Gary Nodes felt fine when he went to sleep one night in March 2015.
But the following day, the Brick, NJ, letter carrier woke up with a backache — and a few hours later, he began to lose feeling in his left leg. By the time he reached the hospital, his life had changed.
“I was paralyzed from the waist down,” he said.
Nodes had suffered from a spontaneous spinal hematoma, which occurs when a blood vessel ruptures inside the spine and damages surrounding nerves.
“It felt like being buried in sand,” he said. “You can’t get out.”
Following emergency surgery, Nodes spent the next 15 months undergoing physical therapy to regain the use of his legs.
His co-workers were supportive. Because he was unable to go upstairs in his home, his family placed a hospital bed in his living room. Some colleagues painted the room to help turn it into a makeshift bedroom.
Co-workers also built a wheelchair ramp at his home and hosted a fundraiser in his honor. Employees collected the donations on their own time, and all contributions were voluntary.
Nodes, who recently returned to his route, is thankful despite the lingering effects from his paralysis.
“I get very tired,” he said. “My left leg is still heavy and I still have [some] issues — but not everybody is as lucky as I am.”