Utah Man Has a Second Chance at Life after Devastating Accident

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It was one of those cold October mornings where everything was frozen in ice. Alec McMorris, a construction worker, left his house for work and headed straight up Parleys Canyon on I-80 east. He was following his cousin in his car when he saw the vehicle hit the guardrail and come to complete stop. McMorris’ first reaction? To get out of his car and make sure his cousin was okay.

After an initial check on his cousin, McMorris saw a tire lying in the middle of the road. He went to move it to stop another accident—with no idea about what would happen next. A white pick up truck coming down the canyon hit McMorris, throwing him on the other side of the road. "I remember trying to get up after, when my cousin told me to look at my leg. My foot was sitting up by my hip."

"The ambulance took me straight to the University of Utah Hospital and I had five or six surgeries on the first day." The accident had ruptured McMorris’ spleen and kidney, torn his aorta, broke his right hand, tore his LCL and ACL on his left leg, severely damaged his right leg, and caused him to bite his tongue almost all the way off. “It looked like it was blown up by an explosive device,” McMorris said.

Travis Maak, MD, along with a team of other U of U Health doctors, worked day and night to save McMorris’ life as well as his leg, but the infection had spread so rapidly that there was no other option than to amputate. "I think this is the best hospital in the world and they have the best doctors … and honestly, I don't think I would've been alive and gotten as healthy as I am and so fast if I wasn't at the U."

After spending five weeks in the hospital, McMorris not only saw his health improve but also made close friends with his care team, "I think it's very rare to have that doctor-patient relationship where I can just call my doctor and see how he is doing." He was discharged the week of Thanksgiving with over 130 stitches and an amputated leg, but ready to begin his journey of healing.

McMorris began going to the Sugar House Rehab Clinic for a couple of hours every day for physical therapy and quickly learned to utilize prosthetics in his daily life. "After spending 8-10 months with different doctors and physical therapists, you are suddenly thrown back in the world to figure everything out. I could not go back to my construction work and had no career—it can be a little frustrating and overwhelming."

Now that it has been almost five years since the accident, McMorris has a positive attitude towards life. He works for a prosthetic company, building and testing new and inexpensive devices for patients in similar circumstances. He is appreciative of his family and friends that supported him during his recovery and helped him get where he is today. "Sometimes I may have to do things a little differently but for the most part I am still a normal dude—I just happen to be missing a piece."

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