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Benefit for Don Carney

Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 3:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 3:52 p.m.

Life can change in an instant, and change is something that the Carney family is coming to terms with after an accident turned their world upside-down.

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Don Carney, center, suffered a spinal cord injury from a fall while on a hunting trip. His wife Cheri, left, and daughter, Danielle are helping care for him as he rehabilitates.

Carney family

Facts

DON CARNEY FUNDRAISER

When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15
Where: Lagunitas Brewing Co., 1280 N. McDowell Blvd.
Tickets: $25 adult, $15 ages 12 and under. Purchase tickets at www.doncarney.brownpapertickets.com.
Information: doncarneyfund@gmail.com or visit facebook.com/doncarneyfund.

The accident occurred on Sept. 8 during a weekend trip to a hunting ranch with family. Petaluma resident Don Carney was sleeping in the bed of his truck, as he usually does on camping trips, when he got up in the middle of the night and fell off the edge of the tailgate.

The fall left him paralyzed from the chest down.

“We don't know what happened exactly,” said friend and neighbor Sue Lassen. “But the fall caused a spinal cord injury.”

Carney was taken to the trauma center at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, where he had surgery to fuse his vertebrae back into alignment. On Sept. 11., he was transferred to the ICU at Kaiser in Santa Rosa where he stayed until Nov. 19.

“He's now at the Kaiser rehabilitation facility in Vallejo, which is a state-of-the-art facility,” said his wife, Cheri Carney. “He gets three hours of physical therapy and occupational therapy every day. He's improving.”

Carney's condition is classified as a C7 spinal cord injury, which refers to an “incomplete” spinal cord injury where some motor function is preserved. His prognosis, however, is unknown.

“It's too early to tell if he'll walk again,” said Cheri, a part-time bookkeeper who has been at his side every day since the accident. “Everyone recovers differently. It could be six months. It could be a year. We can only hope for sooner.”

Cheri said that Carney is handling things well and that his spirits have been good.

“That's why he's doing as well as he is,” said Cheri. “If you're down, it makes things harder. He's as positive as you can be after such a life-changing event.”

Carney is well known in the Petaluma community for his years of coaching softball and playing softball. He's also been employed at Mike Hudson Distributing in Petaluma for the past 37 years.

“He's close to his co-workers,” said Cheri. “It's been amazing to see all the support he's gotten and how everyone wants to help us.”

Carney remains at the facility in Vallejo and won't be able to come home until some respiratory problems related to his injury improve. When he does come home, the Carneys will face some challenges in making their home wheelchair accessible, and affording continued rehabilitation for Carney.

“My house has two sunken floors, so they would need to be raised up so he can have access to all the rooms,” said Cheri. “Then we have to have some bathroom modifications.”

To help the Carneys with expenses, Lassen is organizing a fundraiser for Don Carney and family on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at Lagunitas Brewing Co. The event features live music by local band Lickidy Split, a raffle and silent auction.

Lassen has lived next door to the Carneys for 20 years, so their families have become close.

“When Don had his accident, it was very hard on the family,” said Lassen. “I wanted to do something. Often when you ask people what they need, they don't want to tell you. When I realized what it would take for them to re-do things in their home and the long-term stuff they needed, I asked if I could hold a fundraiser. For Cheri to say yes, shows how hard it has been.”

“It's amazing for our neighbor to do that for us,” said Cheri. “I'm so tired right now. It has been hard. Right now my daughter, Danielle, who goes to college at CSU Monterey, is home on break, so it's great to have her here to help.”

Some of the auction items up for bid at the fundraiser include a signed Madison Bumgarner baseball donated by the San Francisco Giants. Madison Bumgarner, nicknamed “Mad Bum” is a pitcher with the San Francisco Giants. Bumgarner played key roles in the Giants' 2010 and 2012 World Series championships.

Petaluma National Little League has also donated two CDs with all the 2012 Little League World Series games and the homecoming parade.

Other auction items include wine, gift cards, art, jewelry, books and food all donated by local businesses.

The evening includes food provided by Lombardi's Catering and no-host beer from Lagunitas, which is donating 100 percent of the beer sales to the Don Carney Fund.

“The Carneys have been overwhelmed by all the support and are very appreciative,” said Lassen. “It's been a big help for them on this journey they are on.”

The Don Carney fundraiser takes place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15 at Lagunitas Brewing Co., 1280 N. McDowell Blvd. Tickets are $25 adults, $15 children 12 and under. All proceeds will go toward Don Carney's rehabilitation and house renovation.

For tickets, visit doncar ney.brownpapertickets.com. For more information, e-mail doncarney fund@gmail.com or visit www.facebook.com/don carneyfund

(Contact Yovanna Bieberich at yovanna.bieberich@arguscourier.com)

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