More than 400 attend benefit for Officer Connor Connor upbeat after recent surgery; will not return to work until May 2011
- Categorized in: Community
The outcome of the surgery was disappointing at first.
Dr. Jason Eck, Officer Omar Connor’s doctor, had hoped to stabilize Connor’s neck, as one bone slid 1.34 millimeters from where it was supposed to be.
The doctor, according to Connor, was trying to make one incision for one screw to stabilize the bone, but he couldn’t get the angle he needed in a surgery performed July 12.
As a result, Dr. Eck had to drill the bone to push it back to where it is supposed to be and hold it together with surgical wire. It also required putting Connor’s neck in a halo, a head and neck immobilization device, in which a metal ring is attached to the skull with metal rods and is connected to a harness worn around the chest and sternum.
“I have no ability to turn my neck, not even an inch or two right or left,” Connor explained. “If I move, I have to turn my whole body to the left and to the right.”
But, Connor emphasizes that this small setback is nothing compared to what could have been a much worse situation: losing his life.
“Missing one year compared to missing the rest of my life is a small price to play,” he said. “A little discomfort to be able to play with my child, friends and family for the rest of my life,” is worth it, he said.
On May 5, Officer Connor was injured while chasing Kevin Baldwin, 25, of Fitchburg, who escaped on foot outside the Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant at Crossroads Plaza on Massachusetts Avenue. Following up on a tip concerning a warrant out of Worcester District Court against Baldwin on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, Connor and partner Sgt. Thomas Gammel tried to arrest Baldwin when their suspect broke into a run.
Connor said he was completely focused on the chase and did not realize that when he went to grab for Baldwin’s shirt, he was headed over the 12-foot retaining wall in front of the Plaza. When he grabbed Baldwin’s shirt, Connor fell several feet to the ground, fracturing two vertebrae in his neck. (Baldwin was apprehended a day later on Mechanic Street).
Now two and a half months later, Connor is still working toward a complete recovery. While making good progress, he has experienced some minor setbacks, which will keep him from going back to work until May 2011.
The halo will have to be worn until September, a month later than he anticipated. Initially, Connor was in a neck brace, and was expected to have it removed in August. This setback is particularly difficult, as Connor is still not able to hold his 7-month-old daughter. He originally thought he would be able to hold her in July, and now must wait until September.
He said he is literally “counting the days” until he can hold her again and describes this problem as the worst part in his recovery process. For now, his daughter can crawl to her father to see him, but it is clearly not the same as being able to pick her up.
But, he says, he is getting used to the halo quicker as “he doesn’t have to worry about moving his neck the wrong way” because the halo keeps his neck from complete movement, as opposed to the neck brace, where it was still possible to have some movement in the neck.
If wearing the halo was not difficult enough, in June, Connor also had surgery on his tricep muscle, because as a result of his fall it was ripped completely out of his arm.
After Connor was injured, Officer Jack Hebert and Connor’s brother-in-law, Raymond Seaforth wanted to do something to help the officer who has a young family.
Seaforth and Hebert put their heads together, and decided that a benefit was in order. The proceeds from the benefit — which was held on July 17 at the Eastwood Club in Fitchburg — will help support Connor and his family as he recovers.
“It seemed the right thing to do,” Hebert said, explaining that because Connor could not come back to work for a year, he would also not receive overtime detail and extra work to help support his family.
Organized months in advance, Connor was taken by surprise on July 17 when 427 people showed up at a benefit for him. In addition to family and friends, officers from Leominster, Fitchburg, Ashburnham, Ashby and other towns gathered in support of Connor. Several selectmen from Lunenburg attended as well as government officials, including Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg and Mayor Lisa Wong of Fitchburg.
Raffles were held at the event and all the proceeds were donated to Connor and his family.
Selectman Steven deBettencourt attended the event and said it was a great turnout.
“It shows great support from the town,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “A lot of people stand behind him and wish him all the best in his [hopefully] quick recovery. His spirits are good. He loves Lunenburg, loves working here and is a good all- around guy.”
Selectmen Tom Alonzo also spoke highly of the event and Connor.
“His determination and strength of both body and mind during this terrible injury and the road to recovery are an inspiration to everyone,” he said. “The support of his family, his fellow officers, his friends and this town has been overwhelming and unwavering, as was clearly demonstrated at Saturday's event. I would like to thank everyone who organized and attended the event in demonstrating the care and commitment of this community toward those who work, live and serve here.”
“I think it helped bring his spirits up,” Seaforth said of the event, especially since he had just had surgery on July 12, where the halo was put on. “I think mentally he needed this.”
Seaforth compared the number of people who showed up at the event to a rainstorm that keeps coming.
“People just flowed in and it was just unbelievable,” he said.
Connor said he found the benefit “refreshing.”
“It makes you realize that people care,” he said.
Hebert, who has known Connor since the seventh grade, said the success of the benefit was more than he could imagine.
He particularly credits his wife, Erin, Reserve Officer Josh Tocci, Seaforth and his family as well as Connor’s family with the benefit’s success.
“We would not have been able to do it without everyone’s support,” Hebert said.
Connor said he is keeping busy by spending time with his family, reading and playing Xbox, but at the same time is itching to go back to work.
“I love to go to work, ride around and see the people,” he said.
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