In a letter to the Taylorsville-Winfield Lions Club written in June, South Carroll High School alumnus Mickey Chrobot asked for help — and his plea was answered.
Chrobot, 21, of Taylorsville, was in a car accident on Dec. 23 that broke the C6 and C7 vertebrae in his neck, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
Chrobot requested the funds for a light-weight wheelchair, electronic bed and iPad.
In July, after receiving his letter, the Lions Club opened a GoFundMe account for Chrobot and asked all of its members to spread the word about the fundraiser, said Linda A. Brady, first vice president for the Taylorsville-Winfield Lions Club. Combined with the money raised through the account and the funds donated directly to the Lions Club for Chrobot, Brady said the club has raised about $6,000.
"It's amazing what we've been able to do … Right now we can pretty much purchase everything he's asking for," Brady said.
Brady said the outpouring of generosity has amazed her and has given her faith in people that she did not have before.
Since the break in his spine was only partial, not complete, Chrobot has the potential to regain mobility, he said. With physical therapy, Chrobot is now able to lift his arms above his head and move his fingers, but he is still hoping to walk again someday, he said.
"I'm going to push myself to get everything that I can back. Hopefully I'll walk. But if anything, I'll just be happy to have my hands back," Chrobot said.
In addition to the new bed, wheelchair and iPad that Chrobot needs, he has adopted a new attitude.
"I definitely have a new perspective in life, and learned that you can't be negative about a lot of things. You have to stay positive and always look for the good," he said.
He worked for Decisive Communications — a sub-contracting company — played the guitar and sang with his band, and hit the gym regularly.
"I lived my life a quarter mile at a time. I didn't stop. I was always running, I mean, I'd pick fights at any point in time. If I wanted to fight somebody I was going to fight somebody," Chrobot said.
As a Mixed Martial Arts fighter for four years, Chrobot said he had once dreamed of taking MMA fighting to a professional level. Even if he does regain the ability to walk, Chrobot said that his MMA coach told him that he will not be able to fight again, as another injury to his spine could seriously re-injure or even kill him, so no gym will sanction him to fight.
Chrobot used to be a "macho man, Superman-type person" who acted like nothing could hurt him, said his sister, Karen Matulonis.
Loren Blair said he has been friends with Chrobot for 16 years. Before the accident they did everything together, but now that Chrobot is paralyzed, where they can go and what they can do is limited, Blair said.
Despite the wheelchair, Blair said Chrobot is still the same person he likes to joke around with.
"He'd do anything for you," Blair said. "[He's a] give you the shirt off his back kind of guy."
Since the accident that left him paralyzed, Chrobot's dream, he said, is to go to school for physical therapy to help other people who are paralyzed.
"I've always tried to help people and this will just be another way to be able to help people who [are in] my situation," Chrobot said.
One of the items that Chrobot needs, an iPad, would allow him to pursue his dream to help people.
The iPad that Chrobot asked for would not only keep him entertained, but would also help him to regain fine motor skills in his fingers and allow him to research physical therapy schools.
The Lions Club has already provided the funds to purchase Chrobot's bed, which was $4,000 and is expected to arrive in several weeks, Brady said.
Chrobot's current bed is too small and uncomfortable for him and has to be raised and lowered manually, Matulonis said. Chrobot's feet cannot touch the foot board of the bed as they do now, Matulonis said, because it sets off muscle spasms that are typical for paraplegics.
The new bed that he is getting, Matulonis said, is completely motorized so that it moves up and down, and the foot and head rests can also be adjusted by the push of a button.
Also, Chrobot's current wheelchair is so heavy that in order for it to be transported it must be rolled into a pickup truck using a ramp, Matulonis said. The wheelchair that Chrobot needs, Matulonis said, is about 23 pounds and can be folded up in about 10 seconds, which would make it much easier to load in the car.
This would also make travel easier for Chrobot when he uses public transportation to get to his doctors appointments, Matulonis said. Since his current wheelchair does not transport well, Chrobot has to lie on a stretcher when he rides on Butler Mobility, part of the Carroll Transit System, Matulonis said.
The new wheelchair is also a sports wheelchair and would be operated manually, which Chrobot said he liked because it would help him to build up the strength in his arms and maybe allow him to play wheelchair rugby someday.
Even after the Lions Club reaches its goal of $10,000, Brady said, it will still accept donations because Chrobot will have additional expenses as his rehabilitation continues.
Chrobot said his advice to other paraplegics is to stay positive.
They're not going to want to push or fight anymore because they're going to think 'what's the point?' ... I've had my moments, and I still have my moments where I want to give up," Chrobot said. "But all and all I won't give up."
Chrobot said he died twice immediately after the accident that left him paralyzed. During those times, Chrobot said he heard God tell him "I'm not ready for you. I've got something I need you to do. You won't know what it is, but there's something that I need you to do."
He said that message keeps him "motivated to find out what that purpose is."
"If it's to inspire people, I'm doing a pretty good job of that. And if it's doing something else I'm going to keep pushing until I find it," he said.