Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In an undated photo provided by the Mills family, Travis Mills is seen in his hospital bed with his wife Kelsey and daughter Chloe at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Mills served two deployments to Afghanistan without a major injury, and then is a second an IED explosion changed everything. Today the 25-year-old is a quadruple amputee, one of only five servicemen from any military branch to have survived such an injury during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is recovering and describes his situation plainly: I just had a bad day at work. His family _ especially his wife, Kelsey _ admires him for that. (AP Photo/Mills Family)
Michigan soldier fights to recover after losing limbs
Military » As he recovers, quadruple amputee’s story compels thousands to offer support.
First Published Jul 03 2012 12:01 pm • Last Updated Jul 07 2012 09:38 pm

Vassar, Mich. • Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills served two deployments to Afghanistan without suffering anything close to a major injury. Then, in a second, everything changed.

On patrol during his third tour in April, Mills put his bag down on an improvised explosive device, which tore through the decorated high school athlete’s muscular 6-foot-3 frame. Within 20 seconds of the IED explosion, a fast-working medic affixed tourniquets to all four of Mills’ limbs to ensure he wouldn’t bleed to death.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I was yelling at him to get away from me," Mills remembers. "I told him to leave me alone and go help my guys.

"And he told me: ‘With all due respect, Sgt. Mills, shut up. Let me do my job.’"

The medic was able to save Mills’ life but not his limbs. Today, the 25-year-old Mills is a quadruple amputee, one of only five servicemen from any military branch to have survived such an injury during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Maria Tolleson, a spokeswoman at U.S. Army Medical Command. And instead of serving alongside his unit, he has been spending his days based at Walter Reed Medical Center, working on rehabilitation after the accident that dramatically altered the trajectory of his life.

Mills doesn’t dwell on that. Sitting in his hospital bed, he describes his situation plainly: "I just had a bad day at work."

His family — especially his wife, Kelsey — admires him for that.

"I think he’s Superman. I really do," she said. "It’s amazing to see just how lucky he is. I mean, he’s the luckiest unlucky guy."

Mills’ recovery is expected to last at least a year. Already, there have been victories: A procedure performed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center alleviated the excruciating phantom limb pains Mills was experiencing in the first weeks he was stateside.

He approaches each therapy session methodically, practically.


story continues below
story continues below

"There’s no reason to sit here and look out the window and feel sorry for myself," Mills told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Walter Reed. "It happened. I can’t change the fact that it happened. I can’t turn back time."

At Walter Reed, Mills is doing exercises designed to make his body leaner while strengthening his core, hip flexors, pectorals and shoulders. He bounces on a trampoline, trying to execute 90-degree turns with his torso. "There’s nothing I really don’t like (about PT), except I can’t do two-a-days yet," Mills jokes.

While he’s in the midst of getting his permanent prosthetics, Mills currently needs assistance to do things that most people take for granted, such as cooking and cleaning, or walking and running. As often as Walter Reed doctors let him, Mills makes his way to the Military Advanced Training Center to strengthen his body and prepare for long-term prosthetics. He currently has all four beginner prosthetics.

"They push you to your limit, then they push you a little more," said Mills, a high school football, basketball and baseball star who is more accustomed to bench-pressing and squatting to get bigger.

While he works at learning to use his new artificial limbs, Mills has an army of supporters behind him. On the Facebook page, nearly 20,000 people are tracking his progress and cheering him on virtually through messages.

The page serves as a window into his recovery, and his supporters watch eagerly as he surpasses milestones. When he began to walk on his prosthetics for the first time, a camera followed him as he nudged forward on a small track. With red and white sneakers laced on his prosthetic legs, and crutches gripping his artificial hands, he methodically takes one step at a time while tethered with a harness to the ceiling.

He doesn’t just take a few steps. He walks the whole track.

"This is your first day?" an incredulous voice says from nearby.

"Yes, yes it is," he responds proudly, taking another step.

A short time later, another video showed more progress: He walks faster now, swifter than his first deliberate gait.

Videos also show him learning to roll and come to a sitting position in his bed, and learning, patiently, to use an artificial hand. One clip shows him removing colorful clamps from a bar and dropping them in a bucket. Another shows him using that same hand to feed baby food to his infant daughter, Chloe.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.