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Life Stories: Tissue Donation Gives Amputee the Strength to Reclaim His Life

Manuel Manuel

Tissue Recipient: Colorado

In just one instant, Manuel life was changed forever when a downed power line struck him. He was just 22 years old when 115,000 volts of electricity were sent through his body. Unable to help due to the risk of further electrical shock, his coworkers were forced to watch him suffer life-threatening burns. He was airlifted to Doctors Hospital, a leading burn clinic in Augusta, Georgia. It was a miracle he survived.

Manuel spent three months receiving skin grafts from AlloSource to heal his burns. However, he still lost both arms and legs. The physical and emotional struggle was overwhelming. “I didn’t understand why they had saved my life,” explains Manuel. “I didn’t think I could go on.”

Nonetheless, this courageous young man pressed on. After his stay at in the burn unit, he was taken to The Denver Center for Extremities at Risk. While the extent of his amputations made him a difficult candidate for prosthetics, the team at the center used human bone from a donor to build Manuel a new shoulder that could be fitted with a prosthetic. With his new shoulder and prosthetic, Manuel could once again feed himself, brush his teeth and even scratch his head.

“Manuel has taught me a lot about courage. Life goes on and he goes on with it.”

— CoCo Saltzgiver, Manuel’s caregiver

Manuel is looking forward to improvements to his legs as new techniques for fitting prosthetic legs over the amputation site become perfected. Yet today, because of the donated tissue and prosthetics, he drives, skis, waterskis, and owns an auto body shop.

Manuel admits that the first two years after the accident were very hard. He experienced personal setbacks but was inspired by other amputees in his support groups. “Now I am just thankful to be alive,” he says. “I want to try new things. I see life in a whole new way.”

 


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