Help Andy Walk
Organized by: Andy Smith
My name’s Andy, and I’m a 33-year-old burn survivor and amputee. On the morning of July 15, 2009, my life became a career battle. It’s been a journey, and how I’m still alive really makes little sense to me. On my way to church in the summer of 2009, I changed lanes on my motorcycle, drifting into rapidly halting traffic. I never saw it happening; it was instantaneous. The impact sounded as a gunshot, I was instantly on my back, crackrd or crushed from my skull down to my fingers and toes. My gas tank split and erupted, spilling and igniting all over me. All my fingers on my right hand were broken, as well as my arms. My left leg was crushed and mangled all the way down. I swung at the flames, burning each finger on my right hand, down to nothing. With a collapsed lung and a fratured skull, somehow I was able to share my allergies and contact information before beginning to code, I believe a few times that first day. I would quickly be flown to Fresno, California. After a three-week coma, and three or four months in the hospital, I was hopping on one leg with a walker down the hall to therapy. After six months of surgery and rehab, I was whisked off to three months of inpatient brain rehabilitation. These insurance benefits ran out quickly, as did mine. Everything changed. No more brain treatment. I had run the gamete of pharmaceutical medication to keep myself operating. The highs had been high, the lows had been deep and desolate. I’d have to find ways to have some sort of a life again. In between Bible college classes, I've acquired for myself and another, a free flight to Miami for a laser operation. I've pushed myself to the limits to survive and endure this long, falling, getting back up, learning an entirely new normal. My goal of living independently came to fruition a year and a half ago. Without a clue what to do now that I’d survived and could still relearn things if I worked hard enough, I enrolled online at Southern California Seminary. I figured this would be like therapy for me, and if I failed, I could simply move on. Nervous about my brain injury disqualifying me from here on out, I was actually accepted. It was a rough start with all my trauma therapy, surgeries, disabilities, nightmares, medical/financial payments and bookkeeping, bus planning and traveling, etc.. My first class, a “B.” Then an “A” and a “C.” I started to suddenly feel confident in my writing. I have earned an “A” in the last 12 consecutive courses. Slowly God is rebuilding me. My life is mostly disconnected from the norm. So, I have to step out and do things solo. When I received my first prosthesis and tried to walk, I got on a bus and responded to the news’ call for many more meals at Christmas time at a homeless shelter. I would walk in, with my new, goofy walking pattern, with a thousand dollars. I kept hearing on the news, the same need neglected, so I simply took care of it. This is how I serve the Body and the needs of others now, going on secret missions to evangelize and provide, as/if my health allows. Becoming a better, stronger man is forever a process, mine just became one hell of a process, that’s all. With what I’ve been through, I’m more emotional now for sure, but nothing can seem to take the fight out of me. I commit myself to understanding Christ, personal endurance of pain and suffering, and the post traumatic battles in my mind. It’s been 55 surgeries now, and the journey continues. Every few years a health issue almost takes me out, but I press on. My wedding never occurred; I just couldn't hang on. Now I’ve taken on a personal mission toward further independence and health. Believe it or not, I’ve lived alone in my own pad for over a year now, manage my finances, meals, cleaning, and even shopping and doctors’ appointments on a bus in my wheelchair. If I can do something, I do it. I've even been scolded a bt for leaving surgery on a bus. Nothing’s easy, and most of it hurts these days. But I find a way. Walking again regularly has always been the goal. I have walked a little bit in the past: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9jK9DeffEY), and consequently have been amputated and injured more. I've survived MRSA all over my body twice now, and osteomylitis. This winter was a tough one, filling my fridge with iv medication to inject myself each day for 6 weeks. I Made it though. For the last three years I’ve been following the progress of a surgical operation popping up more frequently around the world known as osseointegration. Based on the same principle utilized in dental implants, the metal titanium used in this procedure has been shown to fuse with bone tissue, creating a direct, skeletal suspension. Osseointegration usually involves two seperate surgeries, weeks apart. The Australian team will perform mine is a single operation. Osseointegration frees people like myself of donning any suspension or socketed system. The prosthesis can then attach/snap on and off of the bone, directly, without breaking skin down or causing pain. This is also known as a direct skeletal prosthesis, or an endo-exo system. Many say it’s just too dangerous to go for, as there will be a stoma, or opening in my leg that will always be there. After all I’ve been through, after reflecting on the brevity of life each day now, after surviving all these issues, I’ve decided, I’d be crazy not to do this. I’m gonna man up, fly across the world, and come back walking. Life's just too short. I wrote a number of countries over the last year in my free time, and have been in conversation with many teams. A rep. here in the States for the Australian osseointegration team, Fred Hernandez met me here in Bakersfield for dinner. What a kind and inspirational man. He was in an accident that crushed and burned him while riding on his motorcycle, just like me.... gives me chills sharing that. This meeting and the events surrounding my journey to walk again seem to be funneling into some sort of divine fruition. I just know it. I recieved an estimate after being accepted into Australia's osseo program- It will take $84,500 and some bravery to accomplish this trip, procedure, and rehabilitation. This includes everything except my meals. I'll hop on a plane and spend 4 weeks in Sydney, Australia. The inpatient recovery from surgery takes only a few days. After, I will be living in an apartment, and going to therapy each day learning how to bear weight and walk. Whether it’s a home invasion I’ve had to scare off while recovering from an amputation, or battling pain and images that won’t leave my mind alone, I’ve found a way to get up and press on. I’m stepping out in faith to put my blood, sweat, and tears into forward motion, on two legs. By the grace of God, I will schedule and begin planning this trek once the pieces come together, and I find a good travel companion. People tell me all the time what a miracle I am…. but the miracle that I risk my life for, the one that I dream of, I haven’t reached yet. I wanna walk. Doesn’t even matter how I look walking, as long as I’m walking. I believe God will make this happen. With my injuries and skin grafts, Osseointegration is the only way. I believe in my heart I will accomplish this goal.