teenager crushed by forklift
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
November 26, 2020 ·  5 min read

Teenager Crushed By Forklift Chooses To Amputate Bottom Half Of Body To Save His Life

18-year-old Loren Schauers and 21-year-old Sabia Mistral-Reiche were, by all accounts, an ordinary young couple. Living in Great Falls, Montana, the pair had been dating for eighteen months. Then, a tragic accident changed Sabia and Loren forever.

Teen crushed by a forklift

On September 27, 2019, Loren was driving a forklift across a bridge. He began moving closer to the side of the road to give more space to an oncoming vehicle, when he veered over the edge. He plummeted fifty feet to the ground, and the massive vehicle pinned him beneath it.

Being conscious the entire time, he could see that his right arm and the lower half of his body were completely crushed [1].

“I had no pain whatsoever.  I was in complete shock,” Loren said. “The hardest part was breathing, because it felt like my breathing was restricted.” [2]

Sabia received a call saying that Loren had been injured in a workplace accident, and that emergency responders were flying him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Right away she got on a plane with Loren’s mother to be with him at the hospital.

Sadly, there was no way doctors could reconstruct the lower half of Loren’s body, or his right arm. If he wanted to survive, doctors would have to amputate all of it.

A Hemicoporectomy

Loren made the brave decision to have a hemicorporectomy. 

A hemicorporectomy, or translumbar amputation, is a radical surgery in which doctors remove the bony pelvis, lower extremities, and external genitalia. It is a complex, multistep procedure that has significant physiological and psychological effects on the individual.

In many cases, patients die either before or after surgery, This is due in part to the complexity of the surgery, but could also be because of the underlying disease that warranted the surgery in the first place [3].

“I knew I’d lose all these limbs pretty much,” Loren said. “The forklift didn’t cut me in half, but crushed every bone in my pelvis down to my feet along with the muscle in my forearm.” [2]

Given the high mortality rate of the surgery and Loren’s bad condition, doctors wanted to brace Sabia and Loren’s family for the worst. They told her Loren that he wouldn’t survive, and she said goodbye to him a total of six separate times, fearing that he wouldn’t make it another day.

Loren, however, defied the odds and pulled through. He says that every medical professional is amazed at his story. For him, however, the choice to have the surgery was a no-brainer.

“It wasn’t a hard choice to have half of my body amputated – it was basically a choice of living or dying,” he explained. “With Sabia assuring to stay by my side no matter what and all my immediate family being around me, it really wasn’t a hard choice for me!” [1]

Read: Inspiring teen receives emotional homecoming after having both legs amputated

Sabia and Loren’s New Normal

Doctors thought that Loren would be in the hospital for at least a year recovering. To everyone’s amazement, however, he only stayed for three months. He then did four weeks of rehab before he was able to go home.

Since then, the pair are getting used to their new lives. Sabia says that Loren has been very innovative in order to be 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,” she says [1].

They have been sharing their story and their new lives on social media, and now have quite a large following. Currently, they have 250 thousand followers across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Sabia Mistral Reiche (@sabia.mistral)

In their videos, they answer viewer questions openly and honestly. Many of the questions surround details of his amputation, and Loren answers them candidly.

“We get questions like, ‘does he have any private parts?’” Sabia said. “He’s amputated below the waist.  If that doesn’t answer your questions, Google hemicorporectomy.” [2]

Loren offers clear descriptions of all of the apparatus that help him function normally (like going to the bathroom), as well as his prosthesis. Of course, he also spends some time racing around in his motorized wheelchair.

Phantom Pains

They also talk about some of the lingering effects that he deals with post-surgery, especially phantom pains. According to Sabia. Specialists in Chicago determined that the phantom pain he was feeling in his left foot was physical, and in his right foot was mental.

When he gets left-side phantom pain, she says, they can alleviate it by stretching his spine with a foam roller.

“If it’s his right leg,” she noted, “we go through his day and try to pinpoint things that upset or irritated him and work through his emotions about those events to help relieve that pain.” [2]

Closer than Ever Before

Loren and Sabia say that this difficult experience has only made them stronger. Sabia, who has been by Loren’s side throughout the entire process, is now his care provider in the home. Loren has since proposed to Sabia, and the pair plan to marry in 2021 or 2022.

Loren says that without Sabia, he would not have had the will to survive.

“Believe me,” he said, “if I had woken up and she wasn’t beside me, I probably wouldn’t have survived. Having her waking me up and kissing me on the forehead, brought me to terms that this wasn’t the end.” [2]

After the accident, Sabia set up a GoFundMe account with a goal of raising fifty thousand dollars to cover medical expenses. They have far surpassed that number, which has given them day-to-day financial stability until they are able to establish other resources.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Sabia Mistral Reiche (@sabia.mistral)

“This is the most love and support I’ve ever had in my entire life,” said Loren [2].

In addition, Sabia and Loren are using their platform to educate people on construction safety. According to Loren, the accident was a combination of him being unfamiliar with how to handle a forklift, and failure by a motorist to stop at a stoplight.

“Construction rules are there for a reason,” Sabia said.  “Always yield to construction workers.” [2]

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