Recovery begins…

I started physical therapy while still at St. Luke’s Hospital in the Philippines. St. Luke’s is a world-class hospital where people from all over Asia come for care. Because Guam’s only local hospital is limited in their care, many Guamanians go to St. Luke’s for more advanced care.

I was fortunate that my accident occurred less than a mile from the U.S. Naval Hospital on Guam. Trauma patients are taken there if closer. Sadly, the local hospital is known jokingly as the “one-way” hospital. There have been many stories of people who go there for an easy procedure and end up sicker…or worse. It was providential that I was brought to the Naval Hospital. Yes, I used that word purposely.

Before the accident, I had not been to church in about 10 years. At the time, I believed in a god, but I didn’t think he cared about the minutiae of our lives. I’ve come to believe since the accident that 1) there is a god and 2) he does care. I’ll tell you why I believe that.

At the Naval Hospital there happened to be two surgeons who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They had plenty of experience dealing with the kind of trauma I was dealt. To add more fortune to my story, one of the surgeons just happened to be visiting from Okinawa for only a week. One week. Such a short window of luck for me. I think, because of them I am a successful prosthetics user. From numerous amputee support groups I’m a part of, I’ve read stories where other amputees have to undergo revision after revision just to be able to use a prosthesis. Remember, I need two.

Additionally, I lost so much blood and there wasn’t enough at the hospital. So…they flew in a plane from Okinawa with more blood just for me. I think I needed 54 additional units of blood. That wouldn’t have happened for me at the other hospital.

Going back to the beginning of the story. Rehab. Up until that point, about three weeks, I was too weak. But now the doctors cleared me for rehab. I remember trying to lift a 1 lb. weight. I could not. One pound! I couldn’t believe how feeble I was. I guess if I had seen myself in the mirror at a mere 76 lbs I would have understood why.

The mirror. It was that same day during rehab when I first saw the new me in a mirror. I can still remember that moment. Thinking back on it now summons all these emotions. When they put a full-height mirror in front of me and I saw myself for the first time, without legs, I broke down. I couldn’t finish rehab. I spent the remainder of that day crying in my mom’s arms.

Before the accident, I had prided myself on my legs. They were a huge part of my identity. (Kind of ironic because my new legs are a big part of who I am now.) I was a fast, long-distance runner, a jungle runner, a part-time repair man. I was about to start a coffee roasting business that required a lot of heavy lifting. A few weeks before the accident I was replacing the ceiling fan in a house with a high ceiling. I was by myself. I remember unscrewing the last screw holding the fan up, not realizing how much weight that one little screw held. The fan almost dropped to the floor, but I was able to hold onto it while keeping my balance. On a 15-foot high ladder. I felt so capable because of my legs. And now, I had none.