TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR TRAUMA STORY
On October 13th, 2012, I was walking home when I came across some train tracks. There was train stopped on the tracks and I couldn’t see the beginning or end of the train. My apartment was on the other side of the tracks so I decided to walk along the stopped train until I could walk around it. As I am walking next to the train I lost my footing on the gravel incline and fall. As I am falling I reach out with my right hand to grab onto whatever I can. My sleeve gets snagged on something on the train. Right then the train starts moving. Slowly at first but I am panicking. I cannot get unhooked from the train. The train is pulling me backward by my sleeve. The train is moving faster to the point where I can no longer keep up with it. I pull myself onto the train car I am stuck to. I unhook my sleeve as I stand on the edge of the coal hopper car. We go around a curve and the rail car jostles me so much I fall down. As I am holding on for dear life my left leg gets pulled under the train wheel. I am rolled around under the train and that is when both of my legs are cut off. I ended up on my stomach in between the two rails covering my head with the train speeding above me. I wait for what felt like hours for it to pass over. When it finally did I rolled onto my back. I saw my left leg was gone about mid thigh. I didn’t notice that my right leg was missing below the knee. I tried to put pressure on the left leg but it didn’t slow the bleeding. I tried pulling myself off the track but it felt like all my strength was gone. I ended up pulling out my cell phone and dialing 911. A lady answered and I told her I was hit by a train, my name and my phone number. She told me that they would get someone out to me then hung up. 7 minutes pass by before they call back. It is a different lady and I work with her to navigate the search helicopter to where I was. Two police officers arrive on the scene first. One pulls me off of the tracks the other officer pulls my legs off of the tracks. Eventually more police officers arrive as well as an ambulance. I remember being loaded into the ambulance then they took me to The Ohio State University Medical Center. I arrived at the hospital with no blood pressure and no pulse.
WHAT WAS RECOVERY LIKE?
I had four surgeries. I spent six days in the SICU and another six days in the hospital before being transferred to inpatient rehab. I spent five days in inpatient rehab. I went home living life in a wheelchair. My post hospital life consisted of intense phantom pain that my nerve pains no longer worked on. Constant phantom pain caused insomnia and it wasn’t until three week after I got home that I finally met with a pain management doctor. A month after my return home I was fitted for prosthetic legs. Prosthetic legs aren’t a put on and go type of accessory. It was a very slow and painful process but I pushed myself. Six months after I got home from the hospital I got into rehabilitation at The MetroHealth Hospital. My first visits were just working on balance and core strength. Then we worked on proper walking and eventually progressed to more difficult tasks such as stairs and obstacles. About a year after I started at rehab I finally got to a place where I was happy. My mobility was up to what I wanted. I still walked with a cane but over the next few months I got rid of that. I have recently gone back to rehab to learn how to run. Running is something I loved to do before my accident and something I never thought I would get back but I want to try.
A lot has impacted my recovery and I am grateful for all of it. My worst memory in life is the reason I had a successful and motivated recovery. While I was laying on those railroad tracks that not I made peace with myself dying. I thought about not getting married or having kids or grandkids. I thought about missing class on Monday. I thought about everything I ever wanted and how I was going to miss out on that. The most upsetting thought I had was why am I wasting time on the phone with 911 when I should be calling my mom and dad and telling them how much I love them and how sorry I am. I was alone, in the dark and dying slowly and there was nothing I could do to change it. Even when the police officers and ambulance showed up I still felt I was too far gone to save. I was lying in a puddle of blood, more than I thought I had in me and I felt my strength diminish to the point where I thought I would fall asleep and not wake up. So when I woke up the next morning I was happy. I looked down and saw both of my legs were gone. I looked at my hand and saw my pinky was almost gone. I thought even though I am missing some body parts I am so glad to have woken up. I was happy to be alive from that moment on. My family and friends visited and they were the greatest support system any patient could wish for. They made me feel like me which was something I never thought I would need help with. The two biggest impacts of my recovery were my close call with death and my family and friends that made me me again.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE TSN PROGRAM? OR WHY DO YOU WANT TO SHARE YOUR STORY WITH OTHER SURVIVORS/LOVED ONES?
I had a really great recovery and rehabilitation. I know that is because of my amazing support network. My family, friends and community came together to help me through it all. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. Realizing that me and my family began to wonder how hard it must be for individuals that do not have a good support network. Getting hurt can be expensive and without people to lean on recovery and rehab can be incredibly hard. That is why we started The Mark Kalina Jr Foundation. Our mission is to provide support to traumatic injury victims, promote education on the prevention of traumatic injury, and assist similar non-profit endeavors. We want to help individuals that survived a traumatic injury to have all the help and resources they could need to ensure a successful recovery and life. The foundation has given away a few grants and is working with other non-profits on future projects. This year we are giving a trauma survivor a van. He will be able to use that van to transport his wife and two girls when he is ready to use hand controls.
During an appointment at rehab, my PT was telling me about her family friend that was involved in an accident. He was having a hard time dealing with what happened. My PT and I ended up taking a trip out to see him. I was nervous and didn’t really know what I got myself into. We ended up having a really good time. Me and him had this bond that I never thought about. We were trauma survivors. We talked about everything I could think of. A week or two after that visit my PT asked if I would like to do that sort of thing for the hospital. I said yes and she directed me to The Trauma Survivors Network. I met with Sarah Hendrickson and she explained the whole program to me. I was worried at first that I wasn’t going to be too good at it. But over time I improved and now it is my favorite thing to do. I love going into a room and seeing the face of a patient and recognizing myself in them. I really enjoy getting to know the patient, their families and friends and leaving them knowing they are a little better than when I entered the room.
The Trauma Survivors Network makes a difference every day. Sarah Hendrickson runs the program and she alone improves the trauma patients’ experience even before a peer visitor meets with them. TSN is so helpful, not only to the new trauma patient but also to the TSN volunteer making the peer visit. I believe my recovery is a lifelong thing and TSN gives me the opportunity to see what good can come from the worst experience in my life.
My wisdom for recently injured survivors is positivity will allow you to accomplish what, you at one time, thought was impossible.
** I forgot to mention this: A year after my accident I got involved with Operation Lifesaver. Operation Lifesaver is an international rail safety program. A relative told me about Operation Lifesaver and I wanted to get involved to share my story. I was made the national spokesperson for the Operation Lifesaver “See Tracks? Think Train!” safety campaign. I travelled around the US giving safety presentations to kids, high schoolers and professional drivers. It was helpful for me to use my horrible experience in a positive way. Telling my story to prevent people from trespassing on train tracks gave me purpose and made my accident like it wasn’t all bad.