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Amputee Survivors Reflect on Memorial Day Weekend - KOAM TV 7

Amputee Survivors Reflect on Memorial Day Weekend

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The final weekend of May is a time for reflection. For one Joplin tornado survivor and one wounded soldier it's a chance to reflect on how far they've come living life without limbs.

Matthew Stephens knows his life won't ever be the same since the Joplin tornado.

"I looked out the window and saw part of a roof fly by, and I didn't hear the tornado sirens or anything like that. And my last memory was the house exploding and being tossed through the air." Stephens says.

Whether it's surviving a disaster, or fighting on the front lines...trauma can come with a hefty price.
"Most would feel that they have lost their friends, they have lost their lifestyle, they've lost all their dreams, and sometimes they feel they've lost their focus in life."  says Dr. Rebecca Jeyaseelan, Medical Director of Freeman East Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit.

Former Marine Sgt. John Peck is confined to a chair and has mental scars from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I used some very bad language. I told nurses to get out of my room, I did not want anyone around me. I hated everyone." he says.

Both men,  fight the same struggles, adjusting to a life without limbs. Doctors
say the key to recovery is focusing on the present and not the past.

"They have survived the acute complications, or you know they have probably escaped death. And so we really have to focus on them being there today, and really getting them moving forward." Dr. Jeyaseelan says.

Stephens says his rehab was easier than he anticipated.

"Prosthetics have come along way. They're so advanced, they have microprocessors in them, and they're able to mimic really, a normal walking gate." Stephens says.

For Sgt. Peck, the wounded warrior project helped him find healing in his post-combat recovery. He is now a motivational speaker, set to marry in October.

For Stephens, he is simply taking life one step at a time.
"Ever since my amputation and ever since the tornado, good days are ten times better, bad days are ten times worse. I literally do stop and smell the roses." he says.
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