My meeting with the bionic man took place outside of Starbucks on a beautiful fall evening on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. I was so riveted by him, nothing could divert my attention, not the students hustling along the sidewalk next to our table nor the sweet smell of pumpkin spice in the air. He extended his hand to shake mine and I didn’t hesitate; I shook it just like I would any other. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then I asked, “What’s your story?” I was hooked for the next hour.
March 1st, 2008, Jason Koger was riding his ATV near his Kentucky home when he struck a fallen, live power line that held 7800 volts of electricity. His injuries were so severe; he was transferred by helicopter to the burn unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His heart stopped for thirty seconds and his arms were burned inside and out, his tendons torn to shreds. After three days in a coma, he awoke to news that would change his life forever: Both arms had to be amputated to save his life. As he spoke, I couldn’t help but look down at my left arm I nearly lost in an accident as a child. I rubbed my still numb fingers together and I thought about the pain and the scarring I have endured. I also felt some shame. Jason takes what happened to him like a minor nuisance – a speed bump in the road. It’s not an act; it’s how he feels. Mere minutes after hearing the devastating news, he focused on his wife and daughters and he thanked God for his life. “I told the doctor the only thing I want is to hold my two daughters in my arms again. It’s all that matters.”
I also have two daughters and I fought back tears as he spoke.
Jason became the first double amputee in the world to be fitted with an i-limb – battery-powered technology that looks and moves like a natural hand. It’s incredible. I’m not sure there’s anything he can’t do. Pictures of his children are embedded into his prostheses like inspiring tattoos. His smile is infectious and his sense of humor is amazing. In his unmistakable Kentucky drawl he said he has a t-shirt that reads: “Look Ma, No Hands” and he asked designers to include a bottle opener under his left forearm because “any good redneck should have that.” He plans to use his new arms to reach out to as many people as possible. “There are people who lose limbs who want to kill themselves,” he said softly. “I know God can use this. I have to help them to never lose hope.”
After walking him to his car (yes, he drives too), I got in mine and headed home. I hit the highway, windows down and the radio off. I flashed back to elementary school when I pretended to be Steve Austin, “The Six Million Dollar Man.” I actually “ran” to school in slow motion and told my classmates I got there in seconds. All these years later, I felt like God was winking at me as He arranged this meeting with Jason – the real Bionic Man; better, stronger and fastly letting God write the epic next chapter in a pretty cool story.
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