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MAN GREETS HIS 'ANGELS'

Three rescuers visit the man who was impaled on a fence post.

He said he knew he shouldn't get on the roof. A stroke 10 years ago had turned Willie Robinson's right leg into his "bad leg."

But his cousin needed help painting the tin roof, and he had given Robinson a room after he had been laid off from a construction cleanup job about seven months ago.

Robinson, 46, traded caution for a favor, and paid for it when he slipped off the roof and onto a chain-link fence pole that drilled 6 inches into Robinson's thigh.

Wednesday, Robinson, who remains on the ninth floor of Tampa General Hospital, publicly told his gruesome tale for the first time as he was reunited with three of the paramedics who rescued him.

"It was luck," Robinson said. "I'm blessed to be here."

He doesn't remember many details. But he said he recalled the television show Worst Case Scenario or something similar that taught him not to lift himself off the pole.

It may have saved his life.

"When I tried to get off the pole, I knew I was stuck," Robinson said. "Every time I tried to move, blood would come out. So I tried to stay stationary."

He didn't budge, scream or cry, amazing Tampa Fire Rescue Lt. Natalie Brown, who injected him with a painkiller as soon as she arrived.

Even though it shook Robinson's entire body as driver/engineer Dennis Ponce hacksawed through the 2-inch pole, and the process took five to eight minutes, Robinson still didn't cry out, Ponce said.

Robinson said he remembers just feeling numb.

He never could see his wound because it was on the back of his thigh. He just knew he couldn't move, he said.

Nearly a week later, Robinson said the pain has dissipated but soreness remains. He hasn't talked to his doctor about whether he will walk again, saying he just feels lucky to survive.

He called Brown, Ponce and firefighter Eric Stokes "the angels" who saved him, and they gave him a card and a pin with angels on it.

"Now Willie," Ponce asked, "do you have to go back and finish that house?"

"Uh, uh," Robinson replied. "I don't think so."

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

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