Trying to walk a mile in his shoes

On Oct. 17, 2007, disbelief struck the small town of Paducah, Ky.  Josh Heine, the 18-year-old recent graduate of Paducah High School, was seen speeding in his uncle’s stolen Porsche, going in excess of 100 mph.  Suddenly, Heine lost control of the car, sending him off the road and directly into a tree. The force of the collision expelled Heine, who was not wearing his seatbelt, out of the car.

Physical TherapyBy the time paramedics arrived, they believed Heine was not going to make it to the hospital.  He stayed with the paramedics and fought his way to the hospital.  Once there, the doctors immediately began the process of getting him air-lifted to Vanderbilt Hospital in Tennessee; this was halted when they were not able to get him stable enough to be lifted to another hospital.  At this point, doctors already knew of at least 12 broken bones.

Heine had no feeling below his neck, prompting the use of an X-ray.  The results were disturbing; Heine had fractured his C4, C5, and C6 vertebrates, and doctors said he would never walk again.  After undergoing a series of surgeries to help with shattered bones in his arm, Heine was then found to have a broken pelvis and began the use of a catheter.

Two weeks later, Heine regained feeling on the right side of his body, although his left side was still unresponsive.  He then underwent a grueling eight-month rehab program at the Caring Bridge facility in Georgia.  These eight months were the most physically and emotionally draining months of his life but he fought hard and valiantly and to this day has improved his lower body functions and can now walk with the help of his Bioness unit, which is a small machine used to help the gait of an individual.

Heine’s accident was a shock to everyone in my family.  When I heard I was never going to be able to see my cousin Josh again, I was overcome with grief.  With the help of God and sheer will and determination, this strong young man not only defied the odds by living through the accident but also regained his sense of pride and self-worth now that he can walk again.  Nowadays, you hear far too often about people losing their lives due to reckless driving, but when the individual is of your own flesh and blood, you’re awakened to feelings you never knew existed and pain that you never want to feel again.  Before this accident I was wasting my time and money coming to college, with a cumulative GPA of 2.1 and a tardiness record that was pages long.  However, in the weeks that followed I became a witness to a miracle.  After several days, the doctors took Josh off of the morphine drip, causing him a great amount of discomfort.  With each passing day his spirit was rejuvenated and he beamed of optimism and decided that he was not going to let this ruin his life.

As I saw my cousin battle odds far greater than any I have ever faced in my life, it made the task of going to class and doing my homework seem so undemanding.  I used this as motivation to turn around my school work and my life.  I currently have a 3.2 GPA at Suffolk and am the public relations officer for Best Buddies, a program that helps to enrich the lives of people with disabilities through one-to-one friendships.  I will be seeing him for the first time since his accident at a wedding in May and I will thank him again, as I have so many times before, for helping to inspire me to strive for something better.  It is a miracle that Joshua Heine is walking the earth right now, and I am lucky to walk in his presence.

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