Victor's TMR surgery & Bionic Arm
Organized by: Victor Barroso Jr.
On November 18, 2012, I was granted a second chance at life. It was on this day I lost my right arm, lost dear friends, and only through a miracle of God, was brought back to life after being presumed dead. Days prior to this life-changing incident, I alongside a dear friend, Jonathan Carrasco, decided to go on vacation to the country of Cuba. Cuba, as we all know, is a country whose citizens are held at the grasp of a totalitarian regime. Despite the country’s socialistic bureaucracy, my parents are from there; and I thought visiting Cuba would bring me closer to my culture. On the afternoon of November 18th, 2012, Jonathan and I, joined by three of our friends from Cuba, Alvaro Abrahan Cabrero Rodriguez and brothers Maykel and Robin Rodriguez Lopez, started our journey to the city of Camaguey from Cienfuegos. I was driving, Jonathan was in the passenger seat, and our three friends were in the back, when a Chevrolet truck carrying 43 passengers struck us head on at 6pm. The impact from the collision injured 33 passengers in the truck, and instantly took the life of six, including all four passengers accompanying me. I don’t know how, or why my life was spared, but I am determined to use this God given opportunity to make a difference. I was holding onto life by a thread when extracted from the vehicle post-accident. The car accident left me with traumatic and severe brain injuries, loss of blood that required 5 transfusions, terrible wounds, and both lungs perforated. And due to the severities of the wounds, my right arm was amputated. For eight days, I was in a coma, and the doctors decided to disconnect me from the ventilator machine, with little to no hope in my abilities to survive without life support. Miraculously, I began breathing on my own. The months following the accident were the darkest days anyone could imagine. These days were filled with fear, depression, anger, confusion, and very little care or sympathy from those around me. I needed my families support, love, and care in those hard moments that I was encountering at that time. The brain trauma had left me with very little recollection of what happened, where I was, or who I was. All that was most certainly real, in those moments after coma, was intense physical pain. Occasionally, doctors would remove the dead and infectious tissue from the amputated arm wound, to potentially promote healing. Due to Cuba’s lack of medical advancement, and little regard to patient safety, I remember them scraping the dead tissue without any anesthetic or sedative. While I was in the hospital, I contracted a bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, causing severe and painful skin infections. The lack of infection prevention control was evident in Cuba’s hospital, as I continuously experienced numerous infections. As a patient in Cuba, I learned the gravity of the hospital’s quality and the severity of the hospital’s condition- no hygiene, no A/C, lack of medication, and the failure to execute processes of care. After 13 days in the hospital, I was sent to jail with open and infected wounds, and no therapy. The conditions in the jail were inhumane and filthy, and much worse than the hospital. All I can remember, on my first days in Jail, was my wound itching incessantly and bleeding continuously, and unfortunately, the medical attention was scarce. I waited impatiently in jail for trial, as legal actions had been taken under Cuba’s judicial socialistic bureaucracy. I was very anxious and desperate waiting for the trial, to be sent home. Instead I was sentenced to seven years in prison, despite the evidence demonstrating that I, indeed, was not responsible for the tragic accident. Instead, I myself was a victim! They withheld the documents from court showing that I did not have any alcohol or drugs in my system, and concealed that I had suffered severe brain injuries and had been in an eight day coma. I was unsure as in to why all this information was concealed in court, but I could only presume that I was innocently sentenced to place political pressures on President Obama’s administration in hopes to the release of 3 Cubans, who were imprisoned in the United States for spying. Regardless of the country’s political turmoil, I still could not understand the lack of sympathy. I spent 28 months in two Cuba’s prisons, El Convinado del Este and La Condesa. I was wasting away with rashes all over my body, continuous ongoing stomach viruses, malnourishment, and little to no medical attention; and when medical attention was given, it was rudimentary. On one occasion, I remember they performed a gastroscopy to look inside my stomach, perhaps to determine the cause of my ongoing stomach viruses. Normally these gastroscopy procedures are performed with sedatives; however, in Cuba this was performed raw with lack of mercy. During that procedure, I literally felt like I was drowning for approximately 20 minutes. Awaiting desperation of weeks and months (851 days in prison), finally the day of March 19th, 2015 arrived and I was sent home free (USA). The Obama’s administration released the political prisoners in the United States, and subsequently I was brought back home. Attesting, that my earlier presumptions could potentially be correct! No amount of words or pictures exist that I can present to demonstrate all the pain suffered by the families of the victims of this horrific accident, and my family who suffered and fought for me to be free. This story, unfortunately, will never serve justice to the nightmare lived by the victims and the families of the victims. Despite being sentenced as a criminal, I was also a victim. I lost four of my closet friends, have to accept living my new life with one arm, and now am on a new road to recovery. Today, as I look at myself in the mirror, I try to look past the missing arm, and attempt to embrace life each and every day with a positive outlook. I know that this will be an ongoing challenge for me after losing my dominant arm. Activities most people take for granted every day, such as, tying shoelaces, opening a bottle, getting dressed, cutting and eating my meals, are a daily struggle for me; but I am determined to pull through all adversities. After medical research, I have come across a laboratory modular prosthetic arm for bilateral shoulder-level amputees, like myself. Shoulder level amputees are very rare, and because of its rarity, I am hopeful for this electric prosthetic right arm that works with brain signals. Before the placement of the arm, I must first undergo a procedure that consists of a surgical technique called Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR). The objective of the procedure is to separate the major arm nerves and transfer them to the residual nerve branches of the remaining muscle. This will in turn promote nerve signaling and impulse to transmit information to the myoelectric prosthesis, through the use of a complex software program that may control the artificial limb. In order to successfully undergo this procedure, unfortunately, large expenses are associated with it. The money will be used to get the TMR Surgery, a shoulder level Bionic Arm, ability for my arm to feel sense of touch, occupational therapy upper limb prosthetic rehabilitation and traveling to see specialized doctors out of state. Any and every contribution, be it big or small, will help me achieve my goal, and make me feel normal again. I thank you in advance for all your help and support. Bless you! #SeeBeyondYou Also created a Non Profit, so when I get my right arm, See Beyond You Corp. will help others amputees get arms that had tragic accident, like me. Below please find the link of the video of the prosthetic arm, take a look! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZmzY204zjQ