The fire chief involved in a serious accident is recovering at Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation. Walker State Prison Fire Chief, Matthew Mann, was in an accident on January 19th on his way to Rossville. He has gone through nine major surgeries since his accident and is now working to rebuild his strength in therapy.
Those nine surgeries took place in a period of just eleven days. Chief Mann said he is thankful for the community's support. But he couldn't have done it without the power of prayer and a special lady by his side.
“Here one minute, gone the next. Treat it with respect,” those are words Chief Matthew Mann said he'll live by for the rest of his life. “God is the reason I am here. Nobody else but God.”
He still has a lot of work ahead of him. Days of surgery are now followed by months of therapy. “Got good days. Got bad days. Other than that everything is going okay.”
He isn't able to put any weight on his legs and he doesn't have much movement in his arm. But with hours of therapy each day he's working to build back his strength. “Work my fingers and my legs on the bed. The plan is 100% recovery.”
He is overwhelmed by the love shown by friends and strangers. Cards, teddy bears, and a handmade blanket fill his hospital room to make it feel more like home. But he's even more grateful for Jessica Strange, who has been a constant presence at his side. “She's been here the entire time. Twenty-four seven basically.”
The two had only been dating a month before the accident happened. Her devotion and care inspired him to propose earlier this week. “I ain't got her the ring yet, because I can't go nowhere.. obviously.. I asked her to marry me and she said yes.”
“Made me not want to take another second for granted. We were sitting here and he asked me to marry him, I said yes,” said Jessica Strange.
They're looking forward to putting this tragedy behind them and getting him back to his life's work, with a new perspective on how precious life is. “Responding to wrecks. The way you look at them. I was there I know how that is.”
Chief Mann doesn't know how long he will remain at Siskin. His goal is to be able to walk his daughter down the aisle when she gets married later this year.
An honor blood drive for the chief will be held Wednesday February15th from noon to 5:30 at the Catoosa County Fire Department in Ringgold.
PREVIOUS STORY: An update on Walker County State Prison Fire Chief Matthew Mann. Here's a posting from Facebook Saturday morning. It says he's mobile and therapy starts Monday at Siskins.
UPDATE: For ten years, Matthew Mann has been Fire Chief at Walker State Prison. His twin brother says he loves being a firefighter and dedicates a lot of his time working with his crew.
"Some days he works 35 hours straight, sometimes longer. You can't find more dedication. He is captain at station 15 in Walker County too," said Mark Mann.
He and his department were on their way to Rossville when they were involved in a head-on collision. The Chief suffered multiple leg and arm fractures along with internal bleeding, he was transported to Erlanger. The family says he's a fighter and they are hopeful he will make a full recovery.
"We were in there and we told him. He scrunched up and his hand really really hard. His knuckles turned all white. It is little, but we will take it," said sister-in-law, Angie Mann.
They don't know when he will be able to leave the ICU or how many more surgeries he will face. But with the power of prayer they know he will return home to his family, and department, as soon as possible.
"Hour by hour, next surgery he is this. Next surgery he is that. It is as far as we plan," said Angie Mann.
The prison's fire department has existed since the late 1970s. Inmate firefighters must complete the same training requirements as volunteer and full-time firefighters in Georgia.
Due to Chief Mann's injuries, he needed over 50 units of blood. The Georgia Department of Corrections has organized a blood drive in honor of the chief.
If you wish to donate blood check with your local Blood Assurance.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Georgia State Patrol is investigating a head-on collision in Walker County Thursday afternoon that involved a state prison van.
It happened shortly before 1:00 p.m. on Highway 27 near Turnipseed Road.
A GSP spokesperson tells Channel 3, a driver traveling south crossed all three lanes of the highway and hit a Walker State Prison van, driven by prison fire chief Matthew Mann, head-on.
Both drivers are in critical condition.
The GSP says one inmate was in the van during the crash. He received minor injuries.
Investigators do not know why the driver crossed the center line at this time.
Charges are pending the outcome of the investigation.