Hendersonville man salutes firefighters who saved him 10 years ago

(Photo credit: John Le, WLOS)

A Hendersonville man's trek back to his home state of Pennsylvania included an emotional moment with the first responders who came to his rescue 10 years ago.

Brian Ulbrich presented the Stancliff Hose Company in Waterford with wooden American Flags made by Candler artist Thomas Baker.

"If it wasn't for these folks here doing what they do, I wouldn't be here," he told WJET-TV at the fire station.

"It's really satisfying to know that somebody--they appreciated it," department president Ron Jagta said to the ABC affiliate. "That's what we do. We don't expect anything out of it."

Saturday, June 10, marked a decade since the motorcycle accident that left Ulbrich in a coma.

"Well, I have a box here," he said at home, digging through paperwork stored in a plastic container. "When I woke up, I had hundreds and hundreds of emails."

That's where he keeps the cards and letters that kept him going. Ulbrich said he was a different man at a different time.

"MySpace was a big thing back then," he pointed out. "It wasn't Facebook."

"It brings a tear to my eye, it really does," reliving the healing process that turned his life around. "Everybody had pictures drawn and cards and I didn't know what was going on."

It's hard not to "read'em and weep."

"It's going to make me cry," he said reading one of the cards. "'We love you, we miss you Brian. Love, Deanna and Andy.'"

On June 10, 2007, the local newspaper reported his devastating accident.

"A Waterford man was in serious condition after injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident," Ulbrich said, reading the first sentence of the article aloud.

"I was doing wheelies, and I hit a concrete barrier about 100 miles an hour," he said. "No helmet."

"I think about it a lot, especially when you look in the mirror and see scars everywhere," Brian told News 13.

"It took a long time for me to realize what had happened," he explained. "I died four times. What scared me is I never saw a light."

The magnitude of the wreck is still overwhelming.

"They ended up taking my kidney, my liver, my spleen, two ribs," he said. "I broke my arm. I remember half the ambulance ride in and waking up three months later, and I touched the side of my face and I was like, 'What the... ?'"

That's why Brian's heroes are those six men who came to his aid.

"Someone who can take their job every day and put their lives in danger for people they don't know, they deserve a special something," he said.

Brian said the flag presentation was the least he could do for lifesavers linked to the day he barely remembers, but will never forget.

"June 10th, it would be a day I remember for the rest of my life," he said. "I did a 180, and I took a fork in the road, and I'm glad I did. I wouldn't be here now."

Over 3,600 days have passed, but those old "get well" wishes remain poignant.

"Still to this day, I'll read through them and it'll still make me teary eyed," he said.

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