14 News Special Report: Waiting to Live
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - "Before this, I was striving for the white picket fence, the house, everything happy, kids. Then, life threw me a complete curve to where my motive in life is just to survive."
You may have seen Michael panhandling on city streets.
“I needed to either get in a hotel, I was freezing," explains Michael. "I would stay in a certain friend’s car, or abandoned house, or it’s pretty much like, homeless.”
Drivers stopped to give him a few bucks.
“I feel like most people probably think, it’s stereo typically, that person is trying to get alcohol or drugs, you know, I got a job, they should get a job," Michael says. "But, my situation is a little bit different because I worked my whole life and just a freak accident.”
911 Caller: “The house blew up across the street!”
911 Dispatcher: “It blew up?”
911 Caller: “It blew up!”
It was June 27, 2017.
“I woke up disoriented and it smelled like a trash fire. I kept falling.”
Michael was asleep in the basement when the house exploded.
“When I came up the stairs, I started to put it together," says Michael. "My eyes adjusted and I could see embers falling through. I only had two more thoughts: Should I go down there and let the firemen find me or run through it? And somewhere I collapsed, and I thought, this is where I’m going to die.”
Michael was one of three people who made it out alive. Two others were killed. He was taken to a hospital in Louisville.
“I lost 85 percent of my skin," Michael explains. "The only thing that didn’t get burned was my face and like, right here.”
Michael made it through excruciating skin graft surgeries and treatment.
“I hated God and prayed to die every day, wishing I could walk, I’d jump out the window. It was the worst thing you could ever imagine. They’re telling you you’re not going to walk and they’re prepping my mom to take care of me forever. I wish I would’ve died, honestly.”
From the hospital, he was transferred to a rehab center for therapy, and then to a nursing home for more care.
“I can’t reach. My skin rips. I have this webbing here, all kinds of nerve damage.”
Michael said the emotional part of the recovery process has also taken a toll.
“Super uncertainty," he says. "I’m not confident about any decision I make. I’m nervous, any noises startle me.”
After treatment, Michael said he went back to jobs he had done before.
“I did our family thing, the bakery, and I’ve done landscaping, lawn,” Michael says.
But with the scars and burns, finding work has been a challenge.
“I can’t work the jobs I know, I guess," explains Michael. "I would love to have somewhere to be accountable for, to be able to do something positive, I just don’t know what it is.”
He has support from family, but said the burden is too much.
“I just can’t put it on them, I’m grown," he states. "I shouldn’t have to be taken care of.”
This is Michael, waiting to heal, waiting to live.
“When you ask me about ambitions and the future, I’m like, I’m living like day to day, I’m not thinking a year or five years, I’m thinking, what am I going to do today?” he explains.
Since we met Michael a couple of months ago, he has made some progress toward living again. Thanks to local non-profit, Aurora, he says he is now on a waiting list for an apartment, and is in the process of applying for disability assistance.
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