SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Anthony Napoleone's dying wish is to go home to to Maine and spend what time he has left with his children.
His family is hoping Salinans will help them grant that wish — and soon.
"Maine is just so beautiful — it really is," Napoleone said Thursday from a hospital bed in his south Salina home. "In the summertime, it is gorgeous. In the wintertime, it is cold. It's very, very cold in the wintertime."
Turning the pages of a photo album, Napoleone, 28, pointed to a picture of him and his ex-wife standing in front of a body of water.
"I want to go there," he said. "I want to see the Causeway."
But the main attractions to Maine are his two sons, Parish, 10, and Gage, 4, and his stepchildren, Gavin, 7, and Nicole, 2, who live in Clinton with his ex-wife. When he comes home to Maine, he plans to live at his aunt's house in Raymond, where she has room for hospice care, according to Napoleone's mother. He also has relatives in South Portland, Skowhegan and Waterville.
"I just want to be with them," he said.
A large framed photograph of Anthony with the two boys sits by his bed. A Hospice of Salina worker took the picture during a recent two-month visit the boys and their mother made to Salina, he said.
Friends and relatives searching for a way to get the fragile, paralyzed man back to Maine, posted his story on the social networking website Facebook on Wednesday night, said family friend Marlo Magee. The response has been swift. An Indianapolis pilot has volunteered his services, and arrangements are being made for an aircraft, she said.
"I was really surprised how fast it took off," Magee said of the effort to grant Anthony's wish. "There's a lot of generous people out there that if it's legitimate are willing to help."
The need now is to cover the $28,000 cost of airplane fuel, she said. To that end, a "Funds for Anthony Napoleone" account has been opened at Security Savings Bank, 317 S. Santa Fe.
Time is short, family members say. Lesli Schrader, clinical lead registered nurse with Hospice of Salina, confirmed that the agency has been assisting in care for Napoleone, who has received a diagnosis of weeks to months to live.
The goal, said sister Angelia Napoleone, is to have arrangements to fly her brother to Maine finalized by Monday.
Angelia assists her and Anthony's mother, Rayleen Wright, in providing Anthony's 24-hour care. Wright said complications resulting from Anthony's paralysis are slowly taking his life.
"It's not just that you can't walk again," Wright said. "He can't use his bodily functions. He couldn't even play catch with the kids because he couldn't keep his balance."
Wright said Napoleone, who can only lie on his back, suffers from extensive bed ulcers and a staph infection. His wounds have become so bad, with bones exposed in his lower back, that Angelia no longer can stand to clean them. Wright does that when she acts as night nurse.
"His body is being eaten from the inside out," she said. "He can't feel it because he's paralyzed, thank goodness, but his body is telling him he's in pain — that's why he sweats."
Anthony Napoleone said he never really intended to stay when he first came to Salina at Thanksgiving 2007. He came to visit his mom and sisters and to escape the emotional pain of a recent divorce, he said. He started working building houses with his stepbrother, and his stay lengthened, he said.
Then in the early morning hours of July 13, 2008, Napoleone was paralyzed from the chest down when his sister Alicia Napoleone's boyfriend stabbed him in the back, breaking off the tip of a knife-blade in his spine. Thomas Nece, Napoleone's stepbrother, also received extensive lacerations.
Steven H. Weis Jr., 26, was convicted of two counts of reckless aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and one count of criminal use of a weapon. He is currently in the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. The Kansas Department of Corrections website lists his earliest possible release date as Sept. 19, 2012. He went to prison on April 6.
Napoleone's trip to Saline County District Court to testify against Weis is one of the few times he has left his bedroom since he was stabbed, Wright said.
"He's always supposed to stay in bed, but he felt like he needed to put him away," she said.
Wright said she thinks the fact that the tip of Weis' knife broke off in Napoleone's spine, making the knife shorter, may have saved Nece's life.
Napoleone and friends had been out celebrating his girlfriend's birthday earlier in the evening. They were at a friend's house when Weis and Alicia Napoleone returned to get Alicia's vehicle. Napoleone said he saw Weis hit Alicia when they began arguing after her Jeep wouldn't start.
He said after Weis "smashed her in the face again," Weis turned to Napoleone and asked, "What's the matter, ...? Don't you want to fight me tonight?" ''I said, 'Actually, maybe I do,' " Napoleone said. He said he ducked when Weis took a swing at him. He hoped to grab Weis' midsection and tackle him, but Weis slammed the knife into his spine when he grabbed hold of him, Napoleone said.
"My legs crumpled right underneath me," he said.
Napoleone said when he was first loaded into the ambulance he remembers being able to wiggle his toes and pick up his knees. But then doctors operated to remove the knife tip, which they believed would continue to cause damage, and he has had no ability to move or any feeling from the waist down since, he said.
"I used to be a pretty big dude," he said. "Now I can't even pick myself up."
Wright said after Napoleone was released from Wesley Medical Center, he went to a rehabilitation facility for 11 weeks. Within a week after he returned home, his bed ulcers started, and despite the family's efforts they have grown progressively worse, she said.
Napoleone had some advice for others who want to avoid suffering as he has.
"Be careful," he said. "Choose your fights."