Arizona Firefighter Continues Recovery After Crash

Corrective surgery after a broken neck is a delicate thing.

Local firefighter Andrew Rosales is recovering, though, and the support he received through a benefit run on Aug. 25 was a morale lifter in addition to a financial boost for his young family while work isn't possible.

Now recovering at home after his surgery in Tucson in late August, Rosales seems to be using his neck muscles more and his voice is less robotic. The surgery took at least two hours, not counting the pre-op, said his wife, Krystle.

Rosales, a Bureau of Indian Affairs firefighter, was injured on the job this summer when his fire truck carrying firefighters out of the Fort Yuma agency rolled en route to a wildfire near Sells. The crash killed one colleague and injured another.

At first, Rosales' injuries were thought to be minor, but he soon learned that his neck had been broken in two places and held in place throughout the day by his swollen muscles. Doctors screwed a six-pound halo into his skull but after about two months found that his bones did not align properly.

More work was needed. This time, a plate, screws and a cadaver bone were inserted through the front of his neck.

"They said that the surgery was nearly perfect," said Krystle.

The halo is now off but he still wears a brace that extends down his torso. Recovery will take about six months.

As for the run, it drew about 300 runners and walkers at $10 a head to take on the 5K course. Others donated money without running, and helpers were eager to contribute. Kids handed out water, and the fire cadets from Arizona Western College helped with registration. Even Smokey Bear was there.

Rosales was also there, still wearing his halo, gratefully taking it all in.

"He said that was one of the best days of his life," Krystle said.

A more comfortable bed, like they wanted, is now set up at home.

The couple said they got good feedback for the event and would like to hold another run sometime, though not in the heat of summer, for others in need -- they were in need this year, but they know there will be others who need help, too.

Copyright 2012 - The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service