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Survivor of fiery wreck thrives with family

Posted January 26, 2011

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— A fiery, chain-reaction wreck on Interstate 40 on Jan. 26, 2009, changed Robert Leffer's life, and even his body.

But Leffer, of Sanford, and his wife say the long road to recovery hasn't changed their family.

Leffer was at the wheel of a garbage truck when it was clipped by an SUV cutting across four lanes of traffic. His truck flipped over and caught on fire. He survived but suffered burns on 80 percent of his body.

"You just can't give up. You have to be strong," Leffer, a married father of one, said. "I never imagined I'd be where I'm at now."

He endured a dozen surgeries and months of rehabilitation at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals.

Now, the burns have healed, and Leffer can walk and drive again. He sometimes even drives himself to physical therapy.

He will have surgery again in two weeks to loosen scar tissue on his hands and lips.

The pain is constant, and it hurts to be on his feet for more than an hour.

"On a scale of one to 10, I'm usually on three to four pain level," Leffer said.

He also feels the pain of not knowing if he'll be able to work again.

"I did enjoy driving my truck, and I did enjoy working," he said.

Leffer, though, finds enjoyment in being at home with his wife Amalia and 3½-year-old son Robert Junior.

"My wife, she still looks at me like the same guy she first met," he said. "She always tells me I'm handsome. When we go places, she's not ashamed to put her arms around me and hold on when we're walking."

Robert Leffer Survivor of fiery wreck thrives with family

His wife said Leffer hasn't changed from the man she married.

"It's because I've fallen in love with his big heart, and he's still the same," she said.

The love of his family is the best medicine for Leffer now.

His next goal is to be able to run again, so he can chase his toddler around the house and teach him to ride a bike.

"I'm grateful to every day of life," he said.


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  • WritNEWlaws Jan 27, 2011

    God bless you and your family! Love conquers all!!

  • 1 awesome Dad Jan 27, 2011

    This is such an encouragement and a great story. I am sorry to read about this family's difficutlties but encouraged to know that come what may there are families out there that still do the right thing.

    Praying for you Robert and thanks for the classy example you shared with us all in this.

  • dlk13ster Jan 27, 2011

    Dear Lord...80% burns.

    This man shouldn't even be ALIVE, much less walking, talking, and driving!

    I swear, medical science never ceases to amaze me. Nor the power of the human spirit, for that matter.

    Bless you, sir, and godspeed; you've pulled through a level of pain and anguish that most people can't even imagine...and for good reason.

  • 2SWEETBOYS Jan 27, 2011

    Agree with 'happy'.....so true!

  • rescuefan Jan 27, 2011

    What a wonderful, inspiring story!

  • cth1 Jan 27, 2011

    Thank you for pulling "wildcat's" comment!! It was out of line and wasn't true!!!

    This man is an inspiration!! I don't know if I could be as positive as he is if I was in that much pain and faced the challenges he has faced!!!

    Stay strong and we're praying for you!!!!

  • happy Jan 27, 2011

    True love doesn't see with the eyes, it sees with the heart!

  • liskm Jan 26, 2011

    Chin UP and 'high 5'' !
    Robert. Keep fighting! Had a family member at JCBC during the same time you were there. Nobody knows until they have been there,
    I guess the most grateful thing I can say is thank goodness we have such a great burn center.
    Wishing you the best in your continued recovery.

  • Go Figure Jan 26, 2011

    STAY STRONG, Leffer family. And don't listen to people who want to over simplfy your life just because they are miserable with theirs.

  • avidreader Jan 26, 2011

    What an inspiring story.

    People, please be careful when driving and quit cutting in and out of traffic like bats out of hades - think when you get behind the wheel - and leave early if you need to!!!