Coast Guard Veteran
Organized by: Michael Graham
Basically I was in a bad motorbike accident in Thailand. I spent the entire day cleaning up garbage from a remote beach. In the afternoon I decided to get on my motorbike to drive 7 kilometers north to a nearby beach where friends from Australia were staying. I planned to go back to my hostel and take a shower and change my clothes so that we could meet for a nice dinner. Little did my friends know..They would never see me again. On my way home driving north on the Island Koh Lanta around 1730 a large work truck in front of me hit the brakes. As I applied my brakes to slow down the front wheel slipped out on the sandy road beneath me. In a split second my life changed forever. I laid the bike down on the star-bird side and slid underneath a rusty guard rail. As I went underneath I did not realize that my leg was chopped by the rusty piece of metal. I fell approximately 15 feet into an embankment/river bottom on the side of the road. When I landed I looked down at my leg and thought "OK my leg is gone" It was hanging by a small piece of skin and muscle and I was lying in the ditch on the side of the road. The second thought that I had was. "I am going to die" About 30 seconds after I fell an old thai lady in her 70's appeared and was holding me and she kept telling me over and over."Don't go to sleep, everything will be ok" After that I looked over and several younger thai men were clearing the brush with machetes's to allow access for the paramedic crew. Approximately 2 minutes later a guy jumped down to help me and he said."I am an emergency trauma medical doctor from Germany, My name is Dr. Jakob Bernlochner" At that point I knew that I would live. However my leg was probably history. Anyway the doctor took charge on scene and tasked directed locals to bring medical supplies. He splinted my leg and wrapped my towel around the open wound. I was conscious the entire time. I begged him to accompany me to the local clinic. After 20 minutes the ambulance showed up and he jumped in and we took another 40 minutes to the local clinic. When I got there the doctor was on call and sleeping at home so we had to wait even longer for the doctor to show up. My leg was clearly to much for this small town doctor. I instructed the German Doc to remove my cell phone from my pocket and call the American Embassy. Furthermore I instructed him to relay to them I am a veteran and in need of a helicopter medivac asap. For whatever reason a helo was not available so the embassy instructed me to get on an ambulance and make my way to Bangkok hospital Phuket. The medical officer on duty explained that this is the closest and one of the best hospitals in all of Thailand. We parted ways and I began a nine hour ride going 100 miles an hour through farm country, City traffic, windy rural roads , etc. When I got to the hospital at 0300 the next day they gave me an estimate about 25,000 US dollars. I promptly swiped my credit card for $4500 US just to have a deposit to get into surgery. If I was unable to pay I would have ended up in a public hospital with an amputation. The public hospitals are scary. You don't ever want to be in that situation while traveling abroad. Not enough Nurses most family members of patients will sleep underneath the hospital bed and take care of themselves. Plus there are 10-30 people in one big common room.. Anyway I am very lucky and very blessed to be alive. After spending 40 day's in the hospital in Thailand and many many surgeries. External fixator. Muscle and soft tissue debridement, skin graft, infection, ETC. I flew home to Santa Barbara California to follow up on all of the surgeries that I had. I was expecting to start physical therapy. A week after I was home and finally got in to see my orthopedic surgeon he took one look at my leg he determined it was infected and rushed me off to the local hospital. Everything had to come out from Thailand. He removed the titanium nail through my tibia and he put an external fixture back on my leg with 12 pins going through and giant screws to hold the thing in place too. At the same time he had to remove all of the necrotic tissue from the top of my leg and my tibia was exposed so we put a wound vacuum on my bone and I had an iv pick put in my arm so that i could give myself intravenous antibiotics for 6 weeks. After that they cut me loose. Now I am at home with a nurse that comes three days a week to my house to change the wound dressing. I am unable to work at this time and my medical bills are going through the roof. Very stressful. I've never done anything this scary or life altering ever. Life happens fast. Unfortunately I cannot work as a commercial fisherman.so I will be using my Montgomery GI bill to get an education(blessing in disguise) I have applied for disability from Social Security. However it takes time. Money is running out and bills are going up.