Friends of a Coginchaug High School graduate injured while mountain biking in California last weekend have launched a website to help raise money to pay for his medical expenses.
28-year-old Michael Turner was mountain biking with a friend near his home in Three Rivers, CA, on March 24, when he lost his balance and hit his head on a fallen tree.
"I immediately reached for my head and it felt like there was a golf ball behind my jaw," Turner said in a phone interview from a hospital on Friday. "My friend, who was riding behind me, asked if I was okay and I went to answer him and I realized I could only move half my face."
Hospital tests revealed that Turner had been impaled by a 5-inch stick which had entered the back of his jaw and nearly pierced the base of his skull. The stick damaged a facial nerve, leaving the right side of his face paralyzed, doctors at the Community Regional Medical Center told him.
But Turner, a seasonal employee for the National Parks Service, said he spent the next four days waiting for the hospital to decide whether he would be transfered to UC Davis Medical Center, where specialsits could perform the surgery to remove the stick.
Eventually, he was denied because he lacked medical insurance.
Finally on Thursday, five days after the accident, Turner underwent 8-hours of surgery to remove the stick — part of which he kept — at CRMC.
The surgery was successful and Turner is expected to be released from the hospital today. He said he's been told it could take up to a year to fully recover.
In the meantime, Turner's friends have created a website youcaring.com to help him pay for his exisiting medical expenses and future bills.
"He's really a wonderful person and he works really hard," said Kristine Teets, who's known Turner since the two were graduate students at UConn. Teets said she created the website after talking with friends about what they could do to help Turner.
By Friday evening, the website had raised more than $10,000 for his medical expenses. The goal is $50,000, according to Teets.
"I think a lot of people our age right now are underemployed or not employed and don't have insurance," she said. "Hearing what happened to him just breaks your heart."
Turner, who was a member of Coginchaug's cross country and track teams before graduating in 2002, said he's not able to afford health insurance because of college loan debt, rent and other living expenses.
"This outpouring of support from strangers and loved ones is more than I could ever ask for," he said.