‘Every day is a gift from God’

Traffic cop Tarrell Lee, who was struck by a car in 2005 and lost part of his right leg, has a new lease on life.
“Just getting up and walking, you take that for granted, now you have to relearn that again,” the 29-year-old traffic enforcement agent said. “I took tomorrow for granted, and now I don’t. Every day is gift from God.”
Since the accident on September 21, 2005, Lee, a resident of Flushing, has begun taking guitar lessons and hopes to plan a trip to London. On Saturday, November 10, he attended a fundraising basketball game in Riverside State Park, which featured his fellow coworkers facing off to raise money to buy him a new prosthesis.
As of Monday, November 12, organizers were still counting the tally from the $10 ticket sales and donations, said James Huntley, the President of Lee’s union - CWA Local 1182, the Traffic and Sanitation Enforcement Officers Association.
“Here’s a traffic enforcement officer that got injured on the job and lost his leg. He was enforcing the laws of New York City, and he was struck by a SUV. This man came to work that day and was going to walk home,” Huntley said, explaining why he got involved.
Following the accident, Lee was brought to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where doctors induced a coma for the Queens Village native, lasting 40 days. In addition to the right leg amputation, Lee had suffered considerable nerve damage to his left leg and a broken pelvis.
“When I first woke up, I was very confused, I didn’t know exactly what was going on,” Lee said. “They [his parents] came in and told me that my leg had been amputated … It didn’t feel like my right leg was gone; I could still feel it.”
Then he began the long road to recovery - getting treatment at both New York Presbyterian and at the Dr. William O. Benenson Rehabilitation Pavilion in Flushing.
“When I first started out I couldn’t even move my left leg at all … it’s been a long hard road, but it definitely pays off,” Lee said, crediting doctors and his four therapists for his success so far.
While in treatment, Lee said he became friends with firefighter Matthew Long, who was hit by a bus during the transit strike of December 2005, and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly paid Lee a number of visits - one time taking Lee to a New York Jets game.
“He is a real good guy,” Lee said of Kelly.
And through the pain that nearly caused him to pass out and grueling physical therapy six days per week, Lee said he managed to remain positive.
“I’ve realized that there are people that are going through a lot worse than I am so who am I to stay home and through myself a pity party,” he said, explaining why he went back to work at a new post - the 109 in Long Island City - on Monday, November 5.
“I’m just trying to live life to the fullest,” he said.

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