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September 20, 2016
EMTs give paralyzed Cubs fan lift to Wrigley Field
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Wearing a Chicago Cubs cap and shirt and a smile, Norman Wilson was nearly ready to take off for Monday night's Cubs game.
All he needed was a little help from his team.
So there was his family, including his mother, Gerri Wilson, and caregivers Beverly Pedro and Betty Criddell making sure he had everything he needed for the trip to Chicago.
There was Rosemary Muchow, chaplain with OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, and registered dietitian Angie Fisher, visiting and praying with him.
And there were LeRoy Ambulance emergency medical technicians led by Chris Dunning and Bloomington Fire Department firefighter/paramedics to transition Wilson, 52, from his hospital bed in the small Bloomington apartment that he shares with his mother to a stretcher that was placed in one of LeRoy's ambulances for the trip.
Destination: the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field. The EMTs and paramedics/firefighters had worked with the Cubs to reserve space for Wilson and a reclining stretcher. That way, he could watch the Central Division Champions with his friends — the EMTs and paramedics/firefighters.
They weren't making the trip because they were told to do it.
"This is a group of friends doing something for another friend," said firefighter/paramedic Josh Plese.
They were taking Wilson — a lifelong Cubs fan — to his first game since he was left paralyzed from the chest down after a hit-and-run accident on Easter 2007.
"I'm blessed," said Wilson, reclining in his bed before leaving for the game. His lower body was covered by a Cubs blanket. He faced a wall with a crucifix and, under it, a picture of Wrigley Field.
"This is a dream come true."
Wilson has loved baseball since he played catch with his father and grandfather while growing up in Chicago.
He played outfield for his high school and loved throwing out runners at the plate. "I had a great arm," he said.
"I like the competitiveness" of baseball, he said. "I'm a competitor."
He loved the Cubs and grew up going to games and watching them on television.
Nine years ago, Wilson was working in a Bloomington day care center and remained active in sports when he was struck by a vehicle as he walked home, crossing Empire Street near Mount Vernon Avenue.
After months of inpatient therapy, he was able to get off a ventilator and moved in with his mother after Danbury Court renovated an apartment to make it accessible.
With speech therapy, he regained the ability to speak but does so quietly. While his lower body is paralyzed, his mother and caregivers continue to exercise his legs.
They also work with him to lift his arms and shoulders and to straighten his fingers.
He can feed himself finger foods and drink through a straw. Mentally, he remains sharp, and knows about the eight different medicines that he takes.
"I ain't that strong yet, but I'm getting there," he said.
His goal is to be able to use a wheelchair and to get back into child care.
Asked about the person who hit him, Wilson said: "I don't have time to think on that. They have to deal with themselves. I need to concentrate on getting well."
"Norman has always had a positive attitude," his mother said.
That's what has impressed LeRoy Ambulance EMTs who transport him several times a month to doctors' appointments, Bloomington paramedics who take him to the emergency room as needed and Muchow and Fisher, who help to care for him at the hospital. LeRoy Ambulance provides non-emergency medical transportation in the Twin Cities.
"He always has a smile on his face and always wants to talk about sports," Dunning said.
"For as many complaints as this gentleman could have, he has none," Plese said.
"It's easy to want to spend time with Norman," Fisher said. "He is my friend."
Dunning came up with the idea to take Wilson to a Cubs' game and worked on details with firefighter/paramedic Greg Fisher. Their colleagues joined the effort.
"I'm so happy," Wilson said. Ever the optimist, he likes the the Cubs' chances in the playoffs.
"Before I die, I'll be able to say that I went to a Cubs' game the year they went to the World Series," he said.
Fisher was not entirely surprised by what the EMTs and firefighters/paramedics did on Monday.
"Norman," she said, "inspires you to want to be a better person."
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