NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An NYPD officer who was attacked on the job is still fighting for his life in the hospital more than a decade later.
His old friends – and hundreds of strangers – are making sure he never feels alone.
“I wanted to be a business man, but later in life I wanted to become a police officer to protect those that can’t protect themselves,” retired NYPD officer Mike Vinitsky said.
Vinitsky was a rookie officer in Brooklyn in 2007 when everything changed.
“I was guarding a prisoner at a hospital that broke a bed rail in a hospital room and attacked me with it. I wound up suffering head injuries that brought on ALS,” Vinitsky explained.
Due of his injuries, Vinitsky was forced to retire. It was after that incident that he was diagnosed with ALS – better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“I need help with everything that includes bathing, eating, and dressing. I am totally dependent on other people. I stay home almost every day. I go outside three times a year to visit my ALS doctor in Manhattan.”
This past summer, the 41-year-old had a heart attack, which made his health even worse.
“How long now have you had to be in the hospital here?” CBS2’s Ali Bauman asked.
“Over four months,” the retired officer said.
For most of that time it was just Mike and his mother at Coney Island Hospital.
“We found out he was here alone. He doesn’t have a lot of family, his mom is elderly,” retired officer Thomas Christ said.
Thomas Christ had lost touch with Mike over the years.
“I met him in ‘05. He was a rookie coming into the precinct and I was getting ready to retire.”
Last week, he and some of the other officers they used to work with got word that Mike was here alone. They put out a request on social media, seeing if anyone would help keep him company.
“The support Mikhail is receiving from the community is overwhelming,” New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch said.
Not even one week later, Mike’s room is now filled with handwritten cards, flowers, balloons, and dozens of strangers coming to visit.
“It definitely cheers me up. The support from outside has had a huge impact on me,” Vinitsky said.
“Before that post went viral what was it like for you in here?” Bauman asked.
“I mostly listened to audible books,” Vinitsky replied.
His friends also started a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $19,000 in four days.
“Mikhail has personal health aides that assist him in his every day existence,” Christ told CBS2. “His entire pension goes to pay them out of his pocket and that’s crazy.”
“This is what New York City is all about – giving,” Councilman Deutsch said.
“Have faith and everything will be fine,” Vinitsky added.
“Before this illness I saw the cup half empty. Since this illness I learned to look at things very differently. If you think positive things, you attract positive energy and your thoughts will make positive things manifest. I’m one hundred percent sure.”
By looking around his room, full of love and support, he seems to be right.