MYSTIC — Alex Medina, a longtime truck driver and refuse hauler, was standing inside the Stamford Waste Transfer Station one morning last month, trying to get the attention of an equipment operator, when his life changed in an instant.
Medina, who lives in Mystic, was seriously injured when a log about 10 inches in diameter fell and struck him on the head.
Kimberly Bigelow, of Mystic, a close friend of Medina and his partner, Wendy Witt, said Medina suffered a severe head laceration and suspected neck fracture and spinal cord injury.
According to a report in the Stamford Advocate newspaper, "police said the incident was reported at 6:43 a.m. when the 59-year-old truck driver walked beneath a large hole on the second floor used by a backhoe to push debris into waiting 18-wheeler tractor-trailers on the first floor."
Sgt. Jeffrey Booth said the driver was trying to tell an equipment operator who works for the station that there was too much trash on the floor for him to back his truck in to be filled up, according to the newspaper report.
"Booth said that as the man was standing there talking to the employee, a log about 10 inches in diameter struck him on the head. The backhoe was not working at the time of the accident."
As Bigelow related, Medina’s job was based in Stamford, where he filled his tractor trailer with garbage at the landfill and then disposed of the loads — up to three times a day — at a waste facility in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, about 150 miles away.
Initally, Bigelow said, Medina was completely immobile and struggling to breathe, so he was connected to a ventilator. For several weeks he was unable to move anything but his toes.
Since then, Bigelow said, Medina has been weaned off of his ventilator and has slowly been able to breathe on his own.
"He has undergone a tracheotomy to assist in his respiratory recovery and has used a feeding tube," she said on the GoFundMe site she has created to help the family. "He has been able to wiggle a couple of his toes but has had no luck moving his legs in a larger capacity, and has not been able to move his arms nor his hands.
Doctors have informed his partner, Wendy, that although they believe Alex may be able to walk again one day, his arms may be permanently paralyzed.
"With medical bills exponentially rising, and a long-term rehab stay in the near future, Alex’s family is struggling to afford basic living expenses, including their mortgage," Bigelow said, which has put their home in jeopardy.
"Wendy will likely provide full-time care for Alex, and he will be undergoing a recuperation and rehabilitation journey that will take at least 12 months, according to doctors," Bigelow said. "Their house will need to undergo construction to make it handicap accessible, and their everyday life will change forever."
"At this point, his family is in great need to even afford living expenses," Bigelow said in an email. "With no current income, their home is at risk, and their medical bills are piling up."
On Thursday afternoon, Bigelow said that Medina was moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility.
"He is off of the food tube and ventilator, but is still breathing through a tracheotomy," she said. "His arm and leg movement have not improved past wiggling fingers and toes."
So far, the fundraising site has raised $1,550 towards the goal of $50,000.
For more information, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-alex-medina-recover.