For personal reasons, “Billy” did not want his real name revealed here. He lives in the Midwest as a double-leg, below-knee amputee and has had more brushes with death than most people.
In a telephone interview, 59-year-old Billy said, “The first incident (affecting me) was on July 3, 1971, when my parents were on vacation and my friend and I got some gasoline to mow a lawn. We used an ice cream pail to hold the gas and decided to screw around.”
Billy and his friend played with firecrackers around the gas, the gas became ignited, and Billy caught fire and had extensive leg burns. An off-duty fireman nearby saved Billy’s life after tackling him to the ground, but Billy would have lifelong PTSD-related symptoms from the incident.
Then ten years ago, Billy learned he had diabetes after having a diabetic seizure while driving his automobile, but survived the ordeal because his children were there to help.
He said, “Then in September 2014, I had a (diabetic-related) sore on my toe. It wouldn’t heal and it kept growing and doctors decided to amputate. After they took my toe off, I had septic shock and had to be airlifted to a better-equipped hospital where they ended up amputating my left leg off below-knee.” While at the hospital, Billy “died” for 30 minutes before doctors revived him.
“Then I went to rehab, returned home, and was home only two weeks before I started getting sick again,” he said. “I passed out and was taken to the hospital, where they said I had too much potassium in my blood, which was affecting my heart. I flat-lined again and was ‘dead’ another 30 minutes before being revived. The people at the hospital called me ‘Cat Man’ because I had so many lives.”
In May 2015, he lost his other leg below-knee to amputation and was fitted for a second prosthesis. As if that weren’t enough, last December he had a heart attack. Doctors tried airlifting once again, but had to settle for a closer hospital because of the helicopter having to face poor flying conditions. Billy had a stent placed in his heart and was sent off for rehabilitation.
He said to people with disabilities going through life-threatening difficulties: “Don’t give up. Trust in God that he will take care of you. I’m here on Earth yet for some reason. Just be strong and go with the flow.”