A Northern Virginia community is coming together this weekend to help a father paralyzed in a freak accident. Beau Barbeau was stuck in traffic when a storm rolled in, and a tree fell atop his car, paralyzing him. Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey found out how support from the community is already helping in his recovery.
In one of the most routine moments in life, Kenneth "Beau" Barbeau's life was forever changed.
The Stafford, Va. man was stopped in traffic June 28, headed home from work, when a powerful, swift storm swept through. A tree crashed down on the cab of his truck.
"I had a really foggy feeling at first and then I saw the windshield and the tree and I'm like, 'Yeah, something's bad,'" Barbeau recalled.
He tried to reach for the truck ignition but his hand was weak -- the tree had paralyzed him from the chest down. Barbeau underwent surgery and was kept heavily sedated for two days.
"I remember opening my eyes and seeing a bunch of friends and family around," said Barbeau.
They have been behind him ever since and Barbeau said their support motivates him as he works through difficult hours of therapy at Medstar National Rehabilitation Hospital.
"It just makes you want to work harder because everybody's behind you," he said.
One of his friends from high school coaches the semi-pro Northern Neck Rivermen football team and proceeds from a game at King George High School will go toward the Barbeau family's needs.
Before Barbeau returns home in late September, construction must to be done to build a wheelchair ramp, widen doorways and modify bathrooms. Neighbor and long-time friend Holly Hall is organizing a bake sale and raffle at the football game.
"We are sending a message that everybody cares. We know everybody has ups and down and the community will help out," Hall said.
In the meantime, Barbeau is making strides in his recovery. After the accident, he couldn't even feed himself. Now, his handshake is strong, he propels his own wheelchair and he's working to open bottles.
"The harder you work the quicker you get better. Just do the therapy as hard as you can and don't give up," said Barbeau.
"You need a lot of resilience to deal with this type of injury," Barbeau's doctor Pamela Ballard said. "He has been very blessed with strong family support & friend support that will take him far so yes, we are amazed."
Tracy Barbeau worries about what's ahead, especially about getting the house ready but she's heartened by her husband's progress.
"He's doing wonderful. He's so strong and determined and that's all I can ask of him and we just want to be here to support him," Tracy Barbeau said.
Barbeau has set high goals. He wants to walk again.
"It's unpredictable with spinal cord injuries in how its going to turn out but I fully believe I'm going to make a full recovery," Barbeau said.