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Oak Ridge Man Hurt During Sandy Continues Recovery

Wayne Police Officer Bob Franco has increased mobility in his arms and legs. He said the outpouring of support from members of the community has been 'humbling.'

Oak Ridge resident and Wayne Officer Robert Franco continues to steadily improve. He can now walk independently. His range of motion continues to increase and he has increased dexterity in his fingers.

“Everyday there is more progress,” Franco said. “I feel confident in my rate of recovery and am still confident that I’ll have a full recovery.”

Franco, a Wayne police officer suffered a severe spinal cord injury during Tropical Storm Sandy when a tree fell on the patrol car he was in while at Fire Company 5. The tree landed on the vehicle, pinning Franco inside.

Franco nearly suffocated. It took emergency personnel an hour to extract him from the vehicle.

Franco said his legs are “really strong” and “probably feel as close to as they were before the accident,” he said.

Franco’s range of motion continues to improve. He is now able to grip a cell phone and hold it, something he was unable to do earlier this month.

“I’m getting a good percentage of the dexterity back in my hands,” Franco said.

Franco had been experiencing a “pins and needles” feeling from his fingertips to his shoulders when he first started to receive treatment at the Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange. Now the feeling only extends to his elbows.

“They’re doing a lot of electric stimulation to get me going again,” Franco said. “My legs, in general, are coming along so quickly. I didn’t know what to expect when I first started treatment.”

Supporters and well-wishers continue to leave messages of encouragement on a Facebook page Franco’s family created.

A number of area organizations and businesses have conducted fundraisers to assist Franco and his family until he gets back to work. Fairway Market, Lakeside Pub, and Farms View are just some of the businesses that have donated money. A pair of Wayne residents ran a marathon around Packanack Lake early this month to raise money.

The Wayne UNICO club is selling Poinsettias until Dec. 7. The Wayne Policemen’s Benevolent Association has set up an online donation form so people can donate electronically.

“Every time I turn around someone else is doing something or giving a generous donation,” Franco said. “It is very humbling. Everyone keeps me in their thoughts and prayers. Obviously, the prayers are working.”

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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