Barbara Lawlor, Gilpin County. On Saturday, November 11, 2017, Timberline Fire Protection District firefighters watched one of their own walk into Roy’s Last Shot and there wasn’t a dry eye among them.
After sustaining a brain injury in a motorcycle accident, his mother and friends and fellow firefighters weren’t sure that 26-year-old Jimi King was going to make it. To see him up and walking was the miracle they had all hoped would happen.
Becky Dimauro, Jimi’s mom, assisted her son in meeting and greeting people at the fundraiser buffet put on by the TFPD firefighters and with the generosity of Roy and Barbara.
Jimi’s trip to Roy’s was a break from the therapy he’s going through at Craig Rehabilitation Center. It has been a hard journey, but this strong young firefighter was determined enough to do it.
Jimi grew up in Denver, where he played baseball, a left-handed pitcher, earning a scholarship to North Central Texas. He then returned to Colorado and studied Fire Science in Sterling while continuing to play baseball. He was also an intern with the fire department.
He sat with his Timberline firefighter buddies at Roy’s and when someone asked him why he wanted to become a firefighter, he came up with the well-known joke, “Because I didn’t want to be a cop.”
Jimi has been described as having a great sense of humor which he is not afraid to share.
After college, Jimi went into the oil and gas industry until it crashed and then returned to live with his mother in Black Hawk. It seemed like a good time to go through the application process of becoming a firefighter with Timberline. He was on his way to completing everything he needed when on September 3, 2017, while riding a friend’s borrowed Harley Davidson Road King in Lakewood, he hit the median, where his body landed, but his head hit the pavement. He was not wearing a helmet. It was 6:30 p.m. on a Sunday evening.
Beckie says a friend of Jimi’s called her to tell her what happened. “It was the worst phone call I’ve ever had in my life,” she says. She headed to St. Anthony’s where her son was in critical condition. The medical staff told her they didn’t know if he would make it.
Jimi was taken to surgery to relieve the pressure of a hematoma on his brain. For four days, he was in a coma. A second surgery was needed after a brain bleed, which had doctors baffled, says Beckie. They hadn’t seen this happen before.
On September 11, Jimi came out of his coma and began responding to her and the doctors told her they expected that he would make a full recovery.
But it has been a difficult battle for the past six weeks. While in the hospital, Jimi was without a skull while his brain healed. He was protected by a helmet and his skull was kept in a freezer at 70 degrees below zero.
While his brain settled, he began the arduous therapy that helped him talk and recognize people. He does not remember what happened, but he does remember his friends and his family with the fire department and was happy to see them at Roy’s on Saturday.
It is expected he will continue to live at Craig and undergo therapy until December 13, after which he will live with Beckie and regroup. The big struggle facing them now is the astronomical medical bills that insurance doesn’t cover, that will hover over him far into the future.
There is a GoFundMe account in his name and proceeds from the benefit at Roy’s will be added to his funds.
Jimi says he is impatient about being stuck in the hospital and wants to get back with the fire department, wants to get back to normal and go out on calls every chance he gets.
“I want to help people who need it and learn more about being a firefighter.”
Beckie listens to her son speak and smiles. “I didn’t think he’d make it, but the fact that he is here makes everything okay.” When Jimi came out of his coma, his first word was “mom.” She has taken leave from her job and has spent every day at Craig, where she says Jimi has maintained his sense of humor through the whole thing.
She is grateful to the TFPD firefighters who have brought her meals and visited Jimi whenever possible. At the time of his accident, Jimi had responded to 58 calls.
TFPD chief Paul Ondr says Jimi is a fantastic rookie, had already been working on getting his EMT certification, which Paul says has only been delayed.
“We expect Jim to be going through the Firefighter I Academy in February, and there is a spot waiting for him with us when he is ready.”
Assistant chief Chip Smith says it was important for Jimi to get out where everybody could see him and talk to him. Chip has been visiting Jimi ever since the accident and watched his daily improvement.
“I was there two days after the accident and he was in bad shape, unable to respond and breathe on his own. To see him walking and talking is such a relief. The most pressing need now is to get him home and find care for him. He is a 26-year-old kid who is full of life and wants to serve his community. Jimi has a chance of leading a normal life.”
The buffet benefit raised over $6,000, an indication of how much he gained the respect and love of an entire community and the fire district that has become a family.
(originally published in the November 16, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)