Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Harder to Kill

by Bruce Trout, SSC | October 05, 2021

bruce trout training

Who am I? Well, I suppose that depends on who you ask. I am a husband, a father, a son and to some a hero. I don’t want to get ahead of myself so let me start with the basics.

My name is Bruce Trout, I am 32 years old, happily married and father of a 3-month-old baby girl (the best thing I’ve ever had a hand in). I have a pretty good job with a company that I enjoy working for. I am introverted by nature, though once you get to know me, I open up quite a bit. I don’t have a lot of hobbies, but something I have always enjoyed is lifting weights. Perhaps it is my small stature that has always kept me wanting to gain muscle and look bigger. Maybe it was watching my grandfather who was a relatively short man but was as strong as an ox; some might call it “old man strength.” Whatever the reason, it’s always been a part of my life, and it’s a good thing because it likely saved my life.

In November of 2019 I was on my way to work. My workday starts nice and early. I don’t particularly enjoy waking up early, but I can't deny how much I like getting home before the 9 to 5 crowd. On this Friday morning things were typical, there weren’t many other drivers on the road, and the sun had yet to start peeking over the horizon. All was calm. All was normal. Until, of course, it wasn’t.

My commute to work takes place on essentially two roads. I drive through the small city I live in, until I get to the south end of town. I hop on the exit to the main highway and it’s smooth sailing. On this morning, however, my commute was cut short. As I got within about 100 yards of the on-ramp I noticed two things: a car traveling the same direction as I was, up ahead, and staying on the main road, and a second car coming off the highway. This would usually be fine, but in this instance the car coming off the highway didn’t realize that they had to yield to crossing traffic.

In an instant it was over. The car coming off the highway had been T-boned at about 50 mph and was thrown into the center median, the patch of grass that separated north bound traffic lanes from south bound. It was hit so hard that it rolled over and was sitting there upside-down. I had two options, and I had about 5 seconds to decide which to take.

As I drove up to the accident it was obvious that this was much more than your average “fender bender.” This was a serious collision, the kind that seriously injures or kills from what I could see. I am not a trained EMT. I have no experience with first aid – unless you need some Neosporin and a band-aid – and while I was trained many years ago in CPR that information was long gone. But I didn’t have time to question whether I was “qualified” to help and at this hour and at this part of town, I was just about the only one around.

I pulled up and parked about 30 feet away from the rolled over car, turned on my hazard lights and got out. I didn’t even turn my truck off. I ran up to the car instinctively calling out, “Are you okay?”, “Can you hear me?” To my surprise I heard an answer, “Yes.” Then I saw a man’s head appear at the window. He had managed to wiggle his way over to the door enough to look at me and as if he had not a care in the world said, “I’m okay. Can you call 911?” Calling 911? That I could handle. As I turned to walk away, however, it was me who would need someone to call for help.

Before I could turn my gaze to the oncoming car everything was black. I had been hit by a passing car at about 45 mph, a young kid driving to work in the dark hours of the morning. By that time there were other people who had stopped and one of them was crossing the road, not noticed soon enough by the oncoming vehicle. As he jerked the stirring wheel to the left to miss the pedestrian crossing the road he lost control, locked up his breaks and hit me. The impact threw me toward the flipped car and sent my left leg through the back window. The glass cut through my hamstring and through my femoral artery, making the compound fracture of my tibia look like a minor injury. I had only a few minutes before I would bleed out. I was going to die there. I was going to leave this earth without having a chance to say goodbye to the ones I loved. I was going to, but then I didn’t.

As luck would have it another Good Samaritan had stopped to help just as I did, and at the same time. I have no recollection of her, but she tells me that we were within a few feet of one another. She was also hit by the car, but not directly and while she was injured, she was conscious. She was also a trained EMT. I was in luck. She was hurting but she was aware of the situation. She found me some 15 feet away from her, moaning from the pain. I was talking, somehow, and letting her know that my leg was hurting, an observation that was not hard to make given the amount of blood that was spilling out of me.

She stopped a young man who was getting out of his car and told him to take his belt off and to tie it around my thigh. This move did slow the flow of blood some, but it was not enough. Luckily for me a policeman had arrived by that time and had a military style tourniquet in his car. It was wrapped around my leg as well, and when the ambulance arrived a third tourniquet was used. I was still losing a lot of blood though, and time was running out.

I had always wondered what it would be like to be so close to death. Would my life flash before my eyes? Would I think about the things I didn’t get to do, or the people I let down? Well, for me it was simple. As I lay on the stretcher in the ambulance, eyes closed, I had enough energy left to say one thing: “I have a baby due in a week, and a wife. Don’t let me die.” And then I passed out.

I was hit on November 22nd of 2019. My wife was pregnant with our first child and was due to give birth on December 1st. At that moment it all seemed like the worst possible timing, a perfect storm of stress and anxiety, and it was, but as I think about the events and the order in which they came about I realize everything happened just as they needed to. I was lucky to have a person there to handle my injury well enough to keep me alive for a few extra minutes, there is no doubt about that. But when the time came I had only one thing on my mind, my family. Was it a miracle that kept me alive or a will to live? I like to think a bit of both.

I was rushed to the local hospital where they stabilized me. I went through 21 units of blood while I was there and was reminded of how important it is to donate such things. I needed to take a helicopter ride to the larger hospital to the north of us and on the way out I had one last exchange with the EMT wheeling me out; he said, “Hey, you awake? We did it. We kept you alive.” Although, I was very grateful the only thing I was able to muster was, “Thanks, I appreciate it.” I was alive, but I wasn’t completely out of the woods. It would take more work, but I was still fighting.

After a week of heavy sedation and multiple surgeries I was going to be okay, but I was going to have to face some challenges. The injury to my leg was serious, and the loss of blood made it impossible for the surgeons to save my foot. There was no other option, my left foot was dead and was starting to put my life at risk. My wife did have to “sign-off” on the amputation – a situation I wouldn’t wish upon my worst of enemies – but there was nothing to think about, it needed to happen. Over the next 5 weeks I would have three more surgeries, 7 in total and I would witness the birth of my baby girl, but that’s another story all its own.

I came out of the hospital after 6 total weeks. I left with a below knee amputation on my left leg and a destroyed left knee. Aside from all the damage to the left leg I broke my collarbone, but it healed up before I left the hospital bed. I was in damn good shape given the circumstance. I was banged up, but I was alive. Life is good.

I sit here today, next to my baby girl and my wife, and I can’t believe how crazy the last few months have been. I also think about the hours I spent under a barbell. I wasn’t just training to be stronger – I was training for that moment. I was getting myself prepared for whatever life was going to bring. I was doing what I could to make myself harder to kill. I know it sounds a bit over the top to some, but the reality is that had I not been as strong as I was, and not added the muscle to my body I would have likely lost my entire leg that day. I would be on crutches for the rest of my life – or until they figured out a prosthesis for an amputation at the hip. Maybe, I would have died. I don’t know what would’ve happened if my body were in a different condition, but I think all the training I did saved my life.

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