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An Accessible Home for Robert

Organized by: Robert Griffith

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THE STORY:

October 18, 2012 was going like any other. I take that back. It was going better than usual. The past month had been hell. Sixteen-hour days working to get the BMO Harris Bank change-over finished before deadline. The added work had been killer on my body so when my boss told my partner B.J. and I that all we had to do for the day was wire up a Big Lots in Mesa and a scoreboard to install in Phoenix, I was relieved. I was going be home by 6!

Everything happened so fast. I recall the ‘tink’ sound the eye-bolt made when it snapped! In an instant everything went dark. After what could have been minutes but felt like seconds, I opened my eyes, unable to move, to the sight of my boots directly in front of my face. I had stood in such a position that my halfway-out idea backfired. The top edge, as it came down, grazed my face and grabbed my shoulder thrusting my body forward folding me in half. At best I was critically injured. I didn’t know the extent of my injuries but I was alive. Unable to take a breath of any decent size, partly due to the eighteen hundred pounds of scoreboard on me and also due to a collapsed left lung, I couldn’t call for help. Seeing as how B.J. was on the other side doing the exact same thing I was, he was trapped also. Luckily he was far enough out that the scoreboard just knocked him down and pinned him. B.J.’s cries for help rang out upon deaf ears as I recall the ghost town like fields as we pulled up. To me his pleading sounded like whispers barely being carried by the breeze. Hopelessness was starting to set in. It was then I realized that I was the crane operator. Even if B.J. did get out I would still be stuck. He is fairly new to the company and is unfamiliar with the controls.

The first person to reach us was a nurse. She just happened to be on her way home when she heard the screaming coming from the field. She rushed over to see what happened. She was astonished to see that I was alive and immediately ran to get help. After about 3 or 4 minutes our situation had attracted a couple more bystanders. Along with the nurse and the person she found, they attempted to dead lift the scoreboard off of us. Barely hoisting the extreme mass upward, they were able to pull B.J. out. With the entire weight now solely on me they attempted to lift the scoreboard. Only being able to lift it about an inch or two they tried to pull me out. No dice! Losing their grip they drop the scoreboard back down banging another nail into my coffin! Thinking quickly, the Samaritans utilized the crate that the scoreboard came in. Being made from two-by-four’s, it was the length of the scoreboard and about 6 inches tall. They wedged the crate under the top edge and pried upward. Success! With one jerking motion I was yanked out and at the same time, straightened back out. The pain was surreal. Everything from the waist down was on fire! My face was bleeding profusely and I couldn’t breathe.

As I was laying there wondering if I was going to make it to the hospital, I could hear sirens in the distance; finally. My very next thought was my son growing up without a father. That in mind, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cellphone. I had to at least say goodbye. His mother answered and immediately knew something was wrong when I asked to speak to him. After a brief moment, one of the bystanders grabbed the phone from me to explain to her what had happened. The paramedics were there almost instantly after I was pulled out. Stabilizing me as well as possible, they rushed me to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Fortunately, we were only about 7 minutes away. I was taken straight to the OR where a top neurosurgeon was waiting.

All in all I suffered a T-11 burst fracture that resulted in spinal cord injury, 5 broken ribs on my left side, a collapsed left lung, and facial lacerations. The top-notch team had me fused back together with titanium rods on each side of my spine from T-10 to L2 within three hours. I spent 10 days there at St. Joe’s and transferred to the Craig Hospital in Englewood, CO. Craig is the leading national rehabilitation hospital for spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. It was a crash course in ‘How to be paralyzed’. You have to re-learn basic skills. Something as simple as sitting up. When sitting on the edge of a chair with my feet on the floor, I could not sit up without supporting myself with my arms. Are you kidding?? I had to learn to sit again. Without your legs your body is no longer anchored to the earth. I spent 2 months at Craig learning to navigate through life in a wheelchair.

Two days before Christmas I returned to Phoenix, but not home. I was living in a two story house when I got hurt so my family and friends moved my son and I into a two bedroom, single level apartment. For eight hundred a month, at 950 sq. ft. and not quite set up for my new handicap needs, it wasn’t exactly my dream place. The laundry is outside on the back patio in the utility closet boasting a ‘Thin Twin’ stacked unit that I have great difficulty reaching into, never mind emptying the lint trap located at the back of the dryer. I avoid the kitchen whenever I can. Not only does it not have an accessible counters and sink, the space is so tight I can barely make a 360 degree spin to turn around. Opening cabinets with a wheelchair in front of it is counter-productive. Cooking is almost a guarantee to get burned. The oven opens up just far enough with me in front of it to bounce my arm off of it. The bathrooms do not have any grab bars for safety, nor any handicap fixtures. To look on the bright side, I have a nice view of the gazebo and small water feature that spans the length of the complex.

My apologies for the lengthy story. I am in desperate need of a home that is handicapped accessible as well safe for my six year old son. Money is tight but manageble due to the average cost of living in the Phoenix metro area and insufficient benefits received under worker’s compensation regulation. I have started this crowd funding campaign in hope of collecting enough money to put a down payment on a home that will be modified to fit my unique situation. Thank you in advance for extreme generosity and compassion!

Robert

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Robert Griffith

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