MELROSE, Wis. -- Melrose, Wisconsin is one of those small towns where everybody knows everybody. And everybody knows 19 year old Nick Dobbs. Seen here in green, Nick was a stand out athlete for Melrose-Mindoro High school. A smart kid.
A leader. "Nick Dobbs was probably the most thoughtful, concerned and considerate student that a person could be," says teacher and coach William Allen.
And like everyone else in this quiet town, Nick Dobbs knew the rural roads like the back of his hand. He knew that at the end of his driveway stood the long grass and tall August corn that virtually blocked his view. But he also knew that the road that intersects was rarely traveled. So when he hoped on his motorcycle, strapped his helmet on and headed to work on August 11, 2011, he knew this day, just like every other day, no one would be sharing the road with him. But what he didn't know is fate had other plans that day.
"It was a day none of us will ever forget."
"911 What is your emergency? We have a tractor versus motorcycle accident on Red School Road."
Nick's Aunt Jana was the first to get the word. "A friend of mine actually called me and heard that there was a motorcycle accident on Red School Road and I knew it was Nick. He's the only one on that road with a motorcycle."
"We need first responders and an ambulance."
"He hit a tractor and a hay wagon. The tractor swerved and Nick hit the front of the hay wagon."
Nick was flown to a nearby hospital while Jana tried desperately to get a hold of his mom. "I was at work and it was my last client of the day, just finishing up. and my sister kept calling me. So I told my client I had to take this call and that's when she told me Nick was in a motorcycle accident."
At first, they were hopeful after hearing witnesses say he was moving around, trying to get up.
"But by the time we got down there, it was a totally different story."
"I remember when they came in and told us that it didn't look good. I felt like I was in one of those TV shows where your family is sitting in a waiting room and the doctors come in and give you the news. Kind of felt like a dream. When his heart stopped the first time that's when it really hit me that this is really serious."
Nick's spine was shattered. Doctors knew his legs were paralyzed but held out hope he'd have some arm and lung function. "But the swelling proceeded upward on Nick's spine."
"It was a few days after that that the other problems started and they had to intubate him and put him on a vent that he'll probably be on for the rest of his life."
"It took awhile to realize what was going on. I remember saying to my mom, I haven't been able to move my arms in awhile and she said, 'you haven't moved your arms since you've been here."
"The first time Nick was conscious with me, he looked up and said, 'Coach, I can't move my arms.'
"To think a healthy 21-year-old would be paralyzed - it was scary, sad. It was hard to deal with."
Nick spent months in the hospital trying to figure out how to live in a body that no longer works. He now uses a special wheel chair that he can operate with his mouth.
He can also control the television and is able to access the internet. But this is a life that is admittedly frustrating. "Just needing help from everyone else. I absolutely hate it. Because before all this I was completely independent. I didn't like going to others for help if I absolutely didn't need it."
But what is so remarkable about this young man is how positive he remains given this unimaginable situation. "I should have dies right there at the accident scene. I'm still here, what's to feel sorry about. I've got family. I've got friends. I've still got my girlfriend. I guess I've actually got things pretty good right now."
But in a small town where everybody knows everybody, everybody is eager to rally around their hometown boy. And the chain of events that happens next is proof that although Nick may never stand again, he will also never stand alone.
You will not want to miss the simple idea that sets into motion a series of good deeds. And those good deeds result in a gift for Nick that will literally change his life.
Catch part two of this in search of story next Thursday on News 8 at 6.