Thousands of dollars are being raised for a well-known Amagansett resident who has become disabled and is about to lose his home.Robbie Badkin, a master welder, is known to almost everyone in the Montauk and Amagansett communities as “Robbie the Welder.”
In January, Mr. Badkin, a resident of Lazy Point, developed a blood infection that doctors could not pinpoint. Having long suffered from diabetes and recovering from recent hip replacement surgery, his immune system was already compromised, and he eventually developed what doctors call “acute upper respiratory distress syndrome.” He has been hospitalized for several weeks, recently coming out of a medically induced coma.
“Basically, his lungs collapsed, and he couldn’t breathe. Doctors gave him a 10-percent chance,” said Mr. Badkin’s nephew David Elze, who started an internet campaign to raise money to assist his ailing uncle and to help repair his house, which sustained flood damage during Superstorm Sandy.
Organizers have raised more than $13,000, already surpassing their original goal of $10,000, through the website www.gofundme.com.
“We reached our goal in two days, which was amazing,” Mr. Elze said, adding that more funds are still needed to work on Mr. Badkin’s house.
He could not afford the repairs following the fall 2012 storm, and the house continued to deteriorate while Mr. Badkin lived with the mold, according to his nephew. Now, as medical bills continue to pile up and he has been unable to work, Mr. Badkin’s home has fallen into disrepair, and it is in danger of foreclosure.
“We feel that the mold and the condition of his home definitely contributed to his health,” Mr. Elze said.
In the event that Mr. Badkin is released from medical care with lifelong disabilities, supporters are also trying to retrofit the house to be handicapped accessible. Medications the hospital administered to him have caused some muscle atrophy, and he is currently undergoing physical therapy, his nephew said.
“He won’t be back to work for a long time,” said Mr. Badkin’s sister Janice Badkin, who has been handling paperwork for her brother. “He can’t walk yet,” she added. “He couldn’t even lift his arm when he came out of the coma, so he was starting from scratch. It was amazing how paralyzed he was when he came out.”
Mr. Badkin has always been a proud working man, according to his nephew, and, despite his ailments, he never took a handout. “He never filed for disability or any kind of help from the government,” Mr. Elze added. “He loved his craft and, more than that, he was proud, and he didn’t want to let down the fishermen in Montauk. Their lives and their livelihoods depend on those welds.”
Mr. Elze said he has now helped his uncle file for disability, but the process takes a long time to complete.
“We want to make sure he has a clean and healthy house to come back to without worrying that it will be taken away by the bank,” Mr. Elze said.
In addition to monetary donations, those with carpentry skills or materials to donate are also in need.
The money that had been raised thus far was presented to Mr. Badkin last Saturday, which was also his 51st birthday, at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton, where he has started his slow path to recovery.
“He is getting better every day, but he has at least another two months or more of rehab,” his sister said.
“We were very grateful that he’s still with us,” Mr. Elze said.
A Facebook page was started for Mr. Badkin, and a Chinese auction is being planned at Inlet Seafood in Montauk in about two weeks, though organizers have not yet worked out the details.
Anyone wanting to help with the ongoing effort can visit www.gofundme.com/robbie-the-welder and make a donation.
Mr. Elze said his friend’s mother always talks about “Robbie the Welder,” and when people ask how everyone seems to know who Mr. Badkin is, she says: “You live in Montauk, so you just know.”