Ga. man shares story of survival after near-fatal wreck in Tobago

by: Ashley Swann Updated:

ATLANTA - A Georgia man with an amazing story of survival is now facing a mountain of medical bills from his ordeal.

Once an active 32-year-old, Justin Lake is now a quadriplegic recovering at Atlanta's Shepherd Center. It's a story that can only be described as a nightmare.

On Aug. 26, Justin was on vacation in Tobago with friends when a drunk driver hit him going at least 80 miles an hour as he sat in a parked car.

Justin couldn't feel anything from the neck down, and said his fear only grew when emergency responders didn't seem to know what to do.

"Laying on my back and just completely paralyzed, that was a pretty terrifying feeling," he shared with Channel 2's Ashley Swann. "I had to walk the guy through putting on my c-collar and how to stabilize my spine so the damage wouldn't get any worse."

A trained EMT himself, Lake was taken to a makeshift hospital where he assisted as doctors stitched up his head wound without pain medication.

Finally, thanks to the hard work of friends who live in Trinidad, Lake was taken by military helicopter to Trinidad, where he underwent surgery to stabilize his neck. He was eventually flown by a private ICU jet to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.

"It's an amazing place. I'm lucky to be in America," Lake said.

But that flight alone cost nearly $30,000 -- expenses Lake and his family said their insurance company may not cover.

"Maybe they'll reconsider once we get some more documentation to them, hopefully, because the bill is astronomical," Lake said.

Now facing a future he never imagined, Lake said the support of loved ones and even strangers on Facebook is keeping him going.

"It's just, it's just amazing. It's humbling really," he told Swann. "Hopefully it'll continue and I'll keep getting all those prayers from those people. I'm still here. God still wants me on this earth, you know, so there's a reason for it."