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Trying to live, Living to "Tri"

  • Published
  • By Capt. John Berger
  • Air Mobility Command Commander's Action Group
Our friendship started in the early hours of June 24, 2012, when I was hit by a truck as I crossed a street. The first time we met I was lying unconscious on a stretcher in a trauma bay within Barnes-Jewish Hospital's emergency department. Scott Farber was the trauma surgery resident on call working in the emergency room that night.

It was discovered that I was bleeding internally so they rushed me into the operating room where they removed 8 inches of my large intestine, and ultimately saved my life.

Growing up I wanted to play shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals like Ozzie Smith. Scott wanted to fly fighter jets like Maverick in Top Gun. When our childhood dreams didn't play out as we imagined, we chose other careers. I joined the U.S. Air Force, and am stationed at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Scott became a doctor, and he's currently a resident in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, Mo., with aspirations to eventually become a surgeon in the Army Reserve.

The day after my accident, I woke up in the Barnes-Jewish Surgical ICU to the rhythmic hum of the ventilator, the beeping of the heart monitor, and my mom whispering to me, "Everything's going to be alright." My last memory was stepping out into the crosswalk, looking up and seeing the oncoming headlights. Despite having a breathing tube down my throat and wires everywhere, I wiggled my toes, squeezed my fingers, mentally recited the Cardinal's lineup, and thought, "ok...I'll be alright."

Aside from internal bleeding and the injury to my large intestine, my pelvis was fractured in two places. After spending 11 days in the hospital, I was discharged July 4, 2012. The professionalism, compassion, and expertise of the staff at Barnes left an ever-lasting impression on me. People tell me that I was unlucky to be hit by the truck, but I tell them that I was lucky to be three blocks from one of the finest hospitals in the country. I was also lucky to receive such amazing support from Scott AFB and the greater Saint Louis Area.

Since the accident, Scott and I have become close friends. It turns out that he lived one floor above me in the same building. One day I floated the idea of doing an Ironman Triathlon together as a "victory lap" on the one year anniversary of the accident. As an inexperienced swimmer, Scott was apprehensive initially, but he called me the next afternoon and said, "I'm in...let's do it." Despite our busy schedules, we've trained 14-20 hours a week for 6 months. In fact, April 15th I finished the Boston Marathon and was a block away when the bombs went off. Scott was the first person to contact me.

On June 23, 2013, 364 days after our initial meeting, Scott and I are traveling to Nice, France, to compete in one of the most grueling sporting events in the world. It starts with a 2.4-mile swim in the Mediterranean, followed by a 112-mile bike in the mountains overlooking Nice, and finishes with a marathon, a 26.2-mile run along the beaches of southern France.

Ironman France will be true test of strength, endurance, and determination, but when we cross that finish line...there will be thousands of people crossing the line with us. Everyone from our friends and family who shaped us, to the remarkable professionals we work alongside every day in the U.S. Air Force and at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, to all those who have overcome, or helped someone overcome adversity.

I may never become a shortstop for the Cardinal's and Scott may never become a fighter pilot, but June 23rd we're going to France to do something that Ozzie Smith and Maverick have not.