|Paralyzed club manager prepares to leave Craig Hospital|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 22 August 2007 09:38|
DENVER (AP) -Tommy Urbanski navigated his electric wheelchair through a narrow path in a hospital flower garden and parked under the shade of a cherry-blossom tree.|
``Isn't this a great place?'' said Urbanski, paralyzed from an inch above his belly button on down. ``This is my favorite spot.''
Urbanski, a former pro wrestler, was shot four times on Feb. 19 at a Las Vegas strip club during the NBA All-Star weekend. The pre-dawn triple shooting followed a scuffle involving Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam ``Pacman'' Jones and a security guard inside the club.
He's been at Craig Hospital, a Denver facility that specializes in spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, since March. On Saturday - provided a case of bed sores heals properly - he'll be returning home to Las Vegas with his wife, Kathy.
``We're finally getting to the point where I can see us getting through this,'' Kathy Urbanski said, sitting on a bench next to her husband. ``Before, it was complication after complication. Now, we're getting our lives back.''
The identity of the shooter remains a mystery. Lt. George Castro, head of the Las Vegas Police Department's violent crimes unit, said Monday there have been no recent developments in the case.
Las Vegas police have identified Jones as the ``inciter'' of the fight, and he was indicted in June on two counts of coercion. Jones has been suspended for the 2007 season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
A real estate broker during the day, Urbanski was working at the Minxx strip club as a manager to earn extra income to send his wife to law school. He remembers walking out of the club, seeing a muzzle flash out of his left eye and then crumbling to the ground.
The 44-year-old spent three weeks in a medically induced coma and has a 9mm bullet lodged in his spine.
These days, he's more concerned with his rehab than the case.
``Focusing on negativity is not going to help me,'' Urbanski said. ``I just want to get better.''
The strength in his arms is returning - he can open Gatorade bottles - and he's better at getting in and out of bed, although he still needs some help. He's lost nearly 120 pounds since the incident, and is down to 270.
Urbanski is also playing guitar again. His friends chipped in and bought him an electric guitar, which he picks up every other day. He recently won first place in a hospital talent show for his solo on the song ``Plush'' by the Stone Temple Pilots.
When he gets home, Urbanski, who's been playing the guitar since he was 12, wants to start a new band. He has a name picked out - ``Four Bullets Later.''
``Apropos, huh?'' he said with a grin.
Urbanski has lost so much weight off his 6-foot-6 frame doctors had to perform a skin reduction surgery, removing layers from his stomach. He also had surgery on both wrists to alleviate the pain.
``I'm getting there,'' Urbanski said. ``But the pain is a constant battle.''
He glanced over at his wife and winked.
``But whenever my wife is close, I'm in good spirits,'' he said.
Kathy Urbanski has been shuttling back and forth between Las Vegas and Denver every weekend since June 22, when she had to go back to teach school.
``Before this happened, we were never apart more than one day in nine years,'' Tommy Urbanski said. ``This (travel) is killing her.''
Kathy Urbanski doesn't mind the travel, just missing the milestones along the way. Like when her husband received a new powered chair and learned how to use it.
``That was hard. I don't want to miss his progress,'' she said.
Urbanski now is allowed to take day trips away from the hospital. He and his wife take the light rail into downtown Denver to dine or catch a movie. They've also taken in a Colorado Rockies game and visited the Denver Art Museum.
``We've fallen in love with Colorado,'' Urbanski said. ``The people are great. We were in line at the museum and someone turned around and said, 'You're covered.' They paid for our tickets. Everyone has been so nice.''
But they're ready to get back home. They'll live in a Residence Inn for several months while their house is modified to make it handicap-accessible.
``I'm a little nervous about going home,'' he said. ``My house isn't done. I have to worry about the care there. It's going to be different. It's a little scary.''
Up in his room at Craig, Urbanski slipped in a tape of an interview with Jones on HBO's ``Real Sports.'' Jones said in the interview that he sees himself as an innocent bystander in the fight that led to the shooting and he expects to be vindicated.
Urbanski glared at the television, shaking his head in anger.
He said watching the interview wasn't nearly as difficult as learning that Jones wanted to get involved in professional wrestling. That hit too close to home.
Urbanski was known as the ``Mad Russian'' and the ``Polish Prince'' when he wrestled on the then World Wrestling Federation circuit years ago.
``I wasn't a Hulk Hogan, but I was one of the boys,'' Urbanski said. ``If I was still wrestling and this was happening to one of my friends and I got him (Jones) in the ring, I'd take his freakin' head off.''
Urbanski stopped himself.
``But I've got to worry about just getting better,'' he said. ``I can't think about that.''
On the Net:
The Tommy Urbanski Fund: http://tommyurbanskifund.org;
Craig Hospital: http://craighospital.org
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