Patient Stories: Gerald "Joe" Loibel

It was July 23, 2001, a hot July day, and I was riding my new motorcycle to work to Hagerstown, MD.  I met my friend Brian at his dad's house and we took off. I wasn’t 100 ft down the road and I decided to pass Brian.  I was going to hit the top of the hill, pull a wheelie and ride alongside Interstate 68. What I didn’t know was that at the top of the hill was a 90 degree turn and a stop sign. I hit the top of the hill at about 130 mph, and 80 ft in front of me was the guard rail. I decided to try to shave as much speed off as possible but I hit the guard rail at 115 mph.

Twelve ft up the guard rail my fuel tank hit it and sprayed fuel which ignited into a fireball. I let go of the handlebars and my right leg was stuck between the swingarm and the tire. The bike kicked sideways - hit me in the back and flung me 150 ft through the air. I remember hitting the ground and flipping over and landing face down.  My friend said to hold on - he was going to call 911 and when he got back I told him I was seeing things and it was getting hard to breathe.  I knew I was badly injured - I could see it and I could see I was losing a lot of blood. I asked Brian to put tourniquets on my legs and he took our duty belts off and wrapped them around both legs and managed them until paramedics came and took over. 

It was at this point I put my life in God's hands and asked if He just gets me to the hospital I would help Him do everything I could to stay alive.  I was flown to Memorial Hospital in Cumberland by Trooper 5 Medevac Helicopter where I was stabilized enough to be flown to University of MD R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Unit.  More than once they didn’t think I was going to make it.  When my parents arrived I was receiving Last Rights from a priest, but the nurse told them that my heart in my condition was stronger than half the people walking around the hospital! 

Surgeons amputated my left leg at the knee and my right leg below the knee.  Along with all my other injuries, my pelvis was broken and there was concern it would not support my weight.  When I was brought out of the medically induced coma after 14 days my dad was standing over me and told me that I had lost both my legs.  He asked if I wanted to say anything but I had a tracheotomy tube in my neck and couldn’t talk - so they brought over a pad and a pencil so I could write.  I spelled out "new legs" and my dad looked at me and said you mean an artificial leg like my Pappap had? and I nodded yes.  He then turned and looked at the doctors who were in my room and said we're not going to need you - my boy is going to be alright. 

They told my parents I would be there six months but I made it out in less than a month from the day of my wreck.  I was heading to Kernan Rehabilitation in Baltimore, MD where they said I would be for six months.  I made it out of there in three weeks.  Before I was released I met Charles Dankmeyer in the hospital and he told me the next time I visited I would be walking in.  Baltimore was too far for my dad to drive so we found out that Dankmeyer had an office in Lavale, MD right next to Cumberland, where I met my prosthetist Mark Treasure for the first time. 

He told me it would be hard work to learn to walk again with those "new legs", but I was hard headed and very determined.  It was December 18, 2001 when I got my first set of training legs and by January I could walk unassisted, stop, turn around and walk back.  After I got my first set of permanent legs I went back to work full time after only a year.  Then almost 9 years to the date I got Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and had to retire.  I now ride my three wheel bicycle on the bike path, I hunt, fish, golf and do pretty much everything I did before the accident, but run or walk through the woods.  Due to my immune system being weak from all the chemo I received during treatment I have good days and bad days but more good ones than bad.

Joe Loibel, double amputee, rides his three wheel bike.

Since the day I was brought out of my coma I have thanked God every day for letting me live and ask Him to give me the strength to get through the day - as every day since July 23rd 2001 is a gift for me.