April is Limb Loss Awareness month. Over the past two years, I have met some amazing people who started out as readers, shared their stories with me and eventually, became dear friends. Trevor Montgomery has not only become my friend, but my hero and inspiration as well. This is Trevor’s story in his own, unedited words, written April 14th of this year.
Today is a very difficult, bittersweet day for me and my family. Today is the day my life changed so drastically eight years ago and my life has truly never been the same since.
On this exact day, at this exact hour, April 14th 2006, I was with my family and several other families on a week long camping/riding trip at the Calico Ghost Town off the 15 freeway near Barstow. During the first hour of the first day we arrived my life and my body were shattered in a way I have still yet to fully recover from.
While taking a break from riding OHV’s with my children, I inadvertently stepped into an abandoned, unmarked 4′ x 5′ mine ventilation shaft in the ground that dropped over 90 feet to a ledge, where my broken and battered body landed and came to rest.
Over the next 10 1/2 hours I layed at the bottom of that mine shaft, assessing my injuries, wondering if I would ever be rescued, thinking about what kind of future might lay ahead of me. From my decade working as an orthopedic specialist in the Army, I knew I had broken my back. My left foot was nearly completely severed and I knew I was paralyzed. I had also broken dozens of bones in my feet, ankles, legs, ribs shoulders and much more. As I lay there, broken, battered and clinging to life in the pitch black of that hole, I wondered if I would ever see my wife Robin or my children again, who even back then numbered nine at the time.
Thankfully I was successfully rescued after three different mine rescue teams were flown in from around the state. the rescue alone took nearly two hours. Once rescued I was taken to Loma Linda Hospital, where I lived for four months while recovering from my grievous injuries. After more surgeries than I care to recall, countless doctors and surgeons began the process of trying to explain to me that between the fact that I had broken my back in four places and suffered severe spinal cord injuries as well as the fact I had sustained a traumatic brain injury, their prognosis was that I would never walk again, nor lead any semblance of a normal life. Every time a doctor would say this my wife would angrily and quite physically throw each and every one out of my room and ban them from ever returning. Let me tell you, we went through a whole lot of doctors that first year.
Four months later, I came home as a paraplegic, pushed into my newly transformed “handicapable” home in my wheelchair by family and friends and I assumed that was to be the new life God had given me. I accepted my fate the best I could, but depression, frustration, furious anger, drug-induced confusion, long days and even longer nights were what lay ahead of me those first ten months. The pain was unbelievable and my poor broken body caused me more pain, grief and suffering than I had ever thought possible. Learning to re-live life as a paraplegic, my body seemed to be working against me at every possibility. I was on nearly 30 different oral medications as well as multiple I.V. antibiotics and medications. Robin became my full time nurse, caretaker and provider and life as we knew it seemed like a long lost distant memory. Thankfully, it turned out it wasn’t.
Just ten months after my accident, I realized I was starting to sense movement in one of my toes. My new goal in life was set and I was like a man possessed. I was GOING to walk again. I spent every moment of every day doing every amount of in-home physical therapy I could muster the strength to do. I would lay awake at night working around the clock at forcing my brain to make the reconnections necessary in my damaged nerves and spinal cord to be able to someday rejoin the “real” world and the actual living.
In July 2007, just 15 months after my terrible accident, I returned back to work full time as a sheriff investigator. I had impossibly beaten the odds and proven to every doctor that miracles could and do happen. I was on cloud 9 and nothing in the world could have brought me down or slowed my progress. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, just nine months after returning back to work, repeated bouts with MRSA and bone infections caused my left foot and ankle to completely collapse and I ended up having the first of what would be two separate amputations of my left leg. First at the below knee level in 2008 and then again later in 2013 at the above knee level. Additionally, in 2011 my spinal fusion, which doctors had used to repair my destroyed back completely failed, causing me an additional 15 months down in bed, first waiting for and then recovering from yet another, much larger and stronger spinal fusion. From September 2011 through December of 2012, it would be 15 full months before I would have the opportunity to be up and out of bed again.
Nowadays, I still deal with severe back pain and gastrointestinal/bowel issues related to the injuries and problems from my original spinal cord injury. Some days I feel it is all I can do to hold on for the better days that I can barely keep faith might someday show themselves again.
However now, eight long years later, I can honestly say despite all I have gone through I am the happiest I have been in nearly a decade. In spite of everything, I am actually healthier (most days) than I ever was before and I finally feel like my life is slowly inching closer back to the normalcy I so desire and miss.
In spite of it all, I have learned to accept myself and I actually love who I have become since my accident. I feel I have truly learned to love both myself as well as my life and my family. I am far more optimistic nowadays and I find much more true joy in the small blessings in life. In spite of all the bad things that have happened over the last decade, I feel as if I have grown leaps and bounds as a person, a husband, a father and a friend. I truly hope and pray I have gotten through the absolute worst parts of my lengthy recovery, however regardless what God allows me to endure I now know I can overcome any obstacle.
I now have 13 children who call me dad, each of whom I love dearly and I have three grand babies I absolutely adore and never otherwise would have gotten to meet. If things go well and if I get my way, I might even soon be re-joining the ranks of my fellow law enforcement officers, although never again in the full capacity I used to provide, and that is OK…..life is all a process of constant change and hopefully positive growth. I have learned to embrace my injuries and limitations and more importantly, I have found a new way to love my life and all those in it again. I ALMOST feel like I am actually living again. I am close and getting ever closer.
For those of you who live with my mood swings and medical issues yet still love me, you are saints. Each and every one of you. For those of you who follow my daily dramas and rants, comment or laugh with me at my posts and listen to my (hopefully only occasional) bitching, I love and appreciate each and every one of you. For those who argue with all my posts and offer a diametrically opposing point of view from my own, I thank you for helping to re-sharpen my mind and thought processes after years of letting my brain turn to mush from taking the worst, most hardcore and toxic meds you would never want to have to absorb into your system.
It has truly been a very long eight years. But thankfully I feel have come a long way even though I still have a long way to go.
Thank you Trevor for sharing your story. I will be posting more inspirational amputees’ stories this month, along with some other information to help educate people abut limb loss.
As always, thank you for allowing me to be part of your day!