"Amputation was on the table;" Definitely not what you want to hear when you're a 15-year-old kid with the aspiration of becoming a pro tennis player. My heart was pounding, and pain was shooting all over my broken body. My throat felt like sandpaper from thirst. I knew it was bad; I had felt the bones shatter and burst out of my body, and I had tasted the blood in the water where I crashed, but I had yet to see the damage with my own eyes yet. I think I was just too scared to look, not to mention, I was strapped down immovably to the hospital gurney. I was weaving in and out of consciousness due to the loss of blood. To make matters worse, I could hear the US Open playing live coverage on the hospital TV. Wow! Definitely not how I planned to spend my Labor Day weekend.
Okay, hear me out, in order for this story to make sense, let's start at the beginning. But WARNING, I'm attaching actual photos, so if you are queasy to blood and bones, just stop right here.
With that being said, here we go...
Imagine this: a sprawling family reunion, gathered at the stunning shores of Lake Powell. The warm summer sun envelops us, and I'm brimming with excitement at the prospect of spending the Labor Day weekend with my beloved cousins. We have wakeboarding, jet skiing, and lounging on the houseboat planned - the perfect recipe for a memorable holiday.
For the uninitiated, Lake Powell is a wonderland of high adventure, offering endless thrills to those seeking an adrenaline rush. And we were no exception. As we embarked on our dream vacation, equipped with multiple boats, jet skis, and not one but two houseboats, we knew it would be a trip to remember.
But what truly made this vacation unforgettable were our extreme traditions. Our family has a knack for pushing the boundaries, for taking ordinary experiences and making them extraordinary. And this trip was no different. From daring water sports to impromptu dance parties on the deck, we threw ourselves into every moment with unabashed enthusiasm.
With our minds set on creating two adrenaline monsters, we set to work on building a massive water slide and an exhilarating zip-line. The slide would start at the very top of the dune, where we had carved out a groove and laid down a plastic track. From there, we pumped water all the way to the top, creating a slide that would send you hurtling down at breakneck speed, with an epic jump at the end to send you soaring into the air before plunging into the cool water below.
As for the zip-line, we knew we had to anchor it securely to the top of the sand dune. We wove a sturdy cable through a series of metal stakes on the opposite side of the dune, then attached the other end to a cliff ledge. This allowed us to zip down the cable at a dizzying 30 feet above the ground, all the way down the dune and over the sparkling lake. But as the cliff edge approached, we knew we had to let go, and that's when the real thrill kicked in. A free-fall of 20 feet before splashing down into the refreshing water below - it was an experience like no other.
As thrilling as the zip-line was, there were a couple of downsides to it. Firstly, the handles were just plain sticks, which made it difficult to hold on tight as you hurtled down the line. Secondly, once you reached the end, you had to climb up the steep sand hill, which was no easy feat. The soft sand made it especially challenging, as you would slip back down as soon as you stopped climbing.
Despite these challenges, I was determined to conquer the zip-line. In fact, I decided to do it ten times in a row. However, on my last run, fatigue set in, and my hands were wet and sandy. As I zipped down, my right hand slipped, causing the stick to become vertical, and I couldn't hold on with my left hand for long enough. With nowhere to go but down, I plummeted towards the ground at breakneck speed. As I estimated later, I must have been traveling at a speed of 60 mph after falling 30 ft from the line, with my heart pounding in my chest.
The impact was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It felt as if every bone in my body had shattered and scattered onto the beach. My muscles seized up, and I was hurled like a rag doll from the force.
For a moment, I thought I wouldn't make it. The cool water washed over my body, offering some relief to the agony I was in. I couldn't move even if I wanted to, but strangely, I felt no pain. It was as if my mind had shut off to protect me from the overwhelming trauma.
Immediately after that, I felt a hand grab me and pull me up. I assumed it was my uncles from the beach. They had seen me fall and pulled me to shore.
To my surprise, an off-duty EMT who had been watching the whole ordeal from his yacht had also leapt into action. He had an impressive first aid kit with leg splints, a satellite phone, and pressure tourniquet bandages to stop the bleeding.
The EMT immediately called for an emergency helicopter evacuation, but dispatch refused, saying they would only send an ambulance. The EMT knew this was not enough and argued that they would need to amputate my legs if they did not act quickly. Thanks to his quick thinking and expertise, I was eventually airlifted to safety and received the medical attention I needed.
He beckoned another superior who possessed the authority to override the initial dispatch and send a helicopter. Swiftly, the team airlifted the den bundle, placed me on the EMT's yacht, and we embarked on a record-breaking dash out of that treacherous canyon to the helicopter.
Transported to Flagstaff emergency hospital, the doctors gathered to assess the gravity of my situation. Due to severe dehydration, administering IVs and medication proved to be a daunting task. Agonizing pain gnawed at me, and my parched throat yearned for water. Sadly, the urgency of my injury precluded me from quenching my thirst as emergency surgery loomed.
Enduring X-rays was an insufferable ordeal as my shattered legs had to be moved to acquire images. My ankles and legs were fractured in three different locations, a triple compound fracture. Overwhelmed with fear, I found myself alone, abandoned by my parents who were denied passage on the helicopter.
The surgeon performed a complex and intricate surgery, and he repeatedly mentioned to me that he was inspired to try something he had never attempted before. With great skill and precision, he managed to reposition the shattered bones, all of which had thankfully been collected from the beach.
Four screws, multiple sutures, and countless staples were used to carefully reattach them. However, the most pressing concern was blood flow. It remained uncertain whether the bones would receive sufficient blood supply to heal properly. The odds were against me, and the chances of success were slim. If the bones failed to knit together, amputation would be the only option left..
As I lay in the hospital bed, my family and friends gathered around me, offering their prayers and support. The atmosphere was filled with hope and faith, as they and my entire community fasted for my recovery. It was a trying time, but we all held on to the belief that a miracle could happen.
And happen it did. Against all odds, my bones began to receive the blood flow they needed to heal and mend. It was nothing short of a divine intervention, and I was filled with gratitude for this second chance at life.
Months passed, and my body slowly but surely began to recover. However, there was still a risk that the bones might lose their blood flow again. It was a terrifying thought, but I refused to give up hope. And once again, a miracle occurred. The bones healed completely before the blood flow was lost, and I was able to avoid amputation.
I look back on that time with a sense of awe and wonder. It was a journey that tested my faith and strengthened my spirit, and I am grateful for every moment of it. Without the power of prayer and the support of my loved ones, I wouldn't be able to walk today.
Despite the presence of a few dead bones in my ankle, they are still sturdy enough to bear my weight without issue. However, the price I pay for mobility is an excruciating, ongoing battle with arthritis. Still, I count myself lucky to have this struggle rather than the alternative.
In the aftermath of the accident, I faced years of post-operative procedures, grueling physical therapy sessions, and the daunting task of re-learning how to walk. At the time, it felt like an insurmountable challenge. However, as I reflect on that period now, with the passage of time, I realize that it was a significant blessing in disguise.
During the recovery process, I was blessed with something I never thought I would have - time. Time to bond with my parents, time to learn new skills and hobbies, time to explore the world of books and audiobooks. My mind became a sponge, absorbing every ounce of positivity and goal-achieving strategies from the pages and the audio waves.
My hands became busy with new creative outlets - sewing, cake decorating, floral arrangements - all under the guidance of my mother, who was a wedding planner. We laughed and joked about our Martha Stewart era, filled with endless projects and fun-filled trips to Costco.
But it wasn't just about crafts and baking. I delved into calligraphy, leatherwork, cooking, and baking, expanding my skill set and exploring new avenues of self-expression. And as I shuttled back and forth to physical therapy, my mom and I shared countless meaningful conversations and created memories that will last a lifetime.
Despite the challenges and setbacks caused by the injuries, I persevered and managed to finish my education, earning my GED along the way. Following this achievement, I embarked on a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Upon returning home, I found the girl of my dreams and married her. As a newlywed trying to make ends meet, I took up a job in construction. Things were going well until the 2008 recession, putting a halt to any future prospect of construction. Like thousands of others at this time, I quickly became jobless.
Stressed doesn't begin to describe what I felt. We were currently living in a one bedroom apartment, with our second baby on the way.
With a sky-rocketing lay-offs and no one hiring, it was time to bring back my Martha Stewart skills..
Searching through my old craft bins, I came across a satchel of leather tools that had been passed down as a family heirloom.
Shortly after, I was driving home from work and I couldn't help but notice a beautiful leather couch left on the side of the road. A spark ignited within me, and I immediately knocked on the door of the owner's house to inquire about it. They kindly offered it to me, and I couldn't believe my luck. I took the couch home, cleaned it up, and cut it into small pieces to make unique leather goods for my loved ones as Christmas gifts. The reactions were overwhelming and filled me with a sense of satisfaction that I had never felt before.
As word spread about my leather crafting skills, requests started pouring in for custom-made items like phone holders and bracelets. I was hesitant at first, but one of my friends introduced me to Etsy, a website where I could sell my creations. To my surprise, my products began to sell, and the orders kept coming in. It was a bit nerve-wracking to turn my hobby into a business, but the satisfaction of seeing my creations bring joy to others was worth it.
With each sale on Etsy, my passion for creating unique leather goods grew stronger. I poured my heart and soul into perfecting my craft, listening to customer feedback and constantly improving my designs. Soon, I found myself struggling to balance my full-time job at Home Depot with the growing demand for my products.
After much contemplation and a leap of faith, I decided to leave my job and pursue my passion full-time. It was a scary decision, but I was fueled by the burning desire to make something meaningful out of my talent.
As I worked long hours sewing and crafting leather wallets and bags, my wife and I bonded over late-night movie marathons and shared excitement for what the future held. We were like Vikings burning our ships, fully committed to making our business a success.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. We faced our fair share of challenges, from gross trial and error to steep learning curves. However, with the support of our loyal customers, we were able to overcome these obstacles and turn our dream into a thriving reality.
Looking back on our journey, I am grateful for every moment, every mistake, and every triumph that led us to where we are today. Lifetime Leather is more than just a business, it's a testament to the power of passion and perseverance.
As I reflect on my journey, I realize that the trials and hardships I faced were the very things that pushed me towards my greatest passion. It's funny how life works sometimes. That package of leather tools I received, the abandoned couch on the side of the road, and the struggle to make ends meet all led me to where I am today.
Through the ups and downs, I never gave up. I kept a positive attitude and focused on the gift within the hardship. And with that mindset, Lifetime Leather was born. It wasn't easy, but with a lot of determination we made it work.
Our business is more than just a leather shop; it's a symbol of quality, durability, and sustainability. We take pride in creating goods with purpose, products that are made to last and can be repaired, not tossed in the trash. Each item is meticulously tested and comes with a lifetime warranty because we believe they are more than just bags; they are heirlooms that will last generations.
As you read my story, I hope you see that no matter what challenges come your way, there's always a gift within the struggle. So keep pushing forward, keep a positive attitude, and remember that high tides lift all ships. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and thank you for supporting Lifetime Leather.