Fayetteville resident Justin Lake, 32, has an active personality. A black belt in karate at the age of 12, Lake, has also been snowboarding, skydiving and scuba diving. It was on a recent trip to Trinidad & Tobago for some scuba diving and hiking that an accident occurred, one that has changed Lake’s life significantly.
After a day of hiking in Tobago, Lake was sitting in a parked car which was struck at a high speed (between 80 and 100 miles per hour) by a drunk driver who was so inebriated he left his car and began to hit and strike Lake. The driver was prevented from attacking Lake any further as they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
Lake, who was halfway through paramedic school, had to direct the EMT how to appropriately attach the C-collar (C is for Cervical) to him before being transported to a hospital. It was discovered that Lake’s C-6 and C-7 vertebrae were broken. A military helicopter was able to transport Lake from Tobago to Trinidad. A neurosurgeon from Miami began to consult with doctors in Trinidad on what they found but they still needed to get Lake back to the United States. Lake’s sister-in-law, Becky Lake, an RN at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta as a clinical nurse expert at the hospital’s Advanced Heart Failure Center, was on Facebook early the morning after the accident, asking if anybody knew something they could do. They were able to get the Jet ICU in Tampa to go and get him.
The cost of the jet was $28,500 and had to be paid up front. Lake’s insurance company denied the claim because they considered it a non-emergency. The jet got Lake, brought him to Tampa to clear customs and then to Peachtree-DeKalb airport. He was admitted to the ICU at Piedmont in Atlanta at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28. The MRI at the hospital revealed that in addition to the broken vertebrae they already knew about, the C-5 and the T-1 and T-3 were also broken (T is for Thoracicspine). Lake also had a tear in C-4 that was leaking spinal fluid. It was estimated that he lost approximately four pints.
Dr. Hsieh was Lake’s surgeon during an eight hour surgery on Aug. 30.
Lake was in the ICU for two and a half weeks and several days later he was transported to the Shepherd Spinal Center. He has a tentative discharge date of Nov. 8. Lake has control of his head, shoulders, neck and arms but currently doesn’t have any control of his hands or anything below there. There is a lot of swelling along his spinal cord and the inflammation needs to be there to knit the bones back together.
“It could be a year or more before we know what movement may come back,” said his mother, Linda, adding that her son’s morale is good and faith is strong. “He says he will walk again. He is a fighter.”
Friends and family are getting updates on Justin and his progress on Facebook on the Love for Justin Lake page. There is an event at Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft (1745 Peachtree St. Atlanta) tonight from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person which includes food and two alcoholic beverages. Can’t make the event and still want to donate? Click the $35 giving level @ http://fundly.com/love-for-justin. Funds raised will go towards Lake’s significant medical costs. There is also a trust fund set up at Wells Fargo – Justin Charles Lake Supplemental Needs Fund – that people can donate to as well.
“God has a plan for his life and we’ll build from that,” Linda Lake said.