Though doctors gave Robbie Badkin a 10-percent chance of making it out of a coma after he developed a severe blood infection in January, he was able to celebrate his 51st birthday surrounded by his family at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton on Saturday.
On Jan. 2, Mr. Badkin’s sister, Linda Badkin, had rushed him to Southampton Hospital because he was having trouble breathing. He was placed on a ventilator and put in an induced coma for two weeks. He lost 70 pounds, and his muscles atrophied.
"We kind of all prepared to say goodbye," said David Elze, his nephew. "But, he's a tough guy and pulled through," he said. "We are very grateful."
Mr. Badkin, a master welder who works in Montauk and lifelong Amagansett resident whose family has lived on Lazy Point since 1936, still has a long road ahead of him. While he gains his strength, his family is rallying the community to help him keep his house and pay his mounting medical bills.
Mr. Elze started a GoFundMe campaign online last week, and in just three days, he raised $12,670. "The community just blew me away. We surpassed the goal within two days," Mr. Elze said on Monday.
He set the goal at $10,000, a figure he said he thought would easily be met. Mr. Badkin's bills and expenses, however, exceed that amount by at least 10 times, Mr. Elze estimated. There were 125 people that made donations, ranging from $25 to $1,000.
In addition to his mortgage, utilities, and taxes, Mr. Badkin also has several debts that have piled up over the years, some connected to other health problems he has experienced.
About 10 years ago, he had to have a hip replacement after he developed a bone marrow infection in connection with a steel rod he has had in his hip since shattering it as a 13-year-old. Mr. Elze said his uncle continued to work as much as he could and never went on disability or received government assistance. A diabetic, he sometimes has numbness in his extremities, and would often get open sores because he could not feel burns during welding.
Mr. Badkin is well known to the Montauk commercial fisherman who count on his welding expertise, said his nephew, who described his uncle as kind-hearted man who has always gone above and beyond to help family and friends.
As his health deteriorated, Mr. Badkin had fallen behind on maintenance of his Mulford Lane house. His family has been cleaning it and hoping to make much-needed repairs before he returns in approximately six weeks. Most alarming was mold that developed after flooding from Hurricane Sandy, an issue that has long plagued residents of Mulford Lane. The house will also likely have to be made wheelchair accessible.
Doctors never found the source of Mr. Badkin's blood infection, which led to acute respiratory distress syndrome, but his family wondered if the mold in his house might have contributed to his recent health condition.
On the GoFundMe site, Mr. Elze said his uncle is in good spirits but is still very weak. "It really helps just to know that so many people care."
Although the $10,000 goal has been met, donations are still being collected at gofundme.com/robbie-the-welder.
A fund-raiser is also being planned.