Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

Survive. Connect. Rebuild.

A Program of the ATS

Stephen's Story

My experience with trauma: I was in a high speed motorcycle wreck June 21st 2009. I was going 130mph on my Sportbike on the interstate. A state trooper on the other side of the road saw me and hit his lights. I looked behind me to see what he was going to do and when I did, a SUV way up the road changed into the lane I was speeding in and I hit the side of the SUV. Things go fast at 130! The damage to my upper limbs resulted in bilateral arm amputations. I have come to realize that trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. It most definitely happens when you least expect it. The mental aspect is critical when overcoming trauma because it's normally easy to be negative and hard to be positive for most people.

Lessons Learned: Surviving Trauma is what you make of it. For me, I felt blessed to be alive, reminded myself constantly that it could have been worse! Don't get me wrong, I had my moments of sadness. But once you realize what happened to you and can accept it, that is when the real recovery process starts. Lucky for me, I had a great support group with constant encouragement through family and friends! You can do one of two things in trauma. You can wallow in your sorrow or you can MAN UP! Sometimes you have to man up and move on with life because life is too short and it’s a very precious thing.

Partnering with AMPOWER and TSN: I became an AMPOWER peer visitor soon after I was home from the hospital. I had a quad amputee come visit me in the hospital who was part the program and his visit made a huge impact in my recovery process! He lost both arms and legs and could still drive, do farm work, be self-sufficient, and was in his mid-60's! I was thinking, “I don't have anything to complain about.” If he could do it, I knew I could recover too. I feel obligated to peer visit folks because I personally know how helpful it is especially in the early stages of the recovery process.

My experience with the TSN at Carolinas Medical Center is a powerful one. It’s cool to relate to folks that aren't just fellow amputees but fellow trauma survivors. Trauma affects everyone differently but we all relate because trauma is trauma. It doesn't matter the specific type of trauma because the tools one uses to overcome that trauma to accepting the "new normal” are the same. TSN is a vital program in the recovery process because many folks that end up in the hospital from trauma may not have a good support group of family and friends. Having a fellow trauma survivor visit a new patient gives that patient someone to relate to, someone who has also had to overcome/survive and explain their methods or what was helpful. Peer support is so important because it helps to eliminate the fear of the unknown. It provides encouragement and hope to folks in a current weakened state. It can motivate folks to accept what has happened and get them moving down the road to recovery. It can help to put folks’ situations into perspective and remind them to be thankful and that it can always be worse. As I said before, I feel obligated to do peer visits for folks because it was done for me. I hope everyone who wants peer support would get the opportunity. This experience has a positive impact on the recovery process.