Riding his bike home from work at the Hampden restaurant Corner BYOB, Michael Cassidy took more than a nasty spill.
A wheel of Cassidy's bike hit a manhole or metal plate on lower Falls Road south of Woodberry Aug. 24, according to restaurant owner Cecille Fenix.
"He basically fell off his bike. He hit his head," Fenix said. "The doctors are trying to tell him to stay as motionless as possible," she said, until his injuries heal.
The 31-year-old waiter and head of the dining room staff, who has been on staff since last winter, fractured the occipital condyle bone at the lower back of his skull, millimeters from his spine, and also tore an artery that supplies oxygen to the brain.
To help Cassidy with medical expenses, on Tuesday, Sept. 18, Corner BYOB held a fundraiser for the Mount Vernon resident known affectionately as "Mikey." At 3 p.m., in the middle of a storm, the restaurant on The Avenue (West 36th Street) at the corner of Elm Avenue was open for a "Benefit Dinner for Mikey," offering a prix fixe, $35-per-person menu with a photo of Cassidy.
The earliest diner was Dave Ketcham, 58, of Canton, who works for a wine wholesaler in Columbia and is a regular at Corner BYOB. Ketcham said he has known Cassidy since late 2011.
"We hit it off right away," he said. "We used to play golf together. Anything that happens to someone that young is tragic. He's flat on his back, with no income coming in."
Since proceeds for the day were going to help Cassidy, Ketcham was ready to do his part to help.
"I'm eating like a pig," Ketcham said.
Cassidy himself was not at the benefit. He is on doctor-ordered bed rest at his parents' house in Lutherville, wearing a neck brace. He is unable to stand for more than a few minutes at a time without feeling pressure in his neck, because the bone, which attaches to the spine, helps support the weight of the head on the neck.
"If (the fracture) had gone one millimeter each way, he would have been paralyzed," said Cassidy's mother, Maria Denmark.
The bone is healing slowly, but the tear is not closing yet and Cassidy is on blood thinners because, "There's always the possibility of a stroke," Denmark said.
But while he is on blood thinners, he can't undergo major surgery, said Fenix.
One hundred percent of the collected revenue from the Sept. 18 dinner will be turned over to Cassidy and his family, according to a news release. Staff members donated their services pro bono as well.
"I think it's wonderful," Denmark said.
Cassidy's private health insurance might not cover his medical costs, including ongoing treatment at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and at Mercy Hospital, Denmark said.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Cassidy won't be able to return to work until at least early November, Fenix said.
Many in the local restaurant industry were expected to eat at Corner BYOB to help Cassidy, who previously worked for the Oceanaire Seafood Room, in Harbor East; Fork and Wrench, a restaurant and bar in Canton; and One-Eyed Mike's, a last-call bar in Fells Point, known for its Grand Marnier Club.
Returning from a doctor's visit at Shock Trauma last week, Cassidy insisted on stopping into Corner BYOB to visit.
"He was so worried about his job that we took him in for five minutes," Denmark said. But she said her son doesn't know about the fundraiser and probably wouldn't be able to attend anyway.
"We can't leave him alone," said Denmark, an electrologist hair removal specialist and massage therapist. "We have to make sure his vital signs are OK."
But she said, "He has a lot of love and support, so we think he'll be all right."
On Tuesday, as the storm subsided and dinner guests arrived, Corner BYOB waiter Nancy Oliver, 47, of Waverly, was doing her part by working for free.
"Mikey's like my brother," Oliver said. "He would do it for me, so I'll do it for him."
Fenix said it was only natural she would hold a benefit, "because he's Mikey."