Haslem fell 75 feet from the bridge in July 2006, landing on a chain-link fence that somehow cushioned the blow. Paramedics had to pry the fence from his body before rushing him to the hospital.
Though his lower body is paralyzed, Haslem feels lucky to be alive.
''I am very blessed,'' he said in a recent interview, sitting in the automatic wheelchair that helps him move around. Ironically, Haslem lives at Canal Pointe nursing home, across from Summa St. Thomas Hospital, near the bridge.
''I know the only reason I did make it is because God wasn't ready for me yet,'' he said.
Haslem, 50, agreed to talk about his experience, hoping it might help others. Asked what he thought about the ongoing project that includes adding a fence to the bridge, he said, ''It's about time!''
''Maybe that will stop someone else from having the same thing happen,'' he said.
Haslem, 45 at the time, said he went to the bridge, better known as the Y-Bridge, about 1 a.m. July 15 to clear his head.
He had a lot on his mind. He and his wife, Annie, were having problems and he had just lost the maintenance job he had held at a local nursing home for 25 years. He was faced with earning $7.50 an hour rather than $25 — not enough to cover even his car payment.
''I wanted to figure out what I was going to do and how I was going to do it,'' he said.
A St. Thomas guard saw Haslem standing by the railing of the bridge, looking over the edge, and called police.
Haslem said he was about to walk away when the police drove up. He said he was startled, backed up a few steps and went over the edge.
Mike Koubek, one of the officers who responded to the call, said he and his partner pulled up and opened their doors.
''He looked at us, turned around and fell off,'' Koubek said.
Koubek said he couldn't tell whether Haslem jumped or slipped.
''We were still kind of far away,'' he said. ''He was there, and then he was gone.''
Haslem doesn't remember falling or hitting the chain-link fence. He later learned he was alert enough to tell paramedics how to reach Annie and talked to his wife when she arrived at Akron General Medical Center.
He doesn't recall either conversation.
She asked him, ''What did you do?''
He looked at her and said, ''I was thinking too hard.''
These were the last words Haslem spoke for more than a month. The machines monitoring his vitals went crazy and doctors had to shock him back to life — the first of two times this would be necessary.
''It was horrible,'' Annie said, fighting tears. ''That is a night I never, ever want to relive.''
The doctors didn't think Haslem would survive. Internal injuries caused by a fall from that height normally are too severe.
They did what they could — performing a tracheotomy and repairing the shattered bones in his neck.
Annie also had her doubts, especially when July turned into August and her husband still hadn't regained consciousness. She was doing housekeeping at Akron General and visited him as often as possible when she wasn't working. Whenever she heard a ''STAT'' call on his floor, she thought it could be him.
''I didn't think he was going to survive it,'' she said. ''Just seeing him — he was swollen, on a trachea. . . . You kind of lose hope. I kept on praying.''
Toward the end of August, Haslem woke up to find he couldn't talk or move.
''I had a tracheotomy. There were tubes everywhere,'' Haslem said. ''I was paralyzed from the chest down.''
Doctors performed surgery on Haslem's tendons, giving him some movement in his hands.
Annie brought Haslem home, but found that — with her working — she couldn't give him the care he needed, even with a nurse coming in part of the day. They decided he belonged in a nursing home.
He first went to Ridgewood in Fairlawn, then moved about two years ago to Canal Pointe, where he was closer to his mother's home.
Haslem said being so close to the Y-Bridge didn't bother him, though many people thought it would.
''By that time, I was to the point where I knew the predicament I was in and that it was not going to change,'' he said.
Life after the fall
Haslem can't see the bridge from his private, third-floor room, but can when he wheels himself in front of the nursing home to get some fresh air, which is one of his daily rituals.
He has settled into a routine at Canal Pointe, where Medicare and Medicaid are picking up the cost of his care. He has made friends with a resident across the hall and jokes around with Leslie Davis, his nursing aide, whom he worked with at the former Valley View Nursing Home.
''He keeps me in stitches,'' Davis said. ''He's a good guy. I'm lucky to be taking care of him.''
Haslem is able to feed himself, but can't write legibly and needs help getting in and out of bed and his wheelchair. He takes part in the activities they offer at the nursing home, like going out to lunch and attending a recent cookout with a DJ to celebrate Nursing Home Week.
On nice days, Haslem wheels himself to his mother's house and visits with her and other family members. Annie stops by most days and they talk constantly by cell phone.
Haslem's room, though, provides reminders of his limitations. He has a Polaroid photo from 2003. Annie is wearing a dress; he, a suit.
''I miss being able to dress like that,'' said Haslem, who wore a gray sweat shirt and sweat pants.
He has a collection of photos tacked to a cork board, including several of his infant grandson.
''I'd like to be able to do things with him,'' he said, adding that he does get to see him and is able to hold him.
If Haslem can lose 100 pounds, he can get an operation that would restore some feeling to his legs. This would make him more mobile and might mean he could go home. Losing the weight is challenging because of his lack of mobility, but he and Annie are hopeful.
''I'm praying that it can happen,'' she said. ''I want my husband to come home.''
Annie promises she'll stick by him, no matter what.
''That's my husband,'' she said. ''I'm going to love him 'til the end.''
Haslem looks back on that night with profound regret. He doesn't blame the police. He knows they were there to help.
''If I had it to do all over again, it wouldn't happen at all,'' he said.
Last summer, Haslem saw a commotion on the Y-Bridge and heard someone was threatening to jump. He wheeled down to the corner to see what was going on, but couldn't because the activity was farther down the bridge toward downtown.
''It brought back memories,'' he said. ''I thought, 'They don't want to do that.' ''
He said the advice he would give anyone who is contemplating jumping from the bridge is to reconsider.
''They should take their time and think about what they're doing and how it could potentially affect them and everyone around them,'' he said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com.