CUTLER BAY (CBSMiami) – In a CBS4 News exclusive, veteran Miami-Dade firefighter David Gonzalez is talking about the horrible accident that left him seriously injured on January 14 when he fell down an elevator shaft while trying to rescue a woman who was trapped in the elevator.
Wearing a neck brace and grimacing in pain, the 50-year-old Gonzalez spoke to CBS4’S Peter D’Oench from his bed at the Encompass Health Rehabilitation Center of Miami, which is located in Cutler Bay.
“I am doing okay,” he said. “I deal with pain every day. I am trying to do what I can to make myself better. But it isn’t easy. I have extensive injuries that are everywhere. It is very painful so I do the best that I can. I deal with pain every day.”
Gonzalez, a father of four children and an 18-year veteran firefighter with Miami-Dade and a member of the county’s Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue team and a veteran of the Iraq war, is facing one of the biggest challenges of his life: a very painful and difficult recovery.
The accident left him with extensive fractures to his legs, knees, shoulders and spine. His right leg may need reconstruction.
He spent the first 7 days after the accident in the intensive care unit of the Ryder Trauma Center and has been at the Rehabilitation Hospital since February 24.
He gets emotional when he thinks of the support he has received from firefighters from Miami-Dade and other departments plus friends and family members.
“It means a lot to me and my family,” he said. “This is tough to deal with. Nobody should have to go through this. But this is what we do. We take the risk and I just appreciate all the support I have been receiving from my firefighter friends, my family and all the community out there. This is what we do and I am proud to wear the colors that we wear,” he said. “My support includes firefighters from Miami-Dade and a bunch of other departments, the people at Ryder Trauma Center and here at Encompass and the whole community,” he said. “I thank everyone and appreciate them so much.”
Gonzalez spent 9 months in Iraq during the war and has dedicated his life to service.
“You know at a young age I joined the military. I was in the Iraq war and for me I have always been about community and country. That’s what I do. I put community and country ahead of myself alot of the times. My wife and my family made me do that. It isn’t easy for the wives of firemen. They have a tough job. They respect their husbands and the jobs they have to do for our community,” he said.
On Saturday, Feb. 29 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., there will be a fundraiser for David Gonzalez at the Islamorada Moose Lodge that includes a barbecue lunch.
“It’s emotional how the brother firefighters will try to help. There is an unspoken bond but when you see the actions like and how it affects you and your family it is very emotional,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez told D’Oench he is not sure how long he will be in rehabilitation at the hospital. He said it could be “some time.” In addition, he’s not sure if he will able to return to work as a firefighter. He was asked what motivates him to keep pressing on.
“The faith of Jesus Christ,” he said. “My family and my fellow firefighters. It’s the word that you have to keep going on. You have to try to keep going on.”
A GoFundMe page has been set for Gonzalez. Click here if you would like to help.