Local YMCA - Carlisle Area YMCA
Surviving the unthinkable.
It’s true when they say that your life can change in an instant.
As a father of two, John Ulsh had lived in Central PA his entire life. After a successful career in retail management, John ventured into the real estate market in early 2007. In addition to focus on family, friends and his career, John was an avid athlete and had competed at a collegiate level and continued into his adulthood.
On December 1, 2007 on a car-ride home from his daughter’s sports game, the Ulsh family was involved in a head-on car crash. The police estimated the impact speed to be 125mph.
The other driver had been distracted, crossed the median and died at the scene. The Ulsh family wasn’t much better. John’s wife Tonia and daughter Katie had broken bones and lacerations. His son James broke his leg in two places and suffered from a broken collarbone and a severed small intestine. John had the greatest injuries from the collision. With a ruptured spleen and diaphragm, a collapsed lung, a shattered pelvis, four fractured vertebrae, a broken foot, 12 broken ribs, and heart damage, John was lucky to be alive.
John and his young son were medi-vaced to the hospital. Paralyzed from the waist down, the surgeons worked to put John back together, and he was given less than a 3% chance of survival. For almost a month, John was in critical care, but the doctors saw promise and discharged John to a rehab wing of a nursing home.
For two months, John struggled to relearn how to use his body while struggling with the constant pain. His driving force in recovery was going home to be with his wife Tonia and two young kids. Within 10 weeks, John was walking.
Although John could go home, the hurdles he faced didn’t stop. John had more surgeries including an abdominal reconstruction in late 2008. Ten days following the surgery, John was back in the hospital with complications resulting from blood clots, with which he still struggles. Three more surgeries followed.
Throughout the entire ordeal, John’s friends and family provided support. In the nursing home, over 200 people visited John. In addition, the Carlisle community where John lives supported John at the annual 5k “Turkey Trot.” Eighty-seven people wore “Jogging with John” t-shirts in support of the Ulsh family and John’s recovery.
A year after the accident, John looked to find other ways to deal with the perpetual pain. He embraced alternative medicine including acupuncture, bio-feed and massage therapy. Though the pain persisted, John finds strength in his friends and family.
It has been three years since the accident and John has made it his mission to inform, support and inspire others who face challenges in their lives. He often lectures about his experience and teaches others to appreciate what they have because every day is a gift. He blogs about his experiences on his recovery and motivation, aptly titled remotivate.wordpress.com, and will be featured in an upcoming article in Men’s Fitness in early 2011 that will focus on his strength training and recovery.