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ABC7 Pay It Forward: Paralyzed man's fighting spirit inspires others

Chris Massey, left paralyzed in a collision with a hit-and-run driver, works to strengthen his upper body in this photo from October 2012.
October 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Chris Massey loved working out in his native Huntington Beach. He loved riding his motorcycle wherever he could with buddies and couldn't wait to marry the love of his life, Sabrina.

For years, Massey loved coaching her son, Tyler Powelson, in football and watching him get stronger.

Massey's friend, Athena Kramer, contacted Eyewitness News on Facebook about the day everything changed for him. Kramer said Massey was on his motorcycle about a year ago when he was hit by a driver who fled the scene.

"He was thrown into a planter, broke his neck," she said. "At that point they didn't know the extent of the injuries."

Soon, doctors discovered Massey was paralyzed. There was no movement in his legs and almost no movement in his hands.

Massey was facing a lengthy and expensive rehabilitation.

"At the time, he didn't have any medical insurance and unfortunately once they located the driver, he didn't have any car insurance," Kramer said.

Sabrina was by his side supporting him financially and emotionally.

Massey is working with an organization called Project Walk, which offers a recovery program for individuals with spinal cord injuries. He said he's making dramatic progress there, but the sessions are costly. The only way he can pay for them is with funds raised by his friends.

"He can afford to do maybe one day a week," Kramer said. "What we talked about was doing three days a week, which would ultimately be the most beneficial for his recovery."

After hearing Massey's story, we gave Kramer $500 cash so she could Pay It Forward. Then we surprised Massey and his barking guard dog at his home.

"They gave me $500 to give to someone and I picked you," Kramer told Massey. "I'm so proud of you for doing everything that you do, I love you."

And just like that, she placed the cash in Massey's hand.

"I really do appreciate it," Massey said. "I'm not a big crier, I did a lot of my crying at the beginning of my injury. I laugh a lot. I think laughter is the best medicine."

Massey often shares a laugh with Powelson, who's there every day for his long-time football coach, a man he calls a father figure.

"He's helped me out through a lot. Now, I'm here to help him out through a lot, too," Powelson said.

The little things are difficult for Massey - when we were there, it was one of the first times he was able to open the refrigerator himself - but he's disciplined about his exercises.

"You may not see huge gains, but it's the small ones that matter," Massey said.

Massey said thanks to all his friends and the folks at Project Walk, he now visualizes the possibility of walking - a possibility that gives Kramer chills.

"Watching him fight, it makes us grateful for things we took for granted every single day," she said.

"Everybody tells me I'm an inspiration to them," Massey said. "You don't always see that sitting on the other side. I hope that I am, though. I hope that I am encouraging people because I try to be positive."

There's a fundraiser planned for Massey on Oct. 24 at Gallagher's Pub and Grill at 300 Pacific Coast Hwy., Suite 113, in Huntington Beach from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Anyone who wishes to donate to Massey's medical fund can do so at http://www.mediastudiodesigns.com/chrismassey/donations.html.


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