Video: Injured N.C. firefighter receives warm welcome home by first responders
Allenton VFD Assistant Chief Paul Hayes was escorted home following a struck-by incident that left him hospitalized for weeks
The Robesonian, Lumberton, N.C.
LUMBERTON — "What you see is a miracle."
Those were the words of Carmen Hayes as she spoke of her husband Paul Hayes, an assistant fire chief of the Allenton Volunteer Fire Department, who was injured after being struck by a vehicle while on duty March 17.
Paul Hayes was escorted to his home off Seventh Street in Lumberton Wednesday by firefighters from multiple departments including Allenton and Lumberton fire departments and other first responders like Lumberton Rescue and EMS and Robeson County EMS following his time in the Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
Paul thanked first responders in attendance including firefighters, Robeson County Emergency Medical Services personnel and others. He could be seen using a walker before taking a seat in a wheelchair outside of his home.
"I appreciate the welcome, I really do because I don't deserve it," he said.
Paul said he was overwhelmed by the welcome and thankful for the prayers and support of his fellow first responders and the community.
"I told you a couple weeks ago you were a loved man," said McGregor Strickland, a retired Lumberton Fire Department battalion chief who works with Paul on the Allenton Fire Department and in Hayes' business Blaze Away Fire Protection.
Hayes' daughter Hannah Baffaro and her two children also were present to welcome him home.
"This is amazing," Baffaro said.
She was aware of her father's escort home, but was surprised at the number of vehicles involved, Baffaro said.
Baffaro also said she is "appreciative of everything they've done for our family."
Paul was hospitalized for 13 days in the Intensive Care Unit of Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Baffaro wrote in a recent social media post. He spent eight of those days on a ventilator before being placed in a trauma stepdown unit.
On April 8, he began rehabilitation at the hospital before his release on Wednesday, according to Baffaro.
Carmen Hayes told The Robesonian "he should be back to normal in a year."
But, Paul said the goal is to get back to work before a year passes. He will continue to undergo rehabilitation as part of his recovery process.
"You got to be at work Monday at 8 o'clock," said Strickland, as laughter followed his words.
Robert Ivey, commander of Lumberton Rescue and EMS, could be seen speaking to several first responders at Hayes' home.
"I was actually one of the first ones to Paul after it was dispatched," Ivey told The Robesonian.
Ivey recalls driving the ambulance that transported Paul to the helipad at Lumberton Rescue and EMS.
He said he wasn't sure if his friend would make it. But, seeing Paul stand on Wednesday impacted him.
"It's just a great feeling," he said. "When it's a fellow first responder, that means the world to you."
Carmen Hayes said prayers from the community and help from God allowed Paul to return home.
"It has been a big journey," she said.
Paul also said health care workers who helped in his rehabilitation process were "top-notch."
"Their goal was to get me home and they did it," he said.
Multiple first responders told Paul if he needed anything at all, they were available.
Allenton Volunteer Fire Chief Tom Taylor and Sign City owner Brandon Ventura told The Robesonian that more than $20,000 has been raised by the fire department and business through raffle ticket sales and T-Shirt sales. Multiple people and businesses worked to sell tickets and Taylor said Robeson County residents came together to support Hayes in the effort.
Taylor, who also serves as a Robeson County Commissioner, coordinated the effort on Wednesday and shared words of gratitude to everyone involved.
"I want to thank everybody that participated in getting him home," Taylor said. "It shows how strong this community is."
Paul told The Robesonian he would like to tell the community to "keep the prayers coming."
(c)2022 The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.)