It was a split second that changed the lives of Alex Cannon and his family. The Shelter Islander, a former South Ferry captain, fell from a ladder at a Jaspa Road house he was power washing on Nov. 18, just five days after his 59th birthday.
Mr. Cannon lies in a bed in Stony Brook University Hospital, dependent on a respirator to breathe and facing long odds — his doctor has said there’s a 1 to 2% chance — that he’ll recover from paralysis, according to his former wife, now his domestic partner, Jacqueline Kim Cannon.
At first, he was able to breathe without a respirator and doctors thought he could be transferred to a facility for physical therapy. But now, there are few facilities willing to accommodate a patient on a respirator, Ms. Cannon said.
The couple was married in 1998 after meeting on the ferry six years earlier where he was known for his good humor and smile. Following their divorce, Ms. Cannon moved to Riverhead, but the two kept in touch and after many years, she told him she was unhappy with her move.
“Come home,” he told her. She did.
He once told her he never wanted to live if he was totally paralyzed. But doctors weren’t aware of that directive when they revived him during surgery immediately after the accident.
Reminded of his words by Ms. Cannon, he told her he’s grateful for the second chance at life, whatever that might look like in the long run.
“When you’re in the situation, it’s different,” Ms. Cannon said about his change of heart.
She still worries that because of the prognosis, Alex may not have been initially getting some treatment she thought might help.
Was he getting passive range of motion exercises? she asked his doctor. When the answer was negative, she worried, but asked if she, formerly a nurse’s aide, could provide help to keep his joints flexible. She was told she could and did so until the exercises were implemented by hospital staff.
Alex lacks medical insurance and can’t meet everyday expenses of his household, prompting Ms. Cannon to start a Facebook GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/alex-cannon-needs-help-with-medical-expenses. She hasn’t been given any idea what medical costs will be.
The goal of the GoFundMe campaign is to try to raise $200,000 of which $9,835 has been raised to date.
Ms. Cannon has worked most recently as a veterinary aide at the Southampton Animal Shelter, but she is preparing the paperwork necessary to taking a family medical leave to attend to Alex’s needs and try to keep their household intact.
She travels almost daily to Stony Brook University Hospital to spend time with Mr. Cannon. On her occasional day off when his sister and brother-in-law are in town from Pennsylvania, or her sister can visit, she’s home tending to the needs there.
For all the work he did on the homes of others, Ms. Cannon admits she used to nag him about spending some time on their Shelter Island house.
The day of the accident, Mr. Cannon had returned home at lunch to tell her he was pleased with how successful the job was and thought the homeowners would be happy with his work.
But hours later, Kim Cannon got a knock on the door and Animal Control Officer Beau Payne was there with the family dog that had been with Alex on the work site. It was Mr. Payne who delivered the news of the accident.
She has reported on the GoFundMe page that Alex’s spirits are good and visitors are limited to only a few relatives. She can occasionally get him to laugh, she said.