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Nitro officer says wife, colleagues aid recovery

NITRO, W.Va. -- A Nitro Police officer who was severely injured when a vehicle struck him more than four months ago is dreaming of the day he can return to the badge.

The road to recovery hasn't been easy, he said, but it's been less arduous thanks to support from his wife and the community. On Saturday, a benefit race will take place in his honor.

Jimmy Lee, 26, met with media Tuesday for his first public interview since being hit by a vehicle Nov. 24 near Cross Lanes Drive and 40th Street. Lee apparently was motioning traffic to drive around a van with a flat tire when he was struck from behind. Investigators ruled the incident an accident.

Paramedics rushed Lee, who was in critical condition, to CAMC General Hospital. About a week later, he was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a hospital specializing in brain and spinal cord injuries.

He spent the next four months there, relearning how to walk. He did it with his wife, Morgan Lee, 27, by his side every step of the way.

The kind words that he's received from around the state have gotten him through the tough times when he was struggling to get out of bed, he said.

"I wouldn't have ever made it this far if it wasn't for the support, the prayers," he said.

About 100 police officers from around the state and the country have stopped by to visit him.

Lee doesn't remember anything from that Thanksgiving night. The last thing he remembers is having lunch with his partner on the force, Nitro Patrolman Ray Blake. His next available memory is a Christmas Eve spent in the hospital. Doctors told him he would probably never remember the accident.

Morgan Lee said selective memory loss is common for brain injury patients. He can recall everything prior to the accident, and he's lucky to remember as much as he does, she added.

Blake sat beside Lee on Tuesday. He slapped his friend on the back when asked if he's excited to have him back.

"Absolutely. This is my partner," he said.

Doctors haven't given Lee the word on whether he can return to work. He has about six months of physical therapy left toward his recovery.

Lee stands with the assistance of braces on both legs. His most recent surgery was about two weeks ago, Morgan Lee said.

"He works hard every day, even at home doing extra activities, just to get back," she said. "Whether it be here or somewhere else serving the community, he'll be back."

Lee had only on the police force been for about a year before the accident. He's aware of the camaraderie that police share, but he never experienced it until after the accident.

"Initially you always hear about the talk of the brotherhood, but you never experience it until you really need it," he said. "I've always seen it as a brotherhood, but now it has a whole new meaning."

Nitro Police Chief Jack Jordan said he was excited to have Lee back in West Virginia, and his job is waiting for him once he is well enough.

Morgan Lee said her husband has not talked to the driver who struck him.

"We are focused on his recovery," she said. "I'm sure she's suffered just as much. We are just going to stay positive and move on."

Jimmy Lee said he's taking his days one at a time and that the accident has given him a new perspective on life.

"Just be thankful for the little things you don't think about, like being able to walk up and down the steps. ... To me, it was a milestone," he said.

A 5K race and three-mile walk to benefit Lee is scheduled for Saturday. The course begins at the Nitro Police Department and loops around Ridenour Lake. Participation costs $20 for adults and $15 for those 16 and younger; registration will be accepted until 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Those who wish to register can do so by contacting Nitro Officer Jason Garbin at 304-553-8787 or stopping by the department.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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