Paralyzed county worker is back from rehab in Atlanta


Published: Friday, October 5, 2012 at 6:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 5, 2012 at 6:06 p.m.

County worker Emanuel Baker is back from a rehab center in Atlanta after a July accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Baker, a maintenance supervisor at the Alachua County Public Works Department, was injured when a utility pole snapped and knocked him unconscious while he was clearing some power lines.

Baker was in a coma for three days, and doctors asked family if they wanted to remove him from life support. They didn't, and Baker fought back.

After numerous surgeries he was transported to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta where he underwent months of physical therapy. He was discharged on Oct. 1 and is now at the Shands Rehabilitation Center off Northwest 39th Avenue.

“It went well in Atlanta,” his son, Tyrone Baker, said. “They weaned him off the ventilator and he's breathing on his own. He's still paralyzed from the neck down but his spirits are high. He's happy to be back around family.”

Tyrone Baker said workers are retrofitting his father's house to make it accessible to him, and he'll be at Shands until the work is done. He said that the accident has been difficult for the whole family, obviously, but especially his mother — who has been living out of a suitcase since the accident.

“She's trying to get her life back,” Tyrone Baker said. “It's going to be bumpy.”

He said he wants to make sure his father can have the best life possible with his current limitations.

“For the most part, he's ready to get back and see his grandkids. “It's kind of uncertain,” his son said. “He wants to figure out what his life is going to be like now.”

There are things Emanuel Baker loves to do, like fishing, and Tyrone Baker wants to make sure his father has the chance to do those things again.

“It's going to be a long road, we know that. While we're praying that he regains mobility in time, right now we want to make sure he has everything he needs to get back to his normal life,” Tyrone said. “He loved to fish, and he loved being outside, so we want to make sure he can still do that stuff.”

The costs of continued care, including the surgeries and the rehab, are piling up, Tyrone said.

Because of that, there's a benefit for Emanuel Baker on Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Female Protective Society Building, 12610 NW 39th Avenue.

The benefit is being sponsored by Pleasant Plain UMC Men's Ministry. Anyone is welcome to come and show support for Emmanuel Baker, Tyrone said.

In addition to the upcoming benefit, a lawsuit was filed Thursday by the Chestnut Law Firm against AT&T and Osmose Utilities Services for negligence due to a faulty utility pole.

“Upon our investigation, we realized that this is a serious public threat, especially to Floridians,” Gainesville lawyer Christopher Chestnut said. “There are a number of poles that are decades old and to need to be replaced and reinforced, and have not. This is a silent threat to public safety. We're seeking that these companies change policies and procedures to protect the public.”

AT&T spokesman Marty Richter released a statement about the suit. “Our thoughts go out to Mr. Baker and his family in light of this tragic accident,” the statement said. “We believe, however, that the pole was sound and its condition did not contribute to the accident.”

Chestnut said his firm hasn't heard back from Osmose Utilities Services, and he expects contention from both defendants.

“To date, the companies haven't accepted responsibility,” he said. “We anticipate they will blame one another and the county.”

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