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DENVER -- Akio Clark's story is both horrifying and inspiring. Horrifying for what happened to him and the woman he saved. Inspiring because he was willing to risk his own life to save another, despite what it cost him.
Now, he is the one in need of help.
Being called a hero is something most people would want to remember, but for Akio Clark, the memory takes him back to the time when everything changed.
"I kind of try to forget," he said. "So much of my life has changed since then. Even to this day, sometimes I wake up thinking that I was going to see again."
In 2004, the former RTD bus driver was coming home after work and heard a neighbor screaming for help. Denver police say Clark stepped in to stop a rape, and when the woman knocked on his door shortly after, he opened it to let her in because she was being attacked.
"I had no choice but to fight," said Clark, who remembers a group of men were standing outside his door. "And when I came out he caught me on the side with a knife and it went into my eye and slashed."
Denver police later recognized Clark as a hero who, while saving his neighbor's life, lost something he can never get back.
"It was cut through the cornea," said Clark, pointing to his left eye. "This is a prosthetic eye. You can move it around."
Clark's mother, Dolores Clark, is proud of what her son did then and what he has dealt with since.
"He looks at himself every day in the mirror; he deals with this," she said, saying he has struggled to find work that he wants after he was no longer able to drive buses for a living.
He recently started a roadside assistance business to help others.
"He’s trying to make the best life for himself by creating this business and it was just taking off," she said.
But things haven't been easy. His generator and equipment were recently stolen from his truck, his specialized eyeglasses were damaged. At the same time, his prosthetic eye needs to be replaced.
"When you blink it just wears it down like water on a rock, on a river rock," said Akio Clark, who said he tries to be positive. "The only benefit about it is I can talk to two people at the same time because one eye is over here and one eye is looking at you. You got to laugh to keep from crying."
"I admire him so much," said longtime neighbor Lisa Huffman, who helped start a GoFundMe for glasses and a prosthetic. "I don't know anyone else with a pure heart that will do anything for anybody. This is somebody that deserves everything good that comes his way."
The fund has raised more than $3,000, but Clark says the prosthetic is more expensive than they thought.
Denver7 gives has a fund set up for Clark. If you would like to contribute, click on the link below.
"I pray to God every morning," said Clark. "If he woke you up, he's going to get you through the day."
Denver7 has created an easy way for people to help others in our community. We have featured the stories of people who need help and now you help them with a cash donation through Denver7 Gives. One hundred percent of contributions to the fund will be used to help people in our local community.