Those who don’t personally know Nick Orchowski might be surprised to learn that he considers himself a pretty lucky guy.
The Army corporal was paralyzed in May 2004 during an insurgent attack on his Humvee while serving in Iraq. The next four months were mentally and physically taxing as he struggled to accept his new life as a quadriplegic.
Throughout his ordeal, Orchowski maintained a positive attitude, and things began to look brighter when he underwent a surgical procedure that miraculously un-pinched his spinal cord and reconnected nerve pathways. It was a monumental step in his recovery. Coping with incomplete quadriplegia, however, has not exactly been easy.
Stairs became a formidable challenge. Testing water temperature for a shower became a guessing game because of the nerve damage he suffered. Orchowski had lost his independence.
But once again, Orchowski’s life is about to change for the better, and just in time for Veterans Day. The married father of two young kids is preparing to move into a new home that will alleviate many concerns that come with having a disability.
In May, an army of volunteers organized by Homes for Our Troops began work on what has turned into Orchowski’s dream home. The family will be presented with the keys during a ceremony at 11 a.m. Nov. 17.
Adaptable features, from modified appliances to no-step entryways, were incorporated into the home in Elkhorn Ranch east of Parker. The house even has bath faucets with digital temperature gauges.
“You can turn it on by pushing a button and the water will stay that temperature,” he said. “I can run a bath for the kids or safely take a shower without someone checking it for me.”
All of the bells and whistles have Orchowski brimming with excitement. But the most humbling part of the entire experience is not the home itself, but rather the community spirit that built it from the ground up.
“This is a gift that we never imagined, nor did we ever expect,” Orchowski says.
For those who volunteered their skills or donated materials, it’s a small gesture of thanks for someone who sacrificed his body to help protect America.
Being embraced by the Parker and Elbert County communities has showed Orchowski, a Colorado Springs native, that he is making a home in the right place. He is frequently recognized — and thanked — in public by schoolchildren and adults. Orchowski believes that kids are learning a valuable lesson by witnessing the overwhelming support and getting involved in the project.
Homes for Our Troops has put together “build brigades” to assemble dozens of adaptable homes for injured veterans throughout Colorado.