Joe Perletti, has taken a lot of hits and hard falls during his time coaching over the last 10 years, but back in January he had a fall on the ice he couldn't get up and skate away from -- a fall so serious it almost killed him.
The Kasilof resident and coach of the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association Bantam C team, was out on the ice guarding one of the kids during practice when he caught an edge with his skate. He flipped backward and went down hard, hitting his head on the ice.
"That's what I was told anyway," said Perletti. "I don't remember anything at all."
He lay unconscious for several minutes, bleeding from the ears, waiting for paramedics to respond to a 911 call.
He was airlifted to Providence Medical Health Center in Anchorage where he was put in intensive care and diagnosed with multiple fractures of the skull and a swollen brain and brain stem from the hemorrhaging.
"I remember coming to about two weeks later," said Perletti.
He had not only lost all recollection of the day of the injury, but of the weeks that followed, despite that he was conscious during that period.
"I know I talked to people during those two weeks, but I don't remember any of it."
Despite the extent of his injuries, Perletti's recovery was, by the doctor's evaluation, quite miraculous.
He attributes the speed of his recovery to the community.
"The community has been unbelievable in their support, and it was instrumental in my recovery," Perletti said.
He was released from the hospital on Feb. 5, although he is not fully recovered yet. He's still seeing a physical therapist and suffers from dizziness and chronic headaches.
"I'm lucky to be alive," Perletti said. "I could have died in the blink of an eye or been a paraplegic for life."
Though he's no longer fighting for his life, it doesn't mean life is back to normal. Perletti still faces an equally tough challenge -- the battle to pay the more than $100,000 in medical bills he incurred during the treatment of his injury.
The community that already had done so much, again sprang into action to lend support to Perletti and his family. The KPHA board approved a fund-raiser to try and help out with the mounting medical bills.
"It's a community coming together and stepping up to help one of their own," said Debbie Howell, the KPHA Bantam C manager and one of many people responsible for the event.
Howell also has a young son on the team Perletti coaches and an older son that will play in the fund-raiser.
There will be Advanced Open League benefit hockey games at the Soldotna Sports Center on Friday and Saturday. Friday's game begins at 7 p.m., and Saturday's game starts at 8 p.m. Both games feature the Peninsula Mic Macs vs. the Anchorage Wassup.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for kids. The event will feature a puck chuck, a 50-50 split the pot raffle and a silent auction that includes two guided fishing packages. Several other door prizes also will be given away, including a year's worth of Coca-Cola.
"Joe is a wonderful and giving man and it's something he would do," said Howell about the fund-raiser. "We're excited to do something for someone who did so much behind the scenes for the community."
When Perletti found out about the fund-raiser he was flabbergasted.
"It just goes on and on. It's unbelievable," he said about the support. "I feel like the community acted like family to us."
Perletti's wife, Susan, was equally shocked by all the assistance, since it hasn't even been two years since the family moved to the peninsula from Oregon.
"It's amazing! Joe received over a hundred cards and tons of visitors while in the hospital. It's a small community thing I can't explain, but I know this wouldn't have happened in Portland," she said.
Perletti said he's learned a lot from his injury -- about life and the good health many people take for granted each day. He's eager to start paying the community back for all their kindness and generosity. He intends to visit people who are ill and injured, because he said he knows how important it is to have someone care about how you're doing when your down and out.
However, he also has obligations to the team he coaches.
Perletti's already been back for a few games, albeit from the bench since he's not recovered enough to risk being on the ice.
"The kids want me back for the state championships, so I'll be there," he said.
Donations of goods and services, as well as volunteer help are greatly appreciated for the fund-raiser. Anyone interested in making a contribution should contact Debbie Howell at 252-3966 or Jean Drobnick at 262-2172.
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