BELFAST, Maine — Just over a month ago, a driver hit Jason Blake while he was walking home one night after work, leaving the Swanville man lying critically injured in the middle of Oak Hill Road.
The driver still hasn’t been identified. Blake, 48, who had to be taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for treatment, is at the beginning of a long recovery.
“There’s lots of challenges,” he said. “I’m fairly fortunate that I will possibly be able to walk again soon. I will be able to function, maybe not at 100 percent. But still kind of doing what I used to do.”
Something that is helping his recovery is the support of the community, including his coworkers from Delvino’s Grill & Pasta House in Belfast, who are spearheading several fundraisers over the next month to help him with mounting medical costs and other bills.
“I’ve got an amazing group of friends and family. It’s a pretty awesome community,” he said Thursday, his voice cracking with emotion. “I’m glad I have those people in my life. It makes a huge difference.”
The fundraisers include a bake sale at Delvino’s from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 3, which will feature treats from many local eateries and bakers; a benefit dinner at Delvino’s from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7; a raffle with nearly $1,000 worth of gift cards from local businesses and an online auction, which ends at the end of April.
All the proceeds will go to Blake, according to Megan Gross, a waitress at the restaurant who misses working with her friend, a line cook. All the wait staff will be donating their tips from April 7 to help Blake, in addition to 50 percent of sales from both dine-in and takeout service.
“He is extremely helpful. Anything we ask of him, he’s totally willing. He’s super nice and really easy to get along with,” Gross said Thursday. “That’s why it broke our hearts when this happened to him.”
The hit and run happened on Feb. 25, just a mile or so from Blake’s house. He doesn’t remember anything about that night. But he heard later that a man on his way home from work at Mathews Brothers Co. in Belfast saw something lying in the road.
“At first, I guess he thought it was a pile of clothes in the road,” Blake said. “Then he realized it was an actual person.”
The man went to the closest neighbor, and they called for help. Once in the hospital, Blake’s treatment began. He was kept under sedation for two weeks because of the extent of his injuries, and doctors performed multiple surgeries, including the reconstruction of his badly injured face.
He is now back home with his sister, Stephanie Blake, who stopped work so that she could care for him and take him to his physical and occupational therapy appointments. But the ordeal is far from over, his sister said. He’s in a wheelchair and may need to have one more surgery.
“He is doing so much better than he was, but he still has a long road ahead of him because of his injuries,” Stephanie Blake said. “The hope is that he will be able to walk again and get full function of his arm.”
Jason Blake is feeling lucky about some things. He’s functioning normally “mentally and spiritually,” he said, and is trying to get used to getting around in a wheelchair. Although he didn’t have health insurance before the accident, he’s relieved that someone at the hospital helped him sign up for MaineCare, which provides free and low-cost insurance to Mainers who meet certain requirements. He’s hoping that the insurance may help with the massive hospital bills he’s beginning to receive.
Most of all, though, he is feeling uplifted by knowing people care about him and want to help. Any money raised through the upcoming fundraisers will help pay for necessities, he said, and make it so he doesn’t get behind on bills. But more than that, it means the world to him to know that people care.
“It’s an absolute blessing,” Jason Blake said. “It lightens up the burden a little bit.”