A local man who is no stranger to stepping above and beyond the call of duty is now fighting for his life.
You might remember the name Garrett Goodwin. We brought you his story as a Florida first responder, who went to New York City to help the recovery mission following 9/11. A couple years later, he miraculously saved a baby's life while riding a plane from Tampa. Most recently, he busted a homeless man, impersonating a veteran, a story that quickly went viral.
Now, this hero is making a difficult plea for others to help him.
Every year, the September 11th anniversary brings a ground swell of memories for Garrett Goodwin of Tampa.
"I still wake up in cold sweats from dreams. I still have nightmares that shake me out of bed. I still wake up sometimes in what we call a twilight phase, thinking I'm still back at 9-11 or that I'm in a void," Goodwin said.
While 14 years have passed, and his PTSD is less severe now, other health problems have only gotten worse for Goodwin.
His frequent cough from inhaling smoke at Ground Zero is deeper now. Earlier this month, he was hospitalized after blacking out in a movie theater. Then, last weekend, after speaking at a 9-11 event, he woke up drenched in sweat and wound up in the hospital again.
"My heart is pumping like eight to ten times harder than it has to, to push oxygenated blood to my lungs, because of my lung damage, and it can't sustain that," Goodwin said.
He's one of roughly 3800 9/11 responders in a health monitoring program. Goodwin's been diagnosed with COPD, sleep apnea, and most recently, pulmonary hypertension, requiring nine different medications. His prognosis is a difficult one. Tampa doctors are telling him that he probably has less than seven years to live.
"This is my new war, and I'm ready to do battle," said Goodwin.
To get the best treatment, and a better idea of what he's up against, Goodwin is headed to the world renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. While his military and 9/11 benefits will cover medical expenses, he needs help with travel costs, lodging, food, and rent back home. Goodwin says he doesn't like to ask for hand-outs, but feels he has no choice right now, and is grateful for friends pitching in to set up a Go Fund Me account.
"I'm just usually in the right place at the right time it seems, but I need heroes now," Goodwin said.
Even still, Goodwin knows his fate is grim. He's just hoping Mayo Clinic doctors can improve the quality of life he has left, and once more, allow him to help others.
"Maybe they can learn something from me as they study me as a baseline specimen that will help the rescue responders that went to 9-11 and the Pentagon, now. Then in the future when things like this happen , whether it be an earthquake or another terrorist attack, maybe they'll be able to better treat people in the future. You know, if that's my legacy that i push on, so be it," said Goodwin.
If you'd like to help veteran Garrett Goodwin, his Go Fund Me account can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/c24j8nfr