At first glance, the new home under construction on a quiet South Tampa street looks like dozens of others. But, for Mike Nicholson, it holds the promise of a new, independent life.
"I just want to really get in there," he told FOX 13. "It would be nice to finally have a permanent home."
We sat together in the living room of his parents' home. Mike was in a wheelchair; his left arm and both legs are gone.
A graduate of Plant High School, Nicholson wasn't big on college. He enlisted in the Marines, and at age 22, found himself in Afghanistan as an assistant patrol leader.
"We were done for the day, so we were walking back and I stepped on a 40-pound IED," he recalled.
It happened in a split second. "They said I was shot up about 20 to 30 feet in the air."
He lost his left arm at the elbow, his left leg at the knee, and his right leg at the hip. He spent nearly two years at Walter Reed Hospital including treatment and physical rehabilitation.
A picture was attached to an email that Nicholson received while at Walter Reed. It was a house.
"I couldn't imagine anything better," he said.
Just weeks later, he was sitting in the front row of a benefit concert by actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band in downtown Tampa.
"Mike is a triple amputee," Sinese told us last May. "We try to design these homes to make their lives more independent."
His Gary Sinise Foundation helped the Tunnels to Towers Foundation make Nicholson's dream home possible.
THE SMART WAY
James Ramos of Ramos Design-Build and his construction manager Gareth Brown gave me a tour. Nicholson's new "smart home" will be amazing.
"Mike, from an iPhone or iPad, will be able to control the lighting, the sound, air conditioning and open and close doors," explained Brown.
There are wider hallways and larger rooms to accommodate Nicholson's lifestyle. But the kitchen might be the most amazing room.
"Mike will come up to this cabinet, push a button, and the counter will move down," Ramos explained as he motioned to the empty wall. "He'll be able to push a button and the cook-top will lower eight inches for him."
Nicholson has chosen colors and materials.
"I would like to say that every client hits your heart," continued Ramos. "But he hits our heart a little bit deeper."
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Ramos says they would like to have the home ready for Nicholson by the holidays. It would be a gigantic gift. But the 3,500 square feet of blocks, wood, and stucco isn't what will make this house a home. It truly is a dream house.
"I want to open up a restaurant eventually," added Nicholson. "That's the long-term goal. But for the near future, I just want to move in and start my new chapter in life."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?