Loren Schauers of Great Falls is awesome. He’s also brave, inspiring, smart as a whip — pick a positive trait and it probably applies. In a world ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and political turmoil, he still finds something to be thankful for: "To be alive."
Last year, on September 27, Schauers lost both his legs and his right forearm in a construction accident. The 19-year-old was driving a forklift in Wilsall, Montana, for a bridge construction rehabilitation project when a car illegally tried to pass him. He veered onto the edge of the road, and the dirt underneath the forklift faltered. He tried to unbuckle his seatbelt and jump out, but his leg got caught. He fell about 50 feet, and the forklift fell on top of him, crushing his legs and arm.
“The muscle was like right next to me in the dirt,” he said. “It was like something out of a horror film.”
Schauers said a man jumped out of his car and ran down the hill to help, and Loren screamed, even though he couldn’t feel anything. He was taken by Mercy Flight to a a hospital in Bozeman, where the doctors decided his case was too advanced to handle; luckily, another Mercy Flight was scheduled to leave for Seattle around the same time, so he was taken to Harborview Medical Center.
“It was nuts,” he said.
With Schauers’ permission, the doctors at Harborview performed a hemicorporectomy: a surgery where everything below the waist is amputated. The choice was an easy one, according to his girlfriend Sabia. “He looked them dead in the eye and he said, ‘I don’t care if I’m just a head on a plate,’” she said. “They’re going to do the surgery and they’re going to keep him alive.”
Schauers spent three months hospitalized and four weeks in rehabilitation — defying doctors’ expectations every step of the way. Because of the pandemic, he had to leave another hospital in Chicago a few days earlier than expected, which meant doctors wouldn’t have enough time to make him a prosthetic bucket. Now he’s working with an orthopedic surgeon in Great Falls who is sending his measurements off to Chicago while he waits.
In the meantime, he’s living life to the fullest. He and Sabia are now engaged. They also have a huge social media following, with millions of views and followers across their platforms. Although the phantom pains and medical bills won’t be going away any time soon, Schauers’ positivity is stubborn.
“I’m thankful to be alive,” he said, “and to continue living.”