It was a rare, warm spring day last March when Eric Zeck, 31, decided to take his Ducatti motorcycle out for a ride.
Driving home that evening, rounding a corner, Zeck, an experienced rider of 13 years, said he realized he was taking the turn too fast and had to make a split-second decision.
“I knew I was going to crash,” the Clarkston resident said.
Zeck made a decision to try and brake, but was thrown from his bike, sliding back first into a metal sign pole, leaving him instantly paralyzed.
Months later, although his life has changed drastically, Zeck chooses not to describe his accident as “tragic,” but instead says his perspective has changed and the accident has helped show him what is important in life.
“I’m grateful for that kind of paradigm shift in my values,” he said. “It’s really about family and helping others.”
On Tuesday, will be hosting their third-annual with proceeds from the event going to help Zeck pay for his on-going medical expenses.
Cathy Jones, owner of Kahuna Coffee, knows Zeck's family through the River Church in Hartland and heard about his accident soon after it happened.
Calling Zeck the "perfect" choice to be the person benefitting from this year's event, Jones said that she followed her heart and listened to her inner voice.
"I try always to listen to where I think God's leading me," she said. "And they're just a very humble, very loving family."
"They thought for sure I was a goner"
Five months ago, laying conscious on the ground after the accident, Zeck said he was in the most pain of his life and knew instantly that he was paralyzed, but was still able to call 911 and direct the EMT’s to his location.
During the ambulance ride to Pontiac Hospital (POH), Zeck says he remembers the EMT’s that were working to save his life telling him to “hang in there, stay with us."
“They thought for sure I was a goner,” he said. “That was really scary."
Hearing the test results confirm that he had lost the use of his legs was a “tough moment" for him and his family, but also something that he had been preparing himself for.
“The nice thing was I already had 24 hours to kind of accept it,” he said. “There’s not a lot of people that have these moments in their lives that are before this and after this.”
Zeck, a small business owner who repairs and paints composite airplanes and parts, is still adjusting to his new life and while he has had to hire help for his business, is also considering going back to school.
After months spent at the University of Michigan rehabilitation center, Zeck became interested in the field of prosthetics.
“I think I would get a lot more satisfaction in giving someone the chance to walk or run again,” he said.
Kahuna Coffee Fundraiser will help with everyday costs
Fortunately, Zeck says that after his accident, he was able to financially cover many of his initial medical costs thanks to his family, friends and insurance, but says his daily cost of living has gone up with new medications and other equipment necessary to help him lead an independent life.
“You would not believe the amount of stuff that goes into being paralyzed,” he said. “I bought hand controls for my car…the cheapest set you can buy and they were $379.”
New living arrangements also had to be made since getting to his second floor apartment would no longer have been possible. Zeck’s parent’s spent more than $15,000 on renovations on their home, widening doorways, replacing flooring and constructing a bathroom that Zeck could use.
Money raised from the Cruise-In Car Show will help Zeck pay for the news expenses in his life, but more than anything, Zeck said he appreciates car enthusiasts who come out and support causes like his in a very “Michigan” way.
“What a great venue to have these people who love their cars and the people who come out to see their cars and be able to get together, all for a great cause,” Zeck said. “The money is going to be making a huge difference in my life.”
He also credits his “very expensive” helmet to saving his life and hopes to bring awareness to other riders.
“The fact is, it’s not if you’re going to fall, it’s when you’re going to fall,” he said. “It is just mind-boggling to me that someone would think they didn’t need it. …I would do whatever I could to influence people to wear their helmets and ride safely.”
Kahuna Coffee’s Third-Annual Cruise-In Car show takes place on Tuesday, Aug. 21 from 4 p.m.- 8 p.m. There is a $5 registration fee.