Sharing My Story of Survival

by Eduardo Garcia

I was described as “a bag of bones with a heart beat” by the team on call at the Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. It was late in the afternoon on October 9, 2011 and I had just been airlifted from Livingston Montana with severe electrical injuries. I was dying; every moment was precious as life slipped out of me. This was what Dr. William Morris the surgeon on call had on his hands. 

First time outside.

First time outside.

Now nearly five years later I am back to work, running my company Montana Mex. I am an amputee and have become proficient in the use of my prosthetic left hand. I still hike in the backcountry and many things in my life have fallen back into place to become my new normal.  Some things, like all the media attention I received after my recovery are not as normal but have also started to grow on me. And if you are reading this right now, you will know that there is even a feature length Documentary film about my story being produced called “Charged”.

For years following my injury, I received offers of all kind to tell my story, write a book, film a doc, share my story. For the most part I hid from the media. I settled back into the solitude and safety of my hometown in rural Montana and went through the long path of recovery. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t alone in this process. I had the daily care of my long time partner Jenny, my family, my friends and a community that understood enough to give me space and treat me like the Eddie they’d known for years.

Slowly in late 2013 I started to entertain interviews on a national scale with publications, morning talk shows and other media outlets hungry for a juicy story on survival and overcoming the odds. Something was missing though. Most of these interviews where quick pieces and more often than not they created a quick buzz and captured the publics hungry for hype appetite. Something was missing though and it wasn’t long before I was burnt out on doing quick pieces that only skimmed the surface, they usually left out details or misrepresented the facts altogether.

Still I continued to refuse proposals to film a documentary. I was scared. Yes, I had a personal interest to dig deeper and tell my real story but how? How could I be certain this was the right thing to do? A posse of close friends in film production started to really dig into me with interest to tell my story and hesitantly I agreed to let them follow me on a trip to the National Ability Center in Park City Utah where I was scheduled to spend a couple days with teenagers training to be Olympians. Personally I knew that a key part to my complete recovery was working with other people with disabilities and this was one of my first forays into working with other amputees and people with disabilities.

Working with these athletes was beyond inspirational. The smiles, enthusiasm and general camaraderie I felt from these kids was not only inspirational it was enlightening. They were stronger together, they laughed louder in each others company, they worked harder as a unit.  Cresting this wave of stoke I drove to the BTICU in Salt Lake City to pay a visit to Dr. Morris and the Burn team working that day. I was greeted in the hall by teary hugs of joy by nurses and admin who had seen me transition from that “bag of bones” to the healthy guy in front of them. 

My decision to open up with the world and share my private life and reveal the real inner workings of survival, the recovery process, the toll it takes on a family and relationship reached a tipping point that day. Specifically, in a poignant, nose-to-nose, inches away moment with Dr. Morris. He stared me down after looking me over head to toe almost in awe that I was the same person he had saved years ago. His eyes were twinkling with life and emotion, he told me “it is so good to see you, you need to come around more”. Gripped I saw the light, I realized I was hiding the good stuff, the grit, the texture that actually makes a mark and a difference. He was telling me to stop hiding the success my recovery has been and to start helping others by sharing my process, my story.  

That moment was two years ago and it was in that moment I became convinced that a documentary film surrounding my life and my near death experience was an opportunity. An opportunity to process pain into purpose and to say thank you by highlighting all of the people I had in my corner in one of the greatest fights of my life.