U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Nick Laye was riding around Houston on his motorcycle with his fiancée, Megan, when the unthinkable happened. A pick-up truck unexpectedly crossed into their lane, causing the motorcycle to slam into the side of the truck. In an instant, their lives were changed forever.
“The impact pinned my right leg between the truck and the motorcycle,” said Laye. “My fiancée was thrown more than 15 feet and suffered minor scrapes and bruises.”
A stranger stopped to render aid and called 911. “My fiancée limped over to me and began alerting my Army chain of command and family; she held my head up and kept me alive during this time,” added Laye.
Paramedics arrived and assessed Laye. The list of injuries Laye sustained was extensive. He had a segmental femur fracture; open tibial plateau fracture; proximal fibula fracture; injury to the nerve that supplies movement and sensation to the lower leg, foot and toes; and significant loss of flesh and other soft tissue from the lower thigh to mid-leg. The tear in skin tissue from his ankle was so deep it exposed his ankle bone. In addition, Laye’s artery that supplied his right leg with blood was damaged and he had a large open wound above his left knee.
“When I arrived to the hospital and I had to be taken back to the OR, I was terrified,” said Laye. “In the OR prep room, I told the doctors and surgical staff I had too much to live for and did not want to die.” Laye’s doctor, Dr. Stephen Warner, an affiliated orthopedic trauma surgeon at Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC), assured him that the team treats cases like his every day and they would take good care of him.
Due to the severity of his injuries, Laye’s surgical team included orthopedic trauma surgeons, plastic surgeons and specialists from other disciplines. “Our team’s goal for Mr. Laye was to repair the damage from the accident in a way that would maximize the function of his injured leg,” said Dr. Warner. “Mr. Laye is a great example of a success story. Like all of the patients we see at Red Duke Trauma Institute, he didn’t intend to end up in the hospital that day. When our patients know they are in good hands, it puts them at ease and we are able to get them on the road to recovery.”
Over the course of the following three weeks, Laye underwent a total of 10 surgeries to repair the damage he sustained in the accident. “The fear that I had throughout this process was put at ease by Dr. Warner who encouraged me every day,” said Laye. “During this time he made a statement that fully encouraged me and woke me up to my own power in my healing process. He said, ‘We’ve done our part, the rest is up to you.’”
Initially, Laye was given eight months before he would be able to walk without crutches and 18 months before he was fully healed. However, due to his positive outlook and determination in rehabilitation, he was able to walk around his home and office without crutches just four months after he was discharged. Laye credits his recovery to Dr. Warner and the orthopedic trauma and plastic surgery teams at Red Duke Trauma Institute. “Other doctors have told me that I easily could have faced a mid-thigh amputation. The work these people did to save my leg was amazing,” added Laye.
Laye went on to do physical therapy for over 20 weeks at the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. When he was first discharged from Memorial Hermann-TMC, Laye set his physical therapy goal–being able to run by the end of the summer when his six-year-old daughter, Kaiya, came to visit.
Laye achieved his goal. “When she visited this summer, we ran all over the place,” said Laye, “I am forever grateful for the work that was done to save my leg. I was facing a mid-thigh amputation, but the work the team at Red Duke Trauma Institute completed is nothing short of amazing.”
To learn more about trauma care at Red Duke Trauma Institute, click here.