My name is John Berger and I am a C-17 cargo pilot in the United States Air Force, stationed at Scott AFB, Illinois. Scott Farber, M.D. is my close friend and is currently a resident in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Barnes Jewish Hospital at Washington University in St. Louis.
Our friendship started in the early hours of June 24th, 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 was the trauma surgery resident on call working in the emergency room that night. It was discovered that I was bleeding internally so I was rushed into the operating room where they removed 8 inches of my large intestine, ultimately saving my life.
The next day, 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 eleven days in the hospital, I was discharged on July 4th, 2012. I wore an Uncle Sam top hat as I left. The professionalism, compassion, and expertise of the staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital 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, home to some of the most intelligent and compassionate people I’ve ever met.
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, on 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 23rd 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 a 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. Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.
The Wounded Warrior Project is a cause close to both our hearts. As a C-17 cargo pilot, I've flown many wounded warriors out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Scott has aspirations to eventually serve as a surgeon in the Army Reserve. We would like to give a little bit back to our wounded heroes. We'd be eternally grateful if you choose to help support the cause.
Thank you in advance for your generosity!
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