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Washington Voices

Teen amputee learning, looking ahead

Thu., July 17, 2014, midnight

The last thing Sebastian Greene, 18, remembers before he broadsided a huge truck on the morning of Oct. 8, 2012, was fiddling with the heater in his car.

“It was kind of cold and I was trying to get the heater right,” Greene said.

He was on his way to Mt. Spokane High School. “It was just a normal morning,” Greene said.

But the day was anything but normal – it’s the day he began to lose his right leg. This weekend he’s heading to the Amputee Coalition’s Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp in Ohio where he hopes he can learn from other amputees.

After the crash, Greene remembers screaming for help from the inside of the wrecked car. He reached for the steering wheel and found it in the passenger’s seat.

“I could move my left leg but my right leg was stuck,” Greene said. “I was in shock. I was sort of numb. I knew I shouldn’t move.”

In a picture from the accident scene his car looks like a crushed soda can, its radiator the only easily identifiable part.

Firefighters and paramedics worked frantically cutting the roof off the car and trying to free Greene – until they discovered his right leg was wrapped around the engine block.

“They told me they could amputate it right there – or lift me up and yank me out,” Greene said very matter-of-factly, glancing at the photo.

He went for the yank.

“All I remember is screaming and hearing my bones unraveling crack, crack, crack,” Greene said. He was airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital where he had several surgeries trying to save his leg.

After three weeks in the hospital and a week in rehab at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, he returned to school using a wheelchair and crutches.

And taking a lot of pain medication.

“I was very confused most of the time,” Greene said. “I don’t know how I managed to still go to school.”

He said his friends rallied around him no matter how grumpy he got, yet it soon became obvious that his leg wasn’t healing right.

“It felt like it was always asleep,” Greene said. “And I was always in pain.”

An appointment at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center last year revealed that the bone in Greene’s ankle was collapsing.

“There wasn’t enough circulation – the bone was dead – I was crushed,” Greene said.

He asked doctors there if they could simply amputate his leg.

“They were like, whoa kid, that’s a bit too fast,” he said, laughing.

Doctors tried a few more things but nothing really worked.

On Jan. 30, as Greene puts it: “Amputation happened.”

When he woke up he felt immediate pain relief and he finally had a sense that he could look ahead to the rest of his life.

He doesn’t want to diminish the impact of amputation, but he has no regrets.

“Let’s face it: I lived 17 years of my life with the leg and only six months without it,” Greene said. “I have a lot to learn.”

Physical therapists gave him information about the Amputee Coalition but he brushed it off.

“I’m a teenager, I didn’t need any of that support group stuff,” Greene said.

However, as he began to realize how different life is with one leg he changed his mind.

He called the coalition, and though he’s 18 and technically too old for the upcoming camp, he was immediately accepted.

“I’m going to be there for four days and I hope to learn a lot from the other kids there,” Greene said.

Mostly he worries about a million practical everyday things, especially since he’s off to college at Western Washington University this fall. In the middle of everything, he managed to graduate on time and now he just wants to get on with life.

“The only difference between me and anyone else is that I’m missing a leg,” Greene said.

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