By DR KENNETH D KEMP
A grilled chicken and bacon sandwich with spinach, spicy mayo and avocado. It did little to show his creativity but for the 26-year-old chef featured in today’s article, preparing that meal was a welcome relief.
Four years ago and after another long 16-hour shift on his feet, he relished making something so quick and simple for his final meal of the day.
He absolutely loved working at this resort and had been there since their grand opening a few months prior.
Typically, before leaving he’d drink a glass of alcohol but this night he chose not to and made his way to his car around 12:30am not knowing his life would be forever changed within a few short minutes.
In cases of trauma, patients may develop post-traumatic amnesia but, in this situation, his recollection of that day remains unwavering.
Travelling at over 100mph, his car slammed into a tree with such immense prodigious force that the engine imploded. In doing so, it propelled forward and slammed into the right side of his body shattering every single bone in its path. He lost consciousness immediately.
Despite the hour, there were bystanders who saw the tragedy and called 911. He was rushed via ambulance to Princess Margaret Hospital. Several days later, he awoke in the intensive care unit and vividly recalls immediately trying to pull out his oxygen tubing, IV and disconnect his monitors.
He spent one year consecutively in hospital, confined to his bed and another three years in and out of hospital seeking surgical intervention and infection control.
In total, he underwent 38 surgeries to correct damage caused by the accident. He stopped counting his infections after the 20th occurrence. With metal implants throughout his body he had to have an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placed to prevent blood clots from entering his lungs.
It was after his 10th surgery that he entered a deep depression. Having to go to the bathroom in the bed where he lay and then being bathed and fed several times a day was a demeaning, humiliating experience.
He expresses - with deep gratitude that his medical care was stellar; the nurses and doctors treating him were amazing and he was surrounded by the love of family constantly. Despite this, he lost all hope that he’d ever be able to walk or work as a chef again and had an emotional breakdown.
He was in a dark place for a very long time, wishing he had died in the car accident. But his life was spared and his family pushed him to never give up; to never lose hope.
Once stable, he was discharged from the hospital via a wheelchair and was able to have very limited ambulation throughout the day with the assistance of crutches.
Successive surgeries to improve his bone alignment and augment his fractures with metal implants coupled with an intense physical therapy regimen soon granted him hope that he may be able to someday regain his independence.
Unfortunately, he hit a plateau after a year and his progress became delayed and then ultimately stagnant.
His hope was once again crushed. He was alive but his spirit was broken and it wasn’t until he found out he would become a father and his daughter was born that he began to push through the pain and doubt.
Today, he is a walking testimony of the miracles that can happen every day. A medical marvel he escaped one of the worst car accidents I’ve ever seen and the only visible remnants to outsiders is his notable limp when walking. He continues to have residual pain throughout his entire body, but particularly in his right lower back, hip and knee.
He walks with the use of an ankle foot orthotic and supportive shoe and plans to have one more surgery to address his limb length discrepancy and resultant limp.
With faith and a father’s love, even his internal scars have healed and he believes this happened to teach him patience and to enjoy life every single day.
He’s learned to never give up and two years ago moved to the Family Islands where he hopes to someday open a health-focused deli and smokehouse. Until then, he’s ready for whatever God has in store for him because his life now runs on faith.
One of the greatest and easiest lessons that can be taken from this patient’s story is the only constant thing in life is change. We can never predict what will happen or when it will happen so living life to the fullest is so deeply important.
Moreover, having patience and learning to always appreciate the people in our lives is a lesson well learned. Think just how much better we can be as a country if we each heed and manifest this lesson consistently.
A grilled chicken and bacon sandwich with spinach, spicy mayo and avocado. Funny enough he made this today and with a smile on his face, he’ll in all likelihood make it again tomorrow.
Nick-named ‘The Prince of Podiatry’, Dr Kenneth D Kemp is the founder and medical director of Bahamas Foot and Ankle located in Caves Village, Western New Providence. He served as the deputy chairman for the Health Council for five years and he currently sits on the board of directors for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation in his role as co-vice chairman.