DENVER — In October, Erik Blanchette's life was perfectly normal. He was preparing for the holidays alongside his wife, Chanda. But one night after work, everything changed.
"We have a dog gate at the top of the stairs down to our bedroom," said Erik. "I caught my foot and basically just flew down the stairs."
What followed next was a week of agony. Erik was in and out of consciousness. Doctors told his wife he suffered multiple fractures, including damage to his spine.
"He likes to mess around," said Erik. "After a few moments, I realized he was serious. He couldn't feel his legs."
Erik was left paralyzed from the chest down. Although doctors haven't confirmed it yet, it's likely he'll never walk again.
This wasn't the last accident in their home. Shortly after Erik's accident, Chanda also tripped down the stairs, injuring her ankle. Chanda said although painful, it was a small blessing in disguise since she's been able to see what life in their home is like in a wheelchair.
"It really opened up my eyes to how much space we need now," said Chanda.
Erik will now need a wheelchair to navigate his home. Narrow hallways, a dip at the front door and a tub in the shower have already made that navigation difficult. He also needs an adjustment to his car so he can drive.
Modifications come with a significant cost. Chanda said initial estimates are roughly $15,000 just for a remodeled bathroom.
Fortunately, the family has obtained a ramp, but since their bedroom is downstairs, Erik is forced to sleep in his living room.
"It scares me to think about how somebody's going to have to help me change, or help me get in bed, or help me with this and that," said Erik. "I don't want to be a drain on other people."
One of Erik's greatest fears is dependence. It's a fear that's brought some dark thoughts.
"For a while there, I wished that maybe I should have died because I wouldn't have to hurt all the people that I love," he said.
In the month since his accident, Erik's outlook has improved and his rehab has begun. He now can't wait to make his house a home, hoping to eventually return to work and enjoy the simple things in life like watching "Jeopardy" with his wife.
Denver7 Gives is collecting donations to help the Blanchettes update their home. If you would like to help, visit Denver7 Gives and select "Help Make Erik's Home Wheelchair Accessible" from the drop-down menu.
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