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Benefit to be held Saturday for Nicholas Coburn, Adams

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ADAMS — Nicholas D. Coburn, 29, is being compared by his family and friends to Superman in his heroic struggle against paralyzing injuries.

Three years ago, a car accident fractured his neck and shattered his hip. A hip replacement was decided against because of his youth. But Jan. 26, his hip gave out while he was walking downstairs at his village home; he fell and broke his neck. Complications led to his rebreaking his neck, paralyzing him.

“It’s just been a nightmare,” said his mother, Lori L. Coburn, a Watertown Daily Times employee.

She wiped her tears as she recalled the morning of Jan. 26, when her son had gone ice fishing in Alexandria Bay with his father, Leonard C. An avid outdoorsman, Nick was determined to be outside, although the cold bothered his hip. He later went downstairs to the family’s only bathroom, on the first floor, and his hip gave out and he fell.

Nick was taken by ambulance to Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, and later transferred to Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, where pins and rods were put in his neck. Mrs. Coburn said he felt well enough, days later, to go home, but suffered a seizure Jan. 30.“We don’t know what caused it,” she said. “All of his hardware came out, and it took his spine” and curved it. “He was in the intensive care unit for four weeks, and in a medically induced coma for three weeks.”

Nick remained in the hospital for 46 days before being transferred to a rehabilitation facility 4 hours away, unable to walk, talk or use his hands. He’s learning to breathe with oxygen and a tracheostomy, as his diaphragm muscle was paralyzed.

He cannot move his lower extremities, despite some sensation, and while he can move his arms and wrists, he cannot use his hands. Because surgery fused his neck, he’ll never be able to turn his head sideways. To turn, he must use his shoulders and upper body. Mrs. Coburn said her son has been unable to eat or drink by himself since the accident and has a feeding tube.

“Some of his feelings are coming back, and he’s working hard,” she said. “There’s not many places in New York that offer rehabilitation with a tracheostomy.”

Nick has spent the past week at Northeast Spine & Rehab, Smithtown, but the family aims to move him to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital, Schnectady. He’s expected to be in rehabilitation longer than a year.

He has no way to pay for his medical care, as he was laid off from DirecTV six weeks before the accident. Mrs. Coburn said she applied for Social Security disability aid for him, which could take up to six months.

To help out, his friends rallied to organize a benefit from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday at the village’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post, 17 Phelps St. A minimum $5 admission charge will be requested at the door. Children’s activities are set from noon to 3 p.m., and from 3 to 9 p.m. local bands will perform. There will be raffles, T-shirts for sale and a bake sale.

Nick’s daughter, Madison, 6, made a donation jar for Mimi’s Depot Cafe, Adams Center, owned by her grandmother, Linda A. Maguire. He also has a son, Cohen, 2. Both children live with their mothers, but have visited their father a few times since the accident. Once Nick completes rehabilitation, Mrs. Coburn vows, she’ll care for him at home; the house eventually will be made handicapped-accessible.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Coburn said, Nick’s spirits remain high.

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