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December 04. 2013 9:47PM

Fundraiser tonight to benefit injured man


FERN ORNELAS (Courtesy)

MANCHESTER — More than 100 friends and family of Fern Ornelas are expected to pack P.J. O'Sullivan's tonight for a fundraiser to help him and his family after Ornelas' neck was broken sometime between his alleged attack on a Elliot Hospital security guard and his return to the hospital after being in police and county corrections custody.

The fundraiser at the popular 300 S. Willow St. restaurant and lounge begins at 6 p.m. and is expected to last at least until 9 p.m. All funds raised through ticket sales, a silent auction and raffles will help Ornelas and his family. Tickets are $15 each; two for $25.

"People want to be there to support the family," a friend said.

Meanwhile, Ornelas, 54, of Manchester is making progress in his recovery.

A friend who visited him at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston about 1 1/2 weeks ago said Ornelas was talking and upbeat. He no longer required a breathing tube, but still could not move from the neck down.

Ornelas went to MGH on Oct. 17 with a broken neck that left him paralyzed from the neck down.

"I was very surprised at how cheerful he was. He was talking. Somebody brought him a steak tip dinner and he cut it up and ate it like the Wolfman. So he's doing pretty well," said the friend, who asked not to be identified.

Ornelas uses a special wheelchair that supports his neck and spine for about an hour at a time. He has had many visitors and is undergoing physical therapy.

On Nov. 27, MGH reported Ornelas' condition had been upgraded from fair to good. Ornelas will be transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston as soon as a bed opens up for him. It was unclear Wednesday whether the transfer occurred.

"He's talking. There was no anger in him. I was very surprised," the friend said.

What happened to Ornelas is the focus of a criminal investigation being done by the Hillsborough County Attorney's office and state Attorney General's office. Ornelas went to Elliot Hospital Oct. 15 because he went off his medications he takes for his mental illness, family said. On Oct. 16, he allegedly attacked a security guard. At least three security guards and a Manchester police officer subdued him. He was arrested and booked at Manchester police headquarters for simple assault, then transferred to Hillsborough County House of Corrections about midnight Oct. 17. About 9:30 a.m. that day, Ornelas came back to Elliot Hospital by ambulance with a broken neck.

While his older brother, John, recently said Fern will be paralyzed for the rest of his life, his long-term prognosis has not been confirmed.Sports memorabilia, three barbecue grills, two golf bags, golf balls and a NASCAR helmet are among items that will be auctioned at the fundraiser tonight.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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