All he did was move a ladder.
In 2017 Marcial Sanchez Romero was working as a house painter. One day while Mr. Romero was repositioning a metal ladder against an exterior wall, the ladder brushed against a power line. The next thing he knew, he was on the ground. Electricity had shot through the ladder into his hands and arms, through his body and out through one of his feet.
The homeowner quickly called 911. An ambulance rushed Mr. Romero first to Riverside Regional Medical Center and then to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he was hospitalized for nine days.
The tissue damage was so severe that both of his hands and part of his forearms had to be amputated.
He also had a hole in his foot that would require surgery later. Since then, he has had more operations and skin grafts, along with countless physical-therapy sessions.
“I had to learn how to live life differently,” Mr. Romero says through a Spanish interpreter. “You really have to wake up with the intention of living life and moving forward. You just cannot stay in bed and give up."
For someone whose hands were vital to his livelihood, letting go of his independence was challenging.
“I used to work every day,” he says. “But after the accident, I had to depend on others for all the things I was able to do before. It has taken help from my family, my interpreter, my physical therapist and God for me to continue moving forward. Also, Dr. Roberts-Atwater has been very caring about what I need.”
Mr. Romero is referring to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at EVMS, who has overseen his recovery since he was first hospitalized.
Until last fall, Mr. Romero functioned with prosthetic hooks. In October, Dr. Roberts- Atwater arranged to have those hooks replaced with myoelectric hands that pick up electrical impulses the body creates when muscles are flexed.
“With these hands, I feel safe and more secure,” he says. “They have a lot of functions. Little by little, I’ve been learning how to use them."
I had to learn how to live life differently. You really have to wake up with the intention of living life and moving forward. You just cannot stay in bed and give up.
Marcial Sanchez Romero
One way he’s using them is by cooking with his wife and children. “Now when my wife needs help in the kitchen, I can help. If she needs me to sweep, I can sweep.” He’s also happy that he can mow the lawn again, as well as do something as simple as pick up and drink from a bottle of water.
Early on, his recovery included times of struggle and moments of despair, he recalls. “But if you have support from your family, and of course Dr. Roberts- Atwater who helped me a lot, and if you have your faith in God, you can do it all."
Today, Mr. Romero hopes his story will inspire others.
“For all those people who suffer an accident like mine or worse,” he says, “please stand up, don’t stay at home. We can move forward, we can continue, we are able to do things that we think we can’t. This is the message I want to say, for them not to be stuck at home, for them to continue to reach for their goals and dreams.