The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

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September 26, 2013

Friends pull together to help Fraley family

Benefit on tap for Saturday

Thursday, September 26, 2013 — Cole Blackburn’s life changed in an instant one day late in August, at a moment when he was trying to save another.

Blackburn, who works for the First Health Montgomery EMS, got a call that his wife Nicky was involved in a serious automobile accident in Stanly County. She was rushed to Carolinas Medical Center’s main hospital in Charlotte. She’s been there ever since, on life-support as her body struggles to heal while doctors and nurses do their best to treat her injuries.

She’s on life-support and a ventilator, unable to breathe on her own as her lungs continue to heal and improve. She’s got cuts, scratches and other injuries — internally and externally — that make the struggle to return to full health that much more difficult. And there’s no telling how much longer she’ll be in the hospital.

But by her side every day is her husband. Nicky is Cole’s life and, along with their daughter Riley, they are a family that’s struggling with what’s happened, what is happening and what will happen.

“This guy is out there every day trying to save people’s lives and now he needs it, he needs the help,” said Buck Fraley, a co-worker with Cole and one of the organizers of a benefit poker run that will happen this Saturday starting at 11 a.m. at Uwharrie Sportsman, 4593 N.C. 24, Mount Gilead.

“He hasn’t asked for anything. He’s worried about working. We told him his family is first. He’s worried about his job but his job will be here.

“He is a great person. And he loves his wife. His wife is his life. If you’ve ever worked with him and listened to him on the phone, his wife is his life.”

Fraley has worked a lot with Cole as EMS paramedics. A special bond has formed not only through the two but through the entire First Health Montgomery EMS. Cole’s family lives in Stanly County, and Cole has been struggling with taking care of his daughter, driving to work and then going to Charlotte to be by his wife’s side.

That’s where Fraley, First Health Montgomery EMS and a motorcycle club called Uwharrie Riders in Montgomery County come in to help.

“We work 24 hour-shifts, so when we’re out of work, it uses 24 hours of vacation up. Since he hasn’t been with us long, he doesn’t have that much vacation time built up,” Fraley said.

“So all the employees are donating time to him, donating sick time and vacation time to him. It costs a lot of money to drive back and forth to Charlotte.”

Fraley said 100 percent of the money raised through the poker run will go to the Blackburn family. Fraley and others have been busy posting flyers promoting the Ride for Nikki all over North and South Carolina.

The cost is $20 per bike and includes the driver and passenger of each motorcycle. Each person gets a poker hand and prizes will be given out for best and worst hand.

Registration starts at 11 a.m. with kickstands up and the ride beginning at 12:30 p.m. Cards will be drawn at each stop along the way, including the Albemarle VFW, before returning to Uwharrie Sportsman. Two bands will also play after the run, door prizes are available, there will be a 50/50 raffle and food sold on-site.

“He’s a good kid. I said ‘Let’s try to get up a poker run.’ I said ‘We can get a lot of our friends involved that’s got motorcycles and everything.’ It took off from there,” Fraley said.

“Lowe’s in Albemarle is donating stuff, all of the Harley shops, a bunch of eating places, we’ve even got a paramedic that works for Montgomery EMS, he’s in Saudi Arabia now as a paramedic over there, he donated a weekend at the beach for a door prize. Everybody is coming together.”

A Facebook page, “Support for Nicky,” is up with more than 800 likes that gives information on Nicky’s status. In addition to the benefit poker run, donations can also be sent to Cole Blackburn at P.O. Box 563, Rockwell, NC, 28138-0563.

All of the support has been something Cole has been grateful to receive.

“He just kept saying he thanks us, he thanks us, he thanks us. He has been by his wife’s side everyday,” Fraley said.

“We’ve asked him if he could come that day, to make an appearance. If he can’t be there but five minutes … we’ve asked if he could come that day.

“We spend 24 hours a day with our partner. You become close. You take 24 hours a day … some weeks we work 72 hours. That’s three shifts. We’re spending almost five months with that person.

“So we’re family. We’re showing our family love for our family member.”

To submit story ideas, contact Jason O. Boyd at (704) 982-2121 ext. 21 or email at jason@stanlynews press.com.

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