A smashed cruiser sitting in a berm – it was the aftermath of a crash that almost killed Pasco County deputy Jim Derner.
“Not be able to feel or move your legs was the scariest feeling I’ve ever felt,” he said.
He was training a volunteer last August when that driver lost control, sending the cruiser airborne.
“One of my thoracic vertebrae was crushed. And it was pressing onto my spinal cord,” Derner said.
Lying in the hospital wondering if he’d ever walk again was bad enough. But during surgery, doctors discovered something equally as troubling: A large mass on his lungs.
It was lung cancer, the same disease that took his father’s life just a month earlier.
If it wasn’t for the crash, the father of two said the cancer would never have been found in time.
“I don’t understand it. But I’m a very religious person, a strong Christian. Truthfully it’s the strength in my faith in God,” Derner said.
After a career in the Navy and more than 25 years as a deputy, Derner was in a fight for his life.
Surgeries, treatments, then a difficult recovery.
But now he is on his feet and, doctors say, cancer free.
“Three trips to [the] ICU in six months make you realize how fragile life is,” he said.
From fellow deputies helping out, to messages of support from the students he once mentored, he’s also realized how important those around him really are.
A friend offered up a house to live in so he won’t have to deal with three flights of stairs to his apartment.
And Nomad Moving Company even volunteered to get him there.
“That’s part of living the dream. Helping others,” mover William Robinson said.
After all this, Derner still wants to get back to work with the Sheriff’s Office. First he must regain his strength.
He lost 60 pounds of muscle.
But not his desire to help others.
“We are all in this world to make a difference. And you can,” he said.