KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Becoming a Kansas City, Kansas, firefighter is one way Morris Letcher dedicated himself to giving back to the place where he was born and raised.
"To see him a year ago, healthy and serving his community, to where he is right now is just very challenging," Battalion Chief Scott Schaunaman with the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department said.
Around this time last year, a case of severe pancreatitis and gallstones turned into a series of medical events that put Letcher, an assistant chief with KCKFD, in and out of the hospital over the spring and summer. His wife, Toyea, was right by his side.
In late July, he suffered a stroke.
"Her husband, you know, is truly fighting for his life," Schaunaman said. "Luckily they resuscitated him, but the stroke left paralysis on the left side of his body."
The initial prognosis didn't look good, but Letcher's resilient spirit has put him on a long road to recovery.
"There's a facility that they're looking at going to that has all the advanced equipment and the robotics that specialize in patients that have suffered a stroke, and that's ultimately what he needs," Schaunaman said.
Letcher is also in need of a wheelchair accessible vehicle and modifications must be made to his home. For now, fellow firefighters built him a temporary wheelchair ramp.
To help with ongoing and future medical expenses, the community is ready to give back.
An online fundraiser collected $30,000 for the Letcher family in a matter of days, with another campaign underway.
Angela Mimbs, a family friend, has sold roughly 500 of #letcherstrong T-shirts with more orders coming in.
"We're not doing anything that Morris wouldn't be doing for someone else. Morris is a natural giver, a helper and he's a fighter," Mimbs said.
Letcher is also a man of faith.
"It's difficult to see him on the opposite side, needing the help, someone having to take care of him — because it's always been him taking care of people," Valerie Cobbins, pastor at the Worship Center of Kansas City and one of Letcher's cousins said. "Knowing Morris, with the right help, with the right equipment, he may spring up and we look around one day and he's doing things that we never thought he would do."
Organizers have created a Facebook page dedicated to updates on Letcher and fundraising efforts.