Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Soldier self-amputates leg to aid battle buddies

Army Spc. Ezra Maes undergoes physical rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center's cutting-edge rehabilitation center on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Oct. 2, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye) Army Spc. Ezra Maes undergoes physical rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center's cutting-edge rehabilitation center on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Oct. 2, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)

Recommended Content:

Military Hospitals and Clinics | Warrior Care

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas — A year after his accident and the loss of his leg, Army Spc. Ezra Maes is still amazed at the circumstances that led to his survival. If you ask, he'll credit his survival to a uniform belt, smart phone and "shockingly good" cell service.

What the 21-year-old Soldier fails to mention is the sheer force of will it took for him to stay alive.

"If I didn't help myself, my crew, no one was going to," said Maes, now assigned to the Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion. "I knew I had to do everything I could to survive."

A year earlier, the Army had deployed Maes, an armor crewman stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, to Poland in support of a joint training mission called Atlantic Resolve. He served as the loader for the main cannon of an M1A2 Abrams tank, a massive 65 ton tank known for its heavy armor and lethal firepower.

Exhausted on the second day of a weeklong rotation in Slovakia, he and two other crew members fell asleep in the tank that evening. He was jolted awake a few hours later by the sudden movement of the tank heading downhill.

"I called out to the driver, 'Step on the brakes!'" Maes said. "But he shouted back that it wasn't him."

Army Spc. Ezra Maes adjusts his prosthetic leg prior to physical rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center's cutting-edge rehabilitation center on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Oct. 2, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)
Army Spc. Ezra Maes adjusts his prosthetic leg prior to physical rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center's cutting-edge rehabilitation center on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Oct. 2, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)

The parking brake had failed. The crew quickly initiated emergency braking procedures, but the operational systems were unresponsive due to a hydraulic leak.

The tank was now careening down the hill at nearly 90 mph. "We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on," Maes said.

After a few sharp bumps, they crashed into an embankment at full speed. Maes was thrown across the tank, his leg catching in the turret gear. He then felt the full force of the tank turret sliding onto his leg.

His initial thought was his leg was broken. His next thought was he needed to get free so he could assist Army Sgt. Aechere Crump, the gunner, who was bleeding out from a cut on her thigh. The driver, Army Pfc. Victor Alamo, was pinned up front with a broken back.

"I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear," Maes said. "I thought I had dislodged my leg, but when I moved away, my leg was completely gone."

Freed from the pressure of the turret, the blood poured out of his wound at an alarming rate, but with other lives on the line, Maes pushed his panic and any thought of pain aside. He pulled himself up and into the back of the tank to grab a tourniquet from the medical kit. Halfway there, he began to feel lightheaded from the blood loss.

"I knew I was going into shock," he said. "All I could think about was no one knows we're down here.

"Either I step up or we all die."

Maes began shock procedures on himself – stay calm, keep heart rate down, elevate lower body – and cinched his belt into a makeshift tourniquet to slow down the heavy bleeding. He called out to Crump, who had staunched her own bleeding with a belt tourniquet, to radio for help.

Maes' heart sank when Crump said the radio wasn't working.

But then he heard an incredible sound; his cell phone was ringing.

Maes' phone was the only one that wasn't broken and the only one with working cell phone service. With one leg cut and the other broken, Crump crawled to reach Maes' phone and threw it down to him. He unlocked the phone and sent his friend a text. Help was on the way.

His last memory of that location was his sergeant major running up the hill carrying his leg on his shoulder. "I wanted to keep it, see if it could be reattached, but it was pulverized," Maes recalled.

Maes, who had also broken his ankle, pelvis in three places, and shoulder, was rushed to a local hospital, his first helicopter ride, before being flown to Landstuhl, Germany, and then on to BAMC. Between an infection he picked up overseas and nearly daily surgeries to fight it, he spent four months in intensive care.

"I feel super lucky," he said. "My crew all does. So many things could have gone wrong. Besides my leg, we all walked away pretty much unscathed."

A year later, Maes is immersed in physical and occupational therapy at the Center for the Intrepid, BAMC's outpatient rehabilitation center. This day, Maes is working out intensely with Candace Pellock, a physical therapy assistant. Against the backdrop of the hospital, Maes moves across gravel on crutches with an ever-present smile despite the Texas heat and strain of balancing on uneven ground.

It's all in preparation to receive his long-term prosthetic leg through a cutting-edge procedure called osseointegration. For this procedure, not unlike a dental implant, BAMC surgeons will implant a titanium rod in the bone of Maes' residual limb, rather than a traditional socket, to attach the prosthesis.

While he was having a tough time emotionally before the accident, Maes now sees each day as a gift. It's a second chance he'd like to share with others who may be having a tough time post-injury or trauma.

"When something like this happens, it's easy to give up because your life won't be the same, and you're not wrong," he said. "Life will take a 180, but it doesn't have to be a bad thing. Don't let it hinder you from moving forward."

At 21, Maes has a new attitude and a new lease on life. With combat arms in the rearview mirror and inspired by the CFI's care, he plans to become a prosthetist and help others regain their mobility.

But what he doesn't plan to do is switch his phone service.

As he puts it, "My cell phone saved my life."

Disclaimer: Re-published content may be edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

You also may be interested in...

Getting creative: Reducing opioid use for returning warriors

Article
11/5/2019
Airmen of the 174th Attack Wing participate in a weekly yoga class. Classes are intended to present an alternative way for 174th members to build both mental and physical strength. Yoga is also a way to alleviate chronic pain in the body. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Duane Morgan)

With the rise in opioid-related drug abuse and death, the Military Health System looks to complementary pain management treatments

Recommended Content:

Opioid Safety | Pain Management | Warrior Care

Air Force transitions all U.S. military treatment facilities to DHA administration, management

Article
10/31/2019
This October, U.S.-based Air Force military treatment facilities transferred administration and management to the Defense Health Agency. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

Congress directed this transfer in the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Joint Army-Air Force-Navy medical partnership saves lives downrange

Article
10/29/2019
Airmen work with members of the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation team to save the life of a NATO troop at the Craig Joint-Theater Hospital on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

More than 100 medics from the 59th Medical Wing deployed

Recommended Content:

Military Hospitals and Clinics

DHA's management of hospitals and clinics 'all about the patient'

Article
10/29/2019
Great outcomes, a ready medical force, satisfied patients – all flow directly from a patient-centered approach. As DHA assumes responsibility for military health care facilities across the entire Department of Defense, we aim to operate each hospital and clinic so that it improves the lives and health of our patients. It’s more than a pledge – it’s our mission. (DoD photo)

Great outcomes, a ready medical force, satisfied patients

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Military Hospitals and Clinics

State of the art procedure is the first within DoD

Article
10/28/2019
Retired Capt. Eugene Chalaire was the first to undergo an intricate cancer-preventive procedure performed at Womack Army Medical Center this summer. Womack is the first within the DoD to offer this service. (U.S. Army photo)

Only a handful of medical centers in the United States perform this surgery

Recommended Content:

Technology | Military Hospitals and Clinics

No effort spared to bring home seriously wounded Soldier

Article
10/17/2019
Air Force Capt. Natasha Cardinal, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care nurse, monitors her patient during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan to San Antonio, Texas. Critical care air transport teams are rapidly deployable teams consisting of a physician, critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist who provide a mobile intensive care unit for complex, critically wounded patients. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

The priority the military places on saving the lives of its service members is unparalleled

Recommended Content:

Military Hospitals and Clinics

TRICARE website expands to include military hospital sites

Article
10/16/2019
The TRICARE website is growing. As of Oct. 1, TRICARE welcomed several military hospitals and clinics to its website.

By 2021, more than 350 individual military hospital and clinic websites will move to TRICARE.mil.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Military Hospitals and Clinics | Changes to TRICARE

Naval Hospital Pensacola transitions to DHA, stands up readiness training commands

Article
9/20/2019
Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Joren Seibert uses cryotherapy for wart removal at Naval Branch Health Clinic Jacksonville’s primary care. Seibert, a native of Galesburg, Illinois, says, “I started in the Navy as a deck seaman and can now proudly say I’m a hospital corpsman. The people we care for deserve nothing but the best. Being able to directly help those folks every day is what keeps me coming back and what motivates me to continue being a better corpsman." (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

To support the transition, Navy Medicine is establishing a co-located readiness and training command

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Military Hospitals and Clinics

A surprise delivery at Fort Bragg’s maternity fair

Article
9/19/2019
Pamela Riis (in pink the pink top) learns more about the use of nitrous oxide during labor at the semiannual Fort Bragg Maternity Fair. More than 300 pregnant women, soon-to-be dads, parents of infants, and those planning to have a baby soon participated in the event. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Beal)

For Linda Steadman, a certified nursing assistant, this will be a day to remember

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Women's Health | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Officials discuss Blanchfield Hospital’s future as transition nears

Article
8/15/2019
Army Maj. Gen. Ron Place, who was recently confirmed for promotion to lieutenant general and selected to serve as the next director of DHA, visited Blanchfield Army Community Hospital and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Aug. 7 for more discussion about the hospital’s transition to DHA Oct. 1. (U.S. Army photo)

Supporting forces remains the number one priority of the Defense Health Agency

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Real Warriors campaign breaks barriers to psychological health care

Article
8/14/2019
The Real Warriors Campaign member engages with a service member at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Real Warriors has connected with more than three million people in the past decade

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Maxwell AFB’s medical group reorganizes, improves health care

Article
8/9/2019
Air Force Medical Service seal

The Air Force Medical Service is transforming 43 military treatment facilities

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Military Hospitals and Clinics

DoD Compensation and Benefits Handbook for Wounded, Ill, and/or Injured Service Members

Article
8/6/2019
Joint Service Color Guard (DoD photo)

The 2019 edition includes changes to DoD disability compensation, TRICARE health plans, education benefits, and more

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Sesame Street celebrates 50th anniversary at Madigan

Article
8/5/2019
Army Col. (Dr.) Matthew Studer, the chief of Madigan's Department of Pediatrics, talks with Nina and Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street during a special visit at Madigan Army Medical Center on July 26. (U.S. Army photo by Ryan Graham)

As a part of their 50th anniversary tour across America, Sesame Street made a special stop at Madigan

Recommended Content:

Military Hospitals and Clinics
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 46 - 59 Page 4 of 4

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.