A teenager who survived a horrific forklift accident has defied the odds to survive after having the lower half of his body amputated.
Loren Schauers was driving a forklift across a bridge when he veered off, plummeted 50ft and was pinned to the ground beneath the four tonne vehicle.
The 19-year-old remained conscious throughout and remembers looking down to see his right arm had exploded and everything below his hips was completely squashed.
The young labourer made the brave decision to let medics perform hemicorperectomy surgery – where everything below his waist was amputated – to save his life.
Doctors told his devastated girlfriend Sabia Reiche, now 21, he wouldn’t survive, and she said goodbye to him six times, fearing he wouldn’t live another day.
But miraculously he pulled through.
The pair had only been together for 18 months when the accident happened but said the turmoil brought them closer together, and they got engaged this year.
Loren, from Great Falls, Montana, in the USA, said: “I watched as the forklift fell on top of me and crushed my body.
“Every medical professional I come across is pretty amazed by everything, especially with the story that comes along with my injuries.
“It wasn’t a hard choice to have half of my body amputated – it was basically a choice of living or dying, it really wasn’t a hard choice for me.”
Loren was working as a labourer on a construction site during a bridge rehabilitation job in September 2019.
He was driving a forklift over a highway bridge outside of Wilsal, Montana, when cars started illegally passing him in through the traffic lights.
The single lane was dramatically narrowed and as one car passed him, Loren veered too close to the bridge edge and the ground crumbled beneath him.
He attempted to jump from the falling forklift but his leg got trapped by the seatbelt, swinging him from the machinery as it plummeted 50ft down a steep hill.
The forklift rolled three times down the hill before Loren hit the ground at the bottom of the hill and the forklift landed on top of him, crushing his body.
Loren said: “As the edge of the bridge collapsed and the forklift started to tip up, I unbuckled my seatbelt and went to jump out.
“I now know that was the wrong idea but it was just fight or flight.
“The seatbelt ended up wrapping around my leg as I jumped out so I actually swung out instead and broke one of my ribs off the floorboard of the forklift.
“I tried staying on top of the forklift as much as I could as it rolled and then I was thrown from the forklift at the end of the hill once it finally landed.
“I was conscious the whole time. My eyes were wide open and I saw the forklift come down and land on my hips and my right forearm.
“I remember looking to my right with the forklift on top of my body and there was big old piece of muscle from my arm just lying on the ground next to me. It had just blown apart instantly from the impact.”
Sabia added: “We later found out that because the ground was so soft as Loren’s team had just been moving it, that’s how he ended up surviving.
“If the dirt hadn’t been messed with earlier, it would have been hard so Loren would have been cut in half and would have bled out before the air ambulance even got there.
“The dirt being soft is what saved his life in that situation.”
An air ambulance landed on the bridge and pulled Loren up the hill on a stretcher before flying to a hospital in Bozeman, Montana, where he met his loved ones.
Loren had completely lost his right forearm and hand in the accident and broken his right collarbone and shoulder.
He suffered a pulmonary embolism – a blockage in his lung artery – and needed a breathing tube.
Loren said: “They thought my lower extremities were still salvageable.
“The doctors tied off my main veins down below and took scans of my body to see what state it was in there and they realised my pelvis had completely crumbled.
“I was transferred to Seattle, Washington, by mercy flight where they first performed a surgery leaving my right hip, genitalia, and left thigh.
“Once they had also seen the state of my pelvis, that’s where it was then deemed that I’d need a hemicorporectomy surgery.
“They then tried saving my sperm with my consent but it turned out to not be viable.”
Doctors told Sabia and his family to say their goodbyes.
Sabia said: “There were many heartfelt, teary, sad conversations within the span of the first month of him being in hospital.
“The night before his surgery, he wrote ‘I love you’ on a piece of paper as it could have been our last night together. I still have that piece of paper today.
“There were plenty of times that the doctors told us that he was probably going to die, so we had these really long ‘I love you’ and everything like that conversations.
“The doctors would say he was going to die, we’d have a goodbye conversation and then he wouldn’t die.
“It sucked, to put it blatantly, we hated it. His health was teasing us, like ‘haha we’re fine now but going to die soon so you’ll all be sad’, but then he lived.”
One month after his accident, Loren was transferred to a hospital back in Montana so family could visit, because doctors still believed he would die.
But his health started to improve at an incredible speed.
Doctors had believed that he would be in hospital for at least a year and a half but he stayed for three months, before four weeks rehab, and then he was home.
Loren has taught himself how to put on his ‘bucket’ prosthetic and get into his wheelchair without any help.
Sabia said: “Throughout it all, Loren has been super innovative in order to make himself as independent as possible.
“Any time an obstacle presents itself in our new life, he just finds any way around it and comes up with a wild solution that a ‘normal’ abled person wouldn’t normally think of.
“If I was in his position, I’d probably just be a wallowing self pit of pity.
“So many people handle these things so differently and I feel like he’s really beat all odds, both mentally and physically.
“He’s done everything he can to make life as normal as possible for himself and for me personally, its something that I really just love about him.
“This crazy thing happened to us and he’s still just himself, he didn’t change, he does everything he can to be as independent as possible. I’m really proud of him.”
Earlier this year, Loren proposed to Sabia and the engaged couple plan to get married on their anniversary date of July 17, in either 2021 or 2022.
Sabia said: “Going through this together has definitely strengthened a lot of the aspects of our relationship.
“It has made us a lot more appreciative of the little things that we used to take for granted as a couple before.”
Loren said: “I have a very simple life now compared to what it used to be. There’s a lot more laying around than before.
“It was about three months after the accident that I finally wrapped my head around how crazy and miraculous it really is for me to be alive.
“We want to travel the world first and then have some kids and teach them to be better people than we are, so a pretty simplistic life.
“I proposed to Sabia earlier this year when she was freaking out from having a bad day.
“I waited for her to turn around then pulled out the ring and just waited for her to notice it in my hand before asking if she’d marry me.
“My best advice to anyone going through something like this is that you can’t focus on the things you can’t have and you must live your life to the fullest with what you do have.”