By Kathy Walsh

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– A teenager from Connecticut is hoping to be home for Christmas. Since September, he’s been in Craig Hospital in Englewood learning to live as a quadriplegic. But Joe Barber is determined to move forward and he’s got two communities rooting for him.

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The18-year-old is in good hands at Craig learning to adapt to his “new normal” in an electric wheelchair. A diving accident brought him here.

The accident happened last August, just before the start of his senior year of high school in Madison, Conn. Joe was at the beach with family remembering their dog, Herbie, who they’d had to put down that morning. Joe dove into shallow water, hit a rock and broke his neck.

“You want your child to have the best life you can and this isn’t what you envision for anybody,” Meg Barber, Joe’s mother, told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

CBS4's Kathy Walsh with Joe Barber (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh with Joe Barber (credit: CBS)

She explained it was touch and go for weeks after the accident with surgeries and serious complications. She described Craig as “A wonderful, supportive, phenomenal place.”

Now, two communities are embracing Joe and his family. Friends back home in Connecticut send their love and support.

“Joe gets cards every day,” Joe’s father, Pat Barber, told us.

Kids sell wrist bands to raise money for Joe’s care.

“They want me back and I want to be back with them,” said Joe.

But here in Colorado, Joe is not alone. Close family friends, Joe and Ellen Ruble, visit him daily and have opened their home to the Barbers.

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Craig Hospital (credit: CBS)

Craig Hospital (credit: CBS)

“Literally everybody has been supportive,” said Pat.
“Gives me a reason to fight on,” said Joe.

Joe admits, at times, he asks himself “Why me?”

“I don’t really get an answer. I feel like it happened and I’ve got to move on,” Joe said.

At Craig, the skilled hands of therapists help Joe learn to hold a pencil.

He is writing a new chapter in life, but never closing the book on possibilities.

“It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to walk again,” he said.

Joe is all about determination, hard work, and hope.

Joe Barber (credit: CBS)

Joe Barber (credit: CBS)

He choked up when he delivered this message to friends back home, “I’ll be home for Christmas. I love you all and I don’t think I could have done this without you.”

Friends set up a Facebook page called “Go Joe Go” to keep the community up to date on his progress as well as a fund to help with his medical expenses.

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Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.