"In August 2001 I was in a small plane crash here in Alaska. I sustained serious injuries, including a shattered left leg, a crushed left ankle, a badly broken right ankle, and two broken arms. I was airlifted to Providence Hospital by a Life Guard helicopter, where I underwent several surgeries. My lower left leg was broken into so many pieces that it needed some sort of scaffolding to show the new bone where to grow. I was very lucky - I got my first bone tissue transplant the day after I arrived. Pieces of donated bone were placed in my left leg, and a paste made of donated bone tissue was used to repair my right ankle. There is a high probability that all this bone tissue came from Alaskan donors.

Even with these transplants, my doctors thought it was likely I'd never walk again. I had no ankle joint in my left leg, and a badly damaged one in my right leg. I left the hospital a few weeks later, with casts on both arms and both legs. Despite the doctors' opinions, I knew I was not going to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair if there was any way I could get out. I could get both ankles fused, but that would subject me to a life of painful, awkward walking, and potentially several more surgeries in the future.

I heard about an experimental ankle transplant program at the University of California San Diego's Orthomedicine Clinic; donated ankle joints were being transplanted into people with damaged or ruined ankle joints. I contacted the head of the transplant team, and one year after my accident I flew down to San Diego to see if I could qualify for the program.
I was lucky again - I was accepted into the program. I flew back to Anchorage and waited for the phone call telling me they had found a matching donor. The call came in early October of 2002. I flew down and got a donated ankle transplanted into my left leg. I was the 41st ankle transplant done in the U.S. Three months later, I stood up on it for the first time.

I am now walking again, and I am hoping to qualify for another transplant - this time, for my right ankle. I am so grateful to the people who gave me this gift; the people who donated bone tissue so my surgeon could rebuild my leg and ankle well enough that I qualified for an ankle transplant, and the person who donated the ankle joint itself a year later. Without all of them, I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

When I get my second ankle transplant, I will know that it's because some wonderful person somewhere signed their organ and tissue donor card and told their family of their wishes; they gave the final, greatest gift a person can give - the gift of giving other people a second chance."