March 1, 2015

Quadruple Amputee Stands Tall Again

With the help of prosthetics, Manuel Salazar (pictured) has found a new perspective on life, and he hopes to help others do the same.

(NewsUSA) - Twenty-two-year-old Manuel Salazar had just begun work on a construction site in Georgia when, in an instant, his life was changed forever.

A crane on the job site hit a power line, sending it to the ground where Salazar was standing, and hitting him twice with 115,000 volts of electricity. While exposure to this dose of electricity is enough to kill anyone, miraculously Salazar survived to tell the tale.

However, Salazar's injuries were grave. His burns were life-threatening and required that his arms and legs be amputated. The emotional struggle ahead of him as a quadruple amputee was overwhelming.

"I didn't understand why they had saved my life," said Salazar. "I didn't think life could go on."

But press on he did, and he was given new hope numerous times from the help of donated allograft tissue, a gift from deceased human donors. AlloSource, one of the nation's largest non-profit providers of skin, bone and soft tissue allografts, provided the life-saving skin grafts to cover Salazar's burns and promote healing.

After his stay in the burn unit, he was brought to the Denver Center for Extremities at Risk. Because of the extent of his amputations, it was difficult to fit prosthetics for Salazar.

Dr. Ross Wilkins and the team at the center again used human tissue processed at AlloSource to help Salazar's mobility. Donor bone was used to help build Salazar a shoulder. Along with muscle from Salazar's back, the new shoulder can sustain a lightweight, highly functional prosthetic. With the new shoulder and prosthetic, Salazar can now feed himself, brush his teeth and even scratch his head, many simple things that he could not accomplish before.

Despite his ongoing physical setbacks, Salazar insists that he is the same man he was before the accident six years ago. In fact, his stubbies (short prosthetic legs that allow him to walk in a shuffling motion) and wheelchair have hardly held him back: Salazar skis, water-skis, swims, drives and wants to go ski diving. He also opened an auto body shop called Progressive Auto Works, in Colorado, and employs a team of people.

He speaks often to groups and inspires others with his incredible spirit.

"I'm thankful to be alive," said Salazar. "I want to try new things. I see life in a whole new way."