From wheelchair to running shoes
March 16, 2010
By Suzanne Ovel
- Wounded Warrior returns to duty after being confined to a wheelchair
When Spc. Shane Rose became injured after dislocating his femur, his loss of the ability to walk was soon shadowed by other losses, those of independence and his sense of self.
His journey since came with the especially difficult and painful task of becoming someone different - stronger of spirit and weaker of body - than he was before.
Before, Rose spent his time healing Soldiers as a medic in the Army. Healing others had been a lifetime passion; in fact, he joined the military to get into the medical field.
"I grew up in a lifestyle of poverty, and it's kind of a black hole... and it's kind of hard to escape that on your own," said Rose, who was raised in Springfield, Ore.
He enlisted in 2005, going first to Germany and then to Iraq, where he served with both the 1st Armored Division and with the Marines as a borrowed medic.
It was in Iraq that Rose injured his right femur, destroying the connective tissue that held it in place - most likely from the weight of nearly 150 pounds of gear along with the increased activity of serving with the Marines, he said.
His femur didn't slip out until after he returned to Germany, while he was simply walking.
"I took a step with my right leg, and I knew immediately something was horribly wrong. It felt like bone-on-bone," said Rose. "It was the worst (pain) I ever felt."
At an aid station, his femur was put back into its socket, and while he felt some pain, he managed fairly well for the next several months. Then in one week, in the last part of October 2007, his life changed abruptly as he went from walking to being wheelchair-bound.
"We found out later ... that the blood supply had been interrupted, but not a lot, and gradually the right sequence of events went into place and the tissue (connected to the femur) just died," said Rose.
It wasn't just his ability to walk that left him. Rose couldn't dress himself, or even go to the restroom without his wife helping him.
The Army transferred him to the Warrior Transition Battalion to be as close to his family as possible for their built-in support structure. There, he relied on his wife and the help of Spc. John Schroeder, a medic who served as Rose's caregiver.
Soon, the anger and frustration built, along with the questions of "Why me'" and "What did I do to deserve this'", and then, finally, blame.
"I would actually wheel around the hospital and try to pick a fight with people," Rose said. "The fact that I did that - me - that's not the type of person I am, but I did that."
Doctors spent months examining him, trying to find the best plan of care to treat his dislocated femur, which Rose said is an extremely rare injury.
In May 2008, Rose saw a civilian practitioner in Seattle- Dr. Phil Downer, an orthopedic specialist who was "the best of the best for all things hip." That led to two surgeries- one to remove dead tissue, and a second to replace it with artificial tissue.
"Within 72 hrs of my surgery, I could stand. I couldn't do it very well, but I could function," he said.
While he could stand, he couldn't walk - the surgery had also sewn his femur and hip together.
Enter physical therapy, every single day. In the first sessions, his therapist, Michael Hammond, would move his leg for him.
"He was mean enough to get the job done; I can't compliment him enough," said Rose. "The physical therapy was hard; it was rough; it hurt; it was miserable to go to. But, the results were rapid and apparent."
He systematically recovered, going from a wheelchair to crutches, to walking in a pool, using a cane, elliptical training, and finally, running.
"I'm still not fast, but I can run," Rose said. In fact, he passed his diagnostic physical fitness test in January, at his new unit with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe in Belgium, where he returned to duty in November 2009. He plans to take and pass his official test at the end of February.
He credits WTB Command Sgt. Maj. James Davis with encouraging him to stay in the Army; he was one of the first leaders to tell him, "Absolutely, we'll keep you."
He's received similar support with his current unit. Rose had to re-qualify to practice as a medic; he also got help from his unit with re-meeting physical standards and other military training. He plans to eventually apply to get into a physician's assistant program.
His advice to other injured Soldiers is to persevere. "I know how hard it is, I really do. If I had known how I feel now back then, it would have been easier... Getting from hell to being human again is a hard process. But it gets easier if you just keep on going. You can't quit."