Local Man Loses Arm in Accident, Uses Experience to Inspire Others
After personal tragedy, Glenview resident Michael Fine was amazed by the community's support.
Last year, Michael Fine watched the Glenview community give to him. Now, he wants to give back. Today marks the one year anniversary of the horrific car accident Fine says changed his life forever.
A Moment That Changed Everything
One morning while driving to work, a truck hit him head on, causing his left arm to be torn from his body.
“A guy named Eric Coleman got out of his car and made me a tourniquet using twigs and rags,” said Fine, the father of two teen-age boys. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d be dead. ”
Fine spent the next five days in the ICU, followed by eight surgeries in the next few weeks. It was during this time that he realized his arm was gone forever.
“I was depressed and in horrible pain, and the two are interwoven.”
Some relief came when Fine’s best friend, Howard Falco, author of the book I Am-The Power of Discovering Who You Really Are came to see him in the hospital. Fine said they put together a healing mantra that hangs over his bed and that he still reads every day. One of the key words in the mantra: gratitude.
“Gratitude is not letting the loss of my arm define who I am, rather accepting the loss and moving forward and getting into the present moment,” said Fine, who says he’s still in tremendous physical pain all the time.
An Outpouring of Support
And, while Fine spent time recovering physically and emotionally, the Glenview community rallied around him.
“The support received from the neighborhood and the community was overwhelming,” Fine remembers. “We had dinners brought to our house for months.”
Members of the Glenview community also organized a block party fundraiser that raised $15,000 to help Fine with his medical bills.
“I couldn’t imagine going through that kind of pain,” said Jenny Larson, chief organizer of the event. “It was a huge sense of pride that we pulled it off.”
But despite Fine’s gratitude for the community’s support, he remained in excruciating physical pain, and began having problems with medical bills and his insurance company. His physical pain, coupled with the news that his mother was ill, sent Fine to his lowest point yet. By the end of August 2010, Fine reached such depression that he ended up back in the hospital.
“I didn’t want to know from anyone,” he said, “I couldn’t do anything.”
Armed with Gratitude
Then, a short time later, he began to mentally heal. One day he woke up and realized that his mantra really did mean something, and that it was up to him to come to terms with what happened.
“I said to myself, 'you’re alive,'" Fine remembers. "'You have a wife and two boys and friends. You have so much to be grateful for. You can keep reliving the past or you can say I’m moving forward.'”
This period marked the beginning of Fine’s healing and of his new life, a life that now includes not only gratitude, but also a connection to his Rabbi and giving back through visits with local students.
“It’s the first time in my life that I’ve done something like this and it’s so liberating,” he said. “I speak about challenges, overcoming obstacles and facing them with a positive perspective.”
The first school he spoke at was Attea middle school, his boys’ junior high.
“I helped him write parts of it,” said his 14-year-old son, Jeremy. “It was cool that he got to share what he went through.”
“He’s a lot tougher than I thought,” added Fine’s 11-year-old son, Jacob.
Today, Fine says his hardships have led to a new perspective.
“It’s a struggle. I’m in pain all the time,” he said, “But, I get up every day and I look at my wife and my boys and the time I have with my mom and my brother and I’m grateful. To be able to see things from a perspective I never did before is amazing.”