Oct 06, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Beyond Survival: Thriving After Adversity

By Phil Macko

Survival alone doesn’t define us. It’s what we learn from the experience that does.” --Make Others Greater

This quote is the opening line to my second book. It’s more than just words to me.

At the time of my accident, I worked in distributor sales; a highly competitive, pennies-on-the-dollar profit industry. I was married with two young daughters, a third child was on the way.

Phil Macko Children
Brittany, Bridget and Kattie

It was the day we found out we were having our third daughter. I was relieved she was healthy; I was stressed because I’d missed a day of work. Looking back, it’s clear that this particular day was a bad one to use machinery.

It all happened very quickly. The hum of the table saw changed its tone. My vision blurred and filled with color. My mind raced, my heart beat fast.

I was in shock.

Successful Surgery - Tough Recovery

At Hemet Hospital, they lacked the surgical staff to address my injury. At least I was given morphine. As the drug kicked in I was life-flight’ed to San Diego where a surgical team awaited.

Along the way, I asked our helicopter pilot to land at a nearby 7-11 so I could buy myself honey-roasted peanuts. Morphine is a helluva drug.

After 19 hours of microsurgery and multiple transfusions, I got my first glimpse of my left hand. Where once was an index and second finger now was one tremendously large Frankenfinger. It was hideously scarred and the size of my big toe.

Beyond Survival: Thriving After Adversity

I was sure it would never fit in my pant’s pocket.

It was ugly to me, my new finger. I resigned myself to wear a black glove to cover it, like Michael Jackson’s (but without all the glitter).

I also began taking pain medication on the morning after the accident, and it became a regular part of my life in the sixteen years that followed.

That was then.

Lessons In Going Beyond Pain and Painkillers

Before my accident, I was reckless. Today, I am (reasonably) cautious and have a clear understanding of how quickly things can change. I proudly wear my “left-hand badge of honor.” I’ve learned that scars aren’t always ugly to others, that they convey character and tell stories.

Three years ago, I also learned that I didn’t need the painkillers. As a result of my decision to quit cold-turkey, I discovered how the medication had changed me. It blurred my thinking and it made me impulsive. Today I am clear and purposed.

Phil Macko Phil Macko Thriving

I nearly died on the day of the accident. I’m a different and better person as a result: Survival alone doesn’t define us. It’s what we learn from the experience that does.

More than just words.

Phillip Macko is the founder of Second Starters, and a twice-published author. You can reach him at [email protected].

Posted in Overcoming Adversity.