On July 6, 2009, my life and daily routine changed forever.
I awoke, as usual, at 5am to begin what was to be my usual regime, of working out at the health club, breakfast, 12 hours of practice at the course, eat some pizza, and review my golf swing and my students' golf swings.
This particular day, I put one inch of oil in a spagetti pan to warm on a half electric, half gas stove top. I walked away for a few minutes to go to the restroom. When I returned, flames were pouring out of the pan, straight up, all the way to the ceiling.
I threw a towel over the pan and handles, grabbed it to run out the door to throw the pan into the pool.
The towel fell as I was running to get out of the kitchen. Again, the flames shot straight up, this time, engulfing my head and face.
I remember thinking I have to get in the pool to stop my face from being on fire. I ran through the glass doors and jumped into the pool, still holding the flaming pan and scalding oil.
When I made it out of the pool only wearing my boxer shorts, the skin on my right arm, all the way to the middle of my chest was gone. My skin, from mid chest all the way down my left arm was hanging down to the ground. This can all be seen in the photos that a photographer took who was there at the time, filming my "Cooking with the Pros" special.
I went into the restroom to see if I had lost all my hair and the skin on my face. Because I was in shock and my nerve endings burned, I didn't feel any pain, and was unaware of how much damage was done to my body.
I heard a loud fire alarm so I thought the fire department was coming. I found out later that the owner of the house I was renting had disconnected the alarm to the police and fire departments. They never came.
A neighbor drove me to the local trauma center who immediately had me transported to the Olando Regional Burn Center.
The EMT's in the ambulance were unsuccessful in getting an IV inserted because of the tremendous amount of swelling.
Arriving at the hospital, knew I was in big trouble when about 30 doctors, nurses, and other medical staff began working on me. They found a site to Insert an IV, just above my clavacle.
Layin there, I had a male nurse talking to me while I was being worked on. We were talking golf (of course!). He stepped out, and when he came back, said that I was not going to like him much anymore because he had to put a cathater in me, as you will see in the pictures, (just Joking). The camera crew did not have large enough lens!
I have to say that the insertion of the cathater was number one on the list of pain I felt through out the entire process. I would not recomend it. To make matters worse, during that process the nurse had to remove the cathater and put a different one in.
After that I lost some days as they pumped morphine into me, which put me into another world. I literally felt all pain dissapear and my body melt as they pumped the morphine through my IV.
Not really the best feeling for me since I like full control of my mind and body. I could not wait to get off the drugs.
When I came back to the real world, they had explained to me that they had taken the skin off of my left Quad and buttocks to replace all of the skin that I lost in my arms and face. They stapled my skin with literally hundreds of staples (see the photos).
This process was done more than once but I was never in any pain because of the massive amounts of pain medication they kept me on.
I could not wait to get out of the hospital. A month in a hospital is torture enough.
I didnt tell anyone that I was in the hospital because I did not want any visitors. Since all I could do was lay in bed, I can not think of anyone who would want to spend their day in a hospital looking at someone, like me, burned and drugged out.
I didnt even let my parents know, because I did not want them to worry or come to Florida and stare at me, the way I was, in a bed.
It may sound strange, but I thought it made sense at the time. My family does not agree.
On a friday I asked if I could get out of the hospital and get home care because I couldn't take being there any longer. My doctor said that I could leave Monday or Tuesday of the following week.
That next Monday, my nurse came in and said, "looks like you'll be going home next week.
I said, "no no no, Doc said that I could leave today or tomorrow".
My nurse said I couldn't leave until my staples were taken out and I was weaned off the morphine.
I told him I had not had any morphine since the past Friday.
He checked my chart, said that was correct, right but they still need to take out all of the staples, and, for that, I would need morphine.
I told him that I wanted to leave that day or the next day and asked him to try taking out the staples without any morphine.
The doctor came in, and said they would try to take the staples out using some pain meds by mouth and see if I could handle the pain.
I can honestly say that the process of removing the staples now became my number one pain.
One nurse stood on one side and another nurse stood on the other side of my bed, litterly pulling staples from my body, one by one with a staple remover, basically! You can see all of the staples in my arms in the photos.
I made it through the staple removal, and left the next day. It was a tremendous relief to be out of there.
After a couple weeks of doing nothing, it was time to start my therapy. Both of my arms were locked in a 90 degree postion for the surgery. My left arm released really well, but my right arm was locked in a 90 degree position for almost 8 months.
During the therapy process, I asked my doctor if I could go back to Chicago to do my therapy at Athletico Sports Re Hab, where I used to work as a Physical Therapy Aide while I was attending NorthWestern University for my Physical Therapy Schooling. He agreed, but said that I had to return weekly to see him for months, so he could monitor my healing process.
When I was being released to Chicago, I asked the main surgeon's assistant if it was ok for me to start swinging a golf club and working out, along with doing the therapy. He said "yes, we want you doing everything you did prior to the fire."
I reminded him that I'm a professional golfer and I work hard at my craft. I asked if he was sure there was no way I could rip my skin. he said "Son, you would be the first to rip a graft."
I came home and