From an early age, Texas native, Keith Murphy knew that joining the Army would be part of his life plan. As a Cub Scout, Boy Scout and later in the ROTC, being a soldier was always something he felt called to do. At 18 years old he fulfilled his childhood dream and enlisted.
By Caitlin Bishop
Murphy was in the Army for four years as a Sergeant, specializing in Infantry, Mortars—a field he truly enjoyed. He was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia before being deployed to Korea for one year where he met Brenda, a fellow soldier deployed with a different unit who would eventually become his wife. Once deployment ended, they each returned to Fort Polk, Louisiana, married soon after and moved back to Texas. The Murphys started a family together in Dallas where Keith went to work as a truck driver for many years.
On August 28, 2018, during a motorcycle ride on beautiful afternoon, Murphy’s life changed in an instant. While driving through an intersection, he was hit by a car making an illegal left turn. “The last thing I remember is being put into an ambulance and waking up in the hospital 8 days later,” he recalls. His injuries were extensive including seven broken ribs, a broken pelvis, hip, back, dislocated shoulder, collapsed lung and a severed left leg above the knee. Doctors attempted to save his leg at first, but due to the severity of the injury, Murphy’s wife, Brenda was left to make the difficult decision to amputate above the knee in an effort to save his life.
“After the accident, I remained in the hospital for six weeks and it was complete agony,” recounts Murphy. “I was unable to move, yet in excruciating pain, and needed spoon-feeding as well as help bathing. Those initial days and weeks were a very dark place for me.” By the sixth week Murphy was able to move off the hospital bed into a wheel chair and was released to go home on October 16, 2018.
Once home, Murphy’s outlook changed as he realized his recovery was in his own hands. “I knew I was hurt badly, but I was determined not to let my injuries or the actions of a reckless driver beat me,” he said. Murphy began wheel chairing up and down the walkway in his front yard and lifting 5-pound dumb bells in an effort to build back his strength. He had lost 50 pounds and significant muscle tone while in the hospital.
After being home for one month, Murphy decided to contact Adaptive Training Foundation (ATF), a non-profit organization he had heard of in his area that helps those with physical disabilities transform their lives through exercise and community. “I knew I needed to find people who went through what I went through,” he said. Murphy began going to ATF three days a week for stretching and conditioning in preparation for an upcoming nine-week program they offered with 11 other veterans that he wanted to be a part of.
Murphy started out doing simple exercises such as lifting an empty weight bar, doing push-ups and chin-ups. He worked diligently to tighten his core, arms and build back deteriorated muscle—crucial for his wheel chair use. He successfully joined ATF’s winter 2019 Redefine program and strived to push the limits of what he thought his body was capable of doing. Part of the program included a Lake Tahoe trip where the class was able to partake in mono-skiing—a highlight for the Texas native.
“At ATF, positivity is contagious and being around others who have endured similar injuries has been incredible for my mind, body and spirit,” says Murphy. “If you show up and put in the work, there’s no way to lose. Their team is determined to see you win.”
Murphy continues to push forward and embrace his new normal. He proudly got back on a motorcycle for the first time in January 2019 and has set his sights on a few other goals—running and walking again using a prosthetic with the long term goal of being a sled driver in the 2022 Paralympics for bobsledding.