Wounded Soldiers Find New Hope At N.Y. Hospital

WCBS-TV—December 24, 2007

At military hospitals across the country, wounded soldiers are being treated for injuries they suffered at war, and many are facing amputations. But now, a New York doctor is offering some of those soldiers a new chance at a normal life.

John Borders, 34, is one of those soldiers with a newfound hope. He was almost safely home -- serving his last patrol in Iraq -- when tragedy struck. His vehicle was devastated by an IED.

"I heard the voice on the other end, it was his colonel and he was like, 'Mollie,' and I said 'Is he alive? Just tell me he's alive,'" says Borders' wife, Mollie.

His injuries were massive: he lost one of his legs in the explosion.

"I am absolutely lucky I'm still alive," he admits.

"He doesn't even have the human definition of 'pain' anymore," adds Mollie.

And despite the best efforts of doctors at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., Borders was facing amputation of the other.

"The doctors at Walter Reed have a lot of skill, but they're really overworked. There's just so many of us coming back from overseas," he says.

So Borders came to Manhattan's Upper East Side to Hospital for Special Surgery, where a surgeon Dr. John G. Kennedy is working with the Wounded Warriors Project -- a group that helps injured service members to see if there are options other than amputation.

"We have no business operating unless we know we have a very good chance of helping him, so there's no question we can make this better," says Dr. Kennedy.

Capt. Brian Jantzen was also facing amputation for injuries he suffered and almost went through with the life-changing surgery.

"I was real close. I even had the appointment scheduled. It was literally days away," says Jantzen.

Jantzen was on patrol in Ramadi when his vehicle was also hit. All of the bones in his feet and ankles were shattered. After being in pain for two years, doctors suggested amputation, but he too came to Special Surgery through the Wounded Warriors Project, and now he won't have to lose his leg.

"It's a blessing. It's a gift. I just feel so lucky, I wonder why it was me that got to be so lucky," says Jantzen.

Dr. Kennedy is extremely proud to be making so many hard-working soldiers happy. "Occasionally all it takes is a fresh set of eyes and maybe a little different perspective, and we can hopefully offer a little bit more," he says.

Two months after his surgery, Jantzen is healing nicely.

And John Borders heads into the new year facing a life of new promise for both him and his family. He says he's thrilled to be able to share a normal life with his son, especially.

"Football, baseball, soccer -- I want to be able to teach him that stuff. That's what dads do," he says.

Borders underwent surgery on Friday, and doctors say it went very well.

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