By Alan Shope, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -
He is a big man with an even bigger personality, but now Rodney Batesel is in the fight of his life after a horrific crash.
A fundraiser has been started to help Rodney and his family cope with enormous medical bills. And his family wants to thank those who helped save Rodney's life and have supported him and his family since then.
"Oh my gosh, I can't put it into words how grateful I am," his fiance, Sandy Barber, said. "I don't even have words to say how grateful we are, how thankful I am. I couldn't begin to say because I don't have the words."
Rodney was traveling to work on April 24, which saw weather conditions more like winter than spring. Vehicles hit a patch of black ice at Interstate 35 and Chouteau Trafficway, and they crashed.
Rodney's vehicle overturned and he was trapped inside as flames raged around him. He suffered third- and fourth-degree burns over 65 percent of his body. And he suffered from acute respiratory failure from smoke inhalation.
He is alive in part because of good Samaritans like Dana Dye and Michael Erwin.
They were among those who pulled Rodney from his vehicle, but were the only two who stayed to talk to police once they arrived at the scene. They shrug off their heroics, saying they would hope a kind-hearted person would help them out in similar circumstances and they would do it again in a heartbeat.
"It was the worst thing I've ever seen," Dye said. "That was about the most scariest thing I've ever done in my life."
She said up to six people tried to pull Rodney out of a back window, but his girth complicated their efforts. While they were doing so, flames licked around them.
"It was a big explosion so I knew the gas tank released already," Erwin said. "When the truck exploded, I was like: not good, not good."
They did get him out. Once he got to the hospital, both of Rodney's legs were amputated. He has undergone about 20 surgeries, and only recently could start speaking again.
His mother, Stella, says she is just grateful that her son is alive to hold her hand.
"We've got him. He doesn't have to have those legs," she said.
Rodney is a strong man with a strong faith. He is surrounded by lots of love, so he has continued to fight physically and mentally the challenges he has faced.
"Rodney's attitude remains very positive and his will, not only to survive, but to thrive in life is strong!" his loved ones wrote on the GiveForward.com page created for him. "He is already talking about getting his 'bionic legs' and looking into the modifications he'd have to make to a vehicle to be able to drive again."
As a shop foreman for a sheet metal company, Rodney has medical insurance, but he will still be responsible for a sizable bill.
Barber said Rodney and his loved ones will be eternally grateful to everyone who did what they could to save his life.
"There were so many people trying to pull Rodney out," she said.
Firefighters pumped 1,500 gallons of water in three minutes onto the vehicle, which allowed them to free him and rush him to the University of Kansas Hospital's renown burn unit.
"That's what saved him," Barber said.
The family is grateful to the hospital staff who have done everything they can.
A few weeks after the crash, Rodney's wallet showed up in the mail. It had been found on the side of the road. His credit cards and more than $200 remained tucked inside.
"I'm glad to know there are people out there like that. And it cost them $4 to mail it out of their own pocket," his mother said.
Because of the crash, Rodney's family is preparing to sell his home. He will need therapy and prosthetic legs.
"In these tight economic times, we understand how difficult it is to part with $1, but anything donated will certainly be very much appreciated," according to the family's note.
Sunday, July 27 2014 11:15 PM EDT2014-07-28 03:15:51 GMT
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