Firefighters help renovate home for paralyzed colleague
Posted July 5, 2013
Henderson, N.C. — Henderson resident Gus Gray says losing the use of his legs in an accident that left him paralyzed is the toughest thing he has ever had to deal with.
“I was never a couch potato,” he said. “It’s been really frustrating for me not to be able to do what I want to do.”
What 33-year-old Gray wants to do is fight fires, just like he's done for the past nine years for three different fire departments – just like his father and his grandfather.
But on May 16, Gray fell asleep at the wheel on his way home after working a 136-hour shift. His car hit a concrete pole, and he broke his back. Now, the former firefighter says he’s pretty sure he'll never set foot on a fire truck again.
“There’s just no way I’ll be able to do it, no matter how much I improve,” said Gray, who worked full time for the Bethesda Fire Department and volunteered with the Redwood and Vance fire departments.
Gray was released from the hospital Wednesday. As he works to find a new passion, he must also face a more immediate need. Gray needs to renovate his 1950s-era home he shares with his fiancee and her child. The house is simply too small for him to maneuver his wheelchair.
“Everything is pretty tight,” he said.
Home Depot is donating materials for a home makeover that will include a new wheelchair accessible bedroom, bathroom and closet. The renovation has already begun on the Watson Drive home, with doors removed from their frames to make room.
“We all have seen what they do for us, so it’s time to help and do something for him,” said Alex Amo, district manager with Home Depot.
The firefighters Gray calls his brothers and sisters will provide the manpower for the project. Firefighters from Raleigh, Durham, Bethesda, Redwood and Vance departments are pitching in. An emergency medical technician from Franklin County and another EMT from Vance County are helping with foundation and electrical work on additions to the home.
“As soon as word got out that we were going to do the renovation, people came out of the woodwork,” said Charlie Gray, who is Gus' father.
Gray said the support he’s getting is carrying him through tough times.
“They are definitely what’s holding me together,” he said.