if their health allows.

Since the accident, Houk has had six surgeries, spent two weeks at Shock Trauma and six weeks at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute — formerly known as Kernan Hospital — where he still goes for therapy twice a week.

At the moment, he's as worried about medical bills and household expenses as anyone who runs their own small business, has been unable to work for six months and has a family. Houk and his wife have three sons and a daughter between 15 and 23 years old.

Some years ago he switched to a high-deductible insurance plan to save money on premiums, Jenkins said.

"We are not wealthy," Jenkins said in an email. "And like any other small business, an accident like this puts us on the brink of financial devastation."

Their home on two acres in the historic section of Lutherville is modestly furnished. Jenkins said the flora in the yard is not as tidy as it might be if they had not been preoccupied with Houk's recovery, and if he were going full strength.

He is going, though.

On his feet now about five hours in the day, he makes coffee, cleans out the dishwasher, cuts up fruit and vegetables for his blender drinks. He's graduated from a walker and goes unassisted in the house, using a cane for his daily walks outside a couple times a day — always with a companion.

Houk is working on recovering his strength, manual dexterity and speech; there's still some numbness in his tongue. Therapy sessions take hours, as they include three projects: 45 minutes each of physical, occupational and speech therapy. His cognitive abilities, including retention of his medical knowledge, have checked out in several tests.

On occasion, he doesn't remember a word, and Jenkins said his voice sometimes sounds younger than it did before the accident. Nonetheless, the rather eccentric, talkative Ted Houk people knew is there.

"He's almost to where he was before the accident," said Charles Armstrong, a lifelong friend who lives in New York and has visited Houk several times since March. "It's practically a miracle, considering how serious the accident was."

Jenkins said doctors have told her that it probably helped that he was in such good shape, with his regimen of exercise and diet. He still eats raw oats for breakfast — just milk, no cooking.

Houk's doctors have said it's possible he could be back to his medical practice by January.

Orthopedist Christina L. Boulton, who has been treating Houk since the accident, said he was doing better than anyone would have expected, given the seriousness of the injuries. She could not say for certain that he could one day return to running.

"If anybody's going to get back to running, he's the kind of guy who's going to be able to do it," she said.

Jenkins said she's aware of not rushing things or getting her expectations too high.

"One of the things they tell you is nobody's path after something like this is a straight path," said Jenkins, who met Houk when they were students at Towson High. They married in 1985.

She's always known him to be upbeat and determined, but during the long stay at the rehabilitation hospital, she said Houk told her "he was afraid he would never be able to come back home. It was the first time in all the years we have been together that I have ever known him to be afraid."

He did come home, at the end of May. This month, neighbors within earshot of his house who did not know he was home learned the news from a familiar sound coming from the front porch: Houk on his Great Highland Bagpipe, playing for the first time since the accident.

"I played 'Scotland the Brave' just fine for 15 minutes," said Houk, although, he added, his finger work is a little rusty. "I'm not as fast as I was. I have to practice."

He thinks about getting back to running, although Jenkins said they'll have to discuss his route and perhaps find one that has sidewalks the whole way.

In his running days, he could do nine miles if he was commuting on foot both to and from work, and depending on whether he had to stop at GBMC. People along the way would sometimes shout wisecracks at him, telling him to put a shirt on.

"They thought I was crazy," Houk said. "I know that exercise makes me happy. I know that living a long time is better."

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com