A wounded warrior’s story of recovery
Taking orders isn’t something Senior Master Sergeant Martin Smith is used to. The active-duty Air Force member and father of four is usually the one telling others how things are done. But a recent turn of events in Martin’s life led him to become the one taking orders from his doctors at MOTUS, also known as Mountain Orthopedic Trauma Surgeons at Swedish.
An orthopedic emergency
In August 2012, Martin was on his way home from work in Colorado Springs. This was a commute he often traveled on his motorcycle. "There was a lot of construction that day," said Martin. "I wasn’t aware that the road was down to one lane and as I braked, I slid downhill, swerved and hit the car in front of me." Martin severely broke his left leg in multiple places. He took his belt and made a tourniquet to stop the bleeding as someone else from the scene came to his aid. "This guy came to help me and held the tourniquet in place until AirLife came to take me to the hospital," explains Martin.
He was rushed to Swedish Medical Center in Denver where he was immediately assessed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Wade Smith.
"Martin had suffered an open tibia fracture," explains Dr. Smith. "Not only were bones of the leg shattered, the skin and muscles were torn off leaving the bone exposed to infection."
Due to the severity of Martin’s injury, Dr. Smith was unable to save his entire leg. "In some cases of severe limb trauma, amputation is unavoidable and in fact, can provide better long-term function than a severely damaged leg. However, it is critical to use all means to preserve as much of the limb as possible to enhance future function and return to life," says Dr. Smith.
Martin underwent a below-knee amputation.
The road to recovery
"I was in a state of shock and never thought I was going to lose some of my leg," said Martin. "I wasn’t really able to soak it all in until after surgery." He received a prosthetic and did months of post-surgery therapy. "It was a stressful time for me but Dr. Smith always knew what to say to calm me down in the situation. One thing he said that changed my life around was to stop being a patient and start being an athlete again, so I did."
Perseverance through adversity
Martin swam competitively in high school and has always considered himself athletic. Shortly after his conversation with Dr. Smith, Martin received the chance of a lifetime and was asked to be a part of the 2013 Warrior Games. The Warrior Games showcase the spirit of competition for wounded, ill or injured service members from all military branches. He made the swim team and won the silver medal in the below-knee amputee category.
"It was one of the greatest moments of my life and one of my biggest accomplishments," said Martin. "Dr. Smith was really my motivation to go beyond what I believed I could do at that point in time in my life."
Martin’s goal is to ride a motorcycle and share this hobby with his wife again. Martin says he owes his current life to Dr. Smith and MOTUS, and the medical expertise they gave him during the most difficult time of his life.
"I want to thank Dr. Smith for kicking my butt and getting me back to living my life!"