Behind The Story

Captain Recovery’s Story

In 1994, Kyle Chirgwin started a one-truck towing business in Fairfield, Conn. He grew his operation and in 1998 purchased a gas station and a second tow truck. He met Lisa, and they worked to make a life together.

The ball was rolling. Kyle built a medium-duty, purchased a new 16-ton unit and moved to a bigger building. In 2002, he ran nine trucks, repair facilities and a successful snowplowing business.

I was new at Tow Times when I first heard from Kyle. He sent photos of his carriers at work and at community events. On parade routes, his carriers were packed with streamers, balloons and happy kids.

Times were good. But there was a problem. Kyle wasn’t feeling well. A couple years earlier, numbness developed in his lower legs, growing to debilitating pain spreading upward over time. Then he couldn’t get out of bed, and missed work. He went to physicians; none finding the cause. After eight doctors, batteries of tests, two operations and being a case study at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, Kyle was diagnosed with idiopathic small fiber neuropathy. The disorder affects nerves and causes a range of ailments – the most acute being extreme pain – and requires a lifetime of treatment. Kyle had to sell the business.

He married Lisa on August 6, 2004, overlooking the waters of Cape Cod. And while she had her own degenerative back problem, they took care of each other, sharing good days and bad. Being intermittently bedridden means a lot of time on your hands, Kyle told me, and he used it to develop ideas. He considered writing an autobiography about his towing experiences, titled “My Big Tow.” His nickname was Captain Recovery, and he wondered about working that in as well. When Kyle’s cousins were born, he decided to make Captain Recovery the product of a child’s imagination.

Kyle called me a couple of years ago and filled me in on his life, mentioning that he was thinking about writing his experiences and acquaintances from his towing life into a children’s book. He asked if Tow Times would partner with him to produce it, and he would send draft pages. He was excited, but, as part of his ailment, struggled with depression. Lisa motivated him, saying “Let’s do this,” and they set about getting Kyle’s ideas on paper. The printer needed an ink cartridge, and Lisa drove to an office supply store, where she began having problems.

Lisa suffered epileptic seizures in the past, and she called Kyle for help. An ambulance arrived and Kyle rushed to meet her at the hospital. Before he could get there, Lisa suffered a heart attack. Minutes later, he was with her when she died on March 5, 2012. Forty-six years old, she was buried a quarter-mile from where they wed. Kyle struggles these days with his health and grief. Good days and bad. He now works as a DJ on a late-night radio show on womr.org, a Cape Cod radio station.

Determined to finish what he started with Lisa, Kyle re-wrote the book’s ending to include her, now to live on as Auntie Lisa in the book. The book’s primary characters represent real people in Kyle’s life. Darren is the boy who, in his imagination, becomes Captain Recovery, taking on adventurous recoveries with his tow truck Big Blue, Darren’s little sister Kaylee and Fire Chief Hoffy (“Hoffy” was the nickname of good friend Harry Hofmiller, former fire department captain). Even the dogs Kody and Balto are Labrador retrievers Kyle and Lisa owned.

That’s the story behind the story, and I thought it was worth telling. The book, dedicated to Lisa, is debuted in this March issue on page 6. For Kyle, a solemn anniversary, and a new beginning.