Quadriplegic Dan Crews Swamped With Letters: Don't Die

VIDEO: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centers Dr. Lachlan Forrow shares his thoughts.
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Dan Crews, who has been a quadriplegic since childhood, has been swamped with handwritten letters, e-mails and phone calls from well-wishers who don't want the 27-year-old to die.

Crews, who lives with his mother in Antioch, Ill., is paralyzed from the neck down and is begging doctors to take him off the mechanical ventilator that allows him to breathe.

For the last 18 months, he has been fighting a losing battle with officials at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wis., where he has been treated since the age of 3.

He has the legal right to refuse treatment, but only with the blessing of his doctors. They say he is too depressed to make that decision.

But since ABCNew.com ran a story on Crews' dilemma, letters have poured in, most telling him to "keep the faith."

"It's been very pleasant, but my mood is the same," he said of his decision to die.

Many of the cards have been religious in nature: "God has a purpose; I hope you change your mind."

Crews, who is Lutheran, said he used to believe in God, "the devil, heaven and hell, faith and sinner and angels."

"Now, I think God is a distant relative who doesn't return phone calls and e-mails," he said. "I believe he exists, but doesn't listen."

Crews spends most of his time in a dark room with his legs strapped down to his bed, unable to do much except eat and watch television. He can operate a computer with a mouth piece.

Calls and cards have come in from as far away as Colorado, Texas and Seattle, including one woman whose husband has been a quadriplegic for 25 years.

"We'd like to be an inspiration to Mr. Crews," said Donna Jackson, 46, of Oklahoma City. "He has a purpose in this life."

She pledges to visit Crews personally if someone can donate a handicapped vehicle so the couple can drive from Oklahoma to Illinois.

Jackson met her husband in a nursing home where he was being rehabilitated after being shot in the head. "He had to learn to talk again," she said.

"There's nothing he can't do because he is a quad," she said. 'My husband and I go everywhere: out to dinner, to social functions and have even traveled several times as far as California and Texas."

Jackson believes she can inspire Crews, if only she could arrange a meeting.

"I am really hoping he can hear my husband's testament," she said. "There are so many things available to him."

Many Spinal Cord Injury Patients Consider Suicide

An estimated 5 to 10 percent of spinal cord injury patients contemplate suicide, six times higher than in the general population, according to the Kessler Institute in New Jersey, one of the nation's top rehabilitation centers. It is where the late actor Christopher Reeve was treated, after he was paralyzed in a riding accident.

Crews became a quadriplegic after a car accident 24 years ago. No one expected Crews to live as long as he did, according to his mother. She was at the wheel when the car swerved off a slick country road into a ditch.

Cheryl Crews punctured a lung and broke her neck, but Dan, strapped in to his car seat, "came out looking like he hadn't even broken a bone."

"But he was all blue and they had to breathe life back into him," she said. He has needed a ventilator ever since.

Despite paralysis, Crews said he had a happy childhood. He was an honors student in high school and earned an associate's degree.

After the accident, the family won a lawsuit and received a $4 million trust to take care of their son's medical expenses.

"We were told to bring him home and make his life count and to make him happy, because he wasn't going to live very long," said his mother.

Nursing care -- four a day working 92 hours a week -- has cost the family $300,000 to $500,000 year.

With the medical expenses and the economic downturn, the trust fund ran out, dashing any hopes for further education, seeking the second opinion of new psychiatrists or even a legal fight against the hospital.

The family has applied for Medicaid and worries Crews might end up in a nursing home.

"I would be lying if I said money was not a part of it, but that's never been the only reason," said Crews. "I am just tired of living like this."

Only in the last several years has he become despondent, mostly over the mounting bills that have overwhelmed his family.

Quadriplegic Dan Crews Still Wants to Die

He insists he will not change his mind about dying, unless someone can "donate millions and millions of dollars and help pay off my major debt."

Crews and his mother owe more than $100,000 to the hospital and are behind on their mortgage and utility bills. His mother can't work because she helps care for her son, along with the two nurses.

Cheryl Crews, who is 60, is willing to stand by her son. "In the end, if this is what he wants, I have promised to support him," she said.

His parents are divorced and a 31-year-old brother, who lived with them, is soon leaving home.

His father, Gerald Crews, told ABCNews.com that he cherishes his son, and couldn't accept his decision to die, a sentiment shared by total strangers who have responded to Crews' story.

One woman from Seattle wrote Crews, "The world is in need of you."

"Please never give up hope," wrote another with no return address. "Please never give up hope. It's the reason you were put on this earth."

Another man from Boulder, Colo. sent photos and shared his love of sports with Crews, who is a Denver Broncos and Chicago Bulls fan. "I was touched by your story," he wrote. "I hope your Thanksgiving was nice."

"I am so sorry your life is so difficult," wrote a woman from Fort Worth, Texas, whose husband killed himself after a cancer diagnosis. "I really encourage you. Your life has great value beyond understanding."

One of her co-workers was a quadriplegic after an accident, and she wrote, "He was so inspirational for me and others."

"You are thinking your condition might not have impact or value in the future," she wrote. "But that is a lie. You made an impact on me that I stopped what I was doing to write you."

Crews, who has an independent streak and droll sense of humor, dismissed a suggestion that he could help other quadriplegics.

"I don't like talking to paralyzed people," he said. "They are too self-pitying."

For now, Crews is adamant about removing the ventilator, but continues to show an interest in his favorite television shows, "Big Bang Theory," and "NCIS."

He likes music from the 50s and 60s and his favorite movie is the 2004 film, "National Treasure."

The letters and thoughts from strangers are surprising, but welcome.

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