FOX 2 (WJBK) - How do you navigate life after a crash steals your mobility? That's what a FOX 2 photojournalist is figuring out. Deena Centofanti takes us inside his world - which is filled with unbelievable challenges and unrelenting hope.
A random day in 2021 you probably don't remember - but Rob Plewa will never forget.
"There's almost not a day that goes by that I wish I didn't do whatever it is I did, to crash," he said.
The crash happened on a motorcycle trip in Fowlerville where Rob suffered a catastrophic injury.
"I flew through the air 38 feet, my helmet hit a stop sign," he said.
He was so grateful to be alive now. 54 years old quadriplegic. He's learning how to live.
"I've got only one direction and that's going up," he said. "I hit rock bottom when I had the crash, but I've got no rearview mirror."
Rob's days begin and end with the help of his wife Rita and a lift getting him in and out of bed. That leads to complex caretaking involving bathing, dressing, personal care, eating and emotion.
"Every day is a roller coaster," he said. "I mean, even today, I was angry when I woke up. And sometimes, it's easier for me to be angry because then it sure beats crying. I can't even wipe my tears."
"I didn't really know anything at all about spinal cord injuries. I'm learning as I go," Rita said. "And I think I'm definitely getting better as time has gone by."
Deena: "Rob Plewa! Look, a full hug - alright."
"Let me welcome you with open arms," Rob says. "Good to see you."
When Deena sees him, she is amazed at how he's able to lift his arms.
"I can independently move my arms up, down left, right," he said. "I can even - if I really try hard enough - I can scratch my chin."
"The neck is our cervical spine," said Dr. Michael Bush Arnold.
He is the director of spinal cord injury at DMCs Rehabilitation Institute. He explains Rob's neck injury cut off all signals from his brain to his body.
"A lot of the damage that's done to the central nervous system which the spinal cord is a part of, is very hard to repair," he said. "So there can be a recovery that occurs. But the scope of that recovery and how much that's going to occur, we don't have an exact science on yet."
Rob is determined to fight the odds.
"People with my injury have only a 2 percent chance of ever walking again," he said. "And my thought was, 'So you're giving me a chance.'"
Sense of humor intact - Rob knows walking is the great big goal. But there are no small accomplishments.
And for the first time in two years, he can feed himself.
Rob can also play the harmonica. He recently once again joined his high school buddies' band, proving life goes on.
"Sharing my story with people has been an inspiration, and that to me,is a gift," he said.
Positivity is the goal in the Plewa house, especially with their daughter Sophie and Mia. But any of it only happens with Rita his wife of 22 years, and now his caregiver.
"Because he was on a motorcycle and he didn't actually hit a car, we did not get any catastrophic insurance coverage," Rita said. "So they told me our health insurance does not cover any caregiving."
"I signed a contract with her in a church, in front of God, and everybody else," Rob said. "And I'm so blessed to have her by my side still. I am so blessed that I'm not by myself, because I need so much help."
Help also comes from technology. Rob can open doors and make his way outside. And look who's always right next to him - his best friend, Haley.
"Really if I wanted to, I could take a walk around the block, if you will, with my dog," he said.
Deena: "There you go, a little independence."
"She is right by my side and yes, independence," he said.
We do appreciate Rob sharing his story so much because we know it might help somebody else who is struggling.
If you would like to help the Plewa family, there is a GoFundMe account called Rob's Recovery Fund. You will find the link, HERE.