Hockey community rallies around Chugiak grad
Every four hours, Kathy Folan rotates her 26-year-old quadriplegic son to prevent the development of bedsores.
What Robby Warren needs is a therapeutic mattress to keep his body moving as he sleeps — which helps prevent infection and promotes good health for his internal organs.
Unfortunately, the only way insurance will pay for a new mattress is if Warren develops what his mother has been working so hard to prevent.
Folan, who’s been denied by multiple insurance companies, said the message is always the same: her son needs to have two existing bedsores before insurance will cover the cost of a new bed.
“I’m astonished by that,” she said.
So, Folan turned to her “hockey family” in Eagle River for help. This year’s seventh annual Coach Mac Cup 3-on-3 hockey tournament will serve as a fundraiser for Warren, a 2005 Chugiak High graduate.
The tournament will be held April 3-6 at the McDonald Center. Games will be played from 6:15 to 11 p.m. on April 3-4; 6:15 to 9:15 p.m. on April 5; and 2 to 6 p.m. on April 6.
Food and merchandise will be on sale and a silent auction will be held. All proceeds from the tournament will be donated to Warren, said Mac manager Reid McDonald.
Michael McCurtain, who’s coordinating the event, hopes to raise $12,000 for his former teammate.
“My goal is to contribute as much as we possibly can,” he said. “Anything will help.”
McCurtain, who graduated with Warren, was already signed up for the 3-on-3 tournament when he approached McDonald about correlating the events.
The longtime member of the Chugiak-Eagle River hockey community immediately got involved. McDonald said it’s great watching players rally around a teammate.
“It’s nice to see the guys taking care of each other,” he said.
McCurtain skated with Warren throughout their high school careers at Chugiak.
“We were really close,” he said.
McCurtain said Warren has always had one of the best attitudes of anyone — even after an ATV accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
“He’s a real upbeat guy. He always was,” McCurtain said. “He never really seemed to have a bad day.”
His mother agreed.
“You’ve never met anybody that wants to have fun more than Robby,” she said. “When he walked, it was almost like he was walking on air. To be honest, he still is.”
Though it’s unlikely Warren will ever stand between the pipes again, his positive outlook hasn’t diminished, Folan said.
“He just can’t see going through the rest of his life miserable,” she said. “If it weren’t for his attitude, I don’t know if I could keep going. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Remarkable is an understatement, considering how Warren sustained life-altering injuries to three vertebrae.
Warren was a passenger when driver Christopher Case rolled the ATV while driving drunk near Harding Lake about 40 miles outside of Fairbanks on June 26, 2011, according to the Daily News-Miner. Case was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree felony assault and driving under the influence under the terms of a plea agreement, the News-Miner reported.
Warren didn’t blame Case and called his prosecution an “outrage” in a letter to the editor published May 15, 2012 in the News-Miner.
“Chris is too good of a person to be set an example of,” Warren wrote. “Chris and I still talk on a daily basis, and I will forever love him as if he were my own brother.”
Warren said an “accident” is what left him paralyzed.
“No one intended for anyone to get hurt, therefore, there is no one to blame for my injury,” he wrote.
In addition to not holding Case responsible, Warren was thankful his friend wasn’t injured, Folan said.
“It’s his nature to look at things the best way he can,” she said.
Moved to Lower 48
Warren spent two and a half weeks in the intensive care unit at Alaska Regional Hospital before being medevaced to Craig Hospital in Denver. After six months in Colorado, Warren moved to the Drake Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Folan has family and friends.
Folan serves as Warren’s primary caretaker and works for a home health care agency.
“That was like a little blessing in disguise,” Folan said of being able to earn a salary caring for her son.
Folan learned all the skills needed to care for Warren during her time in Colorado. She and her son took several classes to prepare for their new life.
The two make a good team.
“What I couldn’t remember he could. And vice versa,” Folan said. “I never worried. We figured we had each other.”
Folan received additional support after her 21-year-old son, Kyle, recently relocated to Ohio.
“It’s been a great help having him,” she said.
Folan said she and Warren miss Alaska’s mountains and are researching West Coast spinal institutes, but will likely remain in Ohio a few more years.
Folan said the major question facing her son now is when — or if — to cease therapy.
“When do you feel you’ve done everything you can do? For Robby and I, that day will probably never come,” she said, especially after Warren noticed additional movement in his right arm, though not enough to feed himself.
Warren doesn’t let paralysis keep him indoors in bed all day, Folan said. She and her son are out of the house about five times a week and often take their dog to a nearby park.
“We’re constantly doing something,” she said. “He’s always had a really good outlook on life.”
Though Warren and his mom won’t be able to attend the Coach Mac Cup in person, both are hoping to reconnect with the hockey community via Skype.
“I’m envious I won’t be there to enjoy it,” Folan said.
Though she typically has a hard time asking for money, Folan knew she could count on the generosity of her Eagle River “hockey family.”
“The people are so kind and generous and so willing to help other people out,” she said. “It’s touching, really.
“They’re the best people in the world.”
Anyone wanting to donate to Robby Warren can do so at www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/Keeping-Robby-Healthy/46535. Donations will also be accepted at the Coach Mac Cup. For more information about the fundraiser or to donate silent auction items, contact Michael McCurtain at 301-2830.
Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or [email protected].