Injured veteran reunited with medical team that saved his life: ‘I’ll never forget this day’

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It’s a fact that fills the Navy veteran, martial arts grandmaster and photographer with gratitude. On Tuesday, Orange, who was badly hurt in a motorcycle crash last year, had the chance for a reunion to formally thank the medical team at Sharp Memorial Hospital in Kearny Mesa for saving his life.

“I’ll never forget this day as long as I live,” Orange said.

Orange’s devastating crash came in August 2020. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, broke his pelvis, fractured arms and ribs, collapsed lungs and respiratory failure, among a host of other injuries.

His prognosis wasn’t good, but his now-wife, Cheri, said she didn’t let his injuries deter her.

“It was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life,” she said, “and I wouldn’t want anybody to have to go through it.”

Cheri was at the hospital every day during her husband’s ordeal. Because of the pandemic, she wasn’t even allowed inside his hospital room, so she gathered 2,500 people to pray for him daily.

That all started with a whisper in his ear, she said.

“I would reassure him that everything was OK at home (and) everything was OK at the school,” she said. “I had paid the bills. I had the instructors teaching classes. We’re doing testing at the martial arts school. I didn’t say anything that would alarm him.”

Orange said he lost his memory and wasn’t even sure what all was happening until he’d been in the hospital for three months. But Cheri kept vigil, writing him stories and bringing in things to help him remember.

“All the things that hung around my headboard and my Veterans Day hat that I wore on Veterans Day and things like that,” he said. “I was constantly reminded that I was someone special. Then I started believing it.”

The two eventually married, but his recovery was far from over. He transferred to three different hospitals and a few months ago, the decision was made to amputate his lower left forearm.

It was a sacrifice made so that he could be here today.

Speaking to staffers Tuesday at Sharp, Orange told them, “This day is special. I hope all of you feel it.”

Orange was seen interacting with a nurse practitioner named Calvin, who told him that he’d been involved in his case and helped take out one of his chest tubes.

“Oh my god,” Orange told Calvin. “You saw me at my worst.”

More often than not, those working in the medical field never get the chance to reconnect with those whose lives they’ve impacted in major ways. But Joshua McCabe, director of emergency services at Sharp Memorial Hospital, told FOX 5 that reuniting with Orange “gives us goosebumps.”

“I mean, I’ve got them right now,” McCabe said. “It makes us feel so blessed to be in this field and to be able to help people of our community when they need help, it does feel wonderful.”

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