Emile Garcia’s house is a little darker than usual. Typically it’s lit up with hundreds of Christmas decorations. Not this year.
“This time of year is always my Christmas-time and I do a really big Christmas display,” he said from his wheelchair. “I obviously won’t be able to do it this year but we’ll be back next year ready to go.”
He hopes. On October 3, while cutting tree branches leftovers from Hurricane Irma in his neighborhood, a branch fell on his head and crushed his vertebrae. He laid motionless on the ground for an hour before his wife, Kim, found him.
“You never unsee that,” she said. ”Ever.”
Doctors gave him a two percent chance of survival, but his gains have been steady. He has feeling in his entire body and has made small movements with his hands, thanks to the help of his nurse.
“Everyone feels like we’re further along than we should be. It’s encouraging,” he said. “I have feeling everywhere and I’m getting more and more movement.”
The hardest part for Emile has been his confinement to a wheelchair. He was always the guy in his community doing things for others. Now, the person many neighbors call “Mr. Helper” is getting paid back in a big way.
“They’ve been wonderful. I’ll never leave this neighborhood,” said Kim while standing on the freshly built wheelchair ramp. “God just puts people in your life.”
Sherry Heagy is one of those people for the Garcias. She has spent hours at Emile’s bedside in the hospital while Kim returns to work.
“They call him 'Mr. Helper' because he’s always doing things for other people,” she said. “He thinks that’s what you’re supposed to do and he’s right.”
The outlook is better today than on October 3. The Garcias credit their faith to getting them through.
“The prayers and the love,’ said Emile. “Without that, you don’t have anything.”
The hope is that he’ll one day walk again. Even if he doesn’t, “Mr. Helper” will have friends nearby to assist.
© 2017 WTSP-TV