HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – A Hollywood firefighter who suffered a spinal cord injury during a skim board accident at Hollywood Beach is improving.
On Wednesday, Derek Avilez moved from the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital to a rehab facility at Jackson.
“It’s good to see the daylight,” he said. “It’s good to have a change of scenery.”
Avilez showed us how he can bend his left leg, move his shoulders and wiggle the fingers on his hands. Avilez said he intends to walk again.
“I’ve had a couple of doctors tell me I’ll be walking again and I believe God will have me walking again,” he told CBS4’s Carey Codd. “Everything happens for a reason.”
Avilez will begin his rehab Thursday. He said he’s been warned that it will be a lot of work and “a lot of pain.” He said he plans to fight through it like he fought to get a spot on the Hollywood Fire Department.
“Every ounce of me wants to go back to firefighting and that’s going to be my driving force to get through this,” he said.
Avilez is most excited that he’ll be able to spend time with his three children again. He said the kids were not allowed in the intensive care unit.
“I miss them like crazy,” he said. “It’s been four months and it feels like four years.”
All of Avilez’s actions occur under the watchful eye of his wife, Priscilla. She is his caretaker and chief motivator.
“I’m hoping that he’ll walk out of here,” Priscilla said.
Avilez has lots of people supporting him. Nearly 3-thousand people are following his progress on Facebook. He said he’s grateful for the support and prayers of his fellow firefighters, church and community.
“I know i’m going through this for a reason,” Avilez said. “I try not to focus on the negative.”
Derek’s insurance is paying for him to be in rehab for 21 days but he and his wife don’t feel that will be long enough for a spinal cord injury. They are hoping to have his rehab extended.