West Michigan Marine grateful for second chance after near-death experience

Posted at 10:36 PM, Sep 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-16 23:22:26-04

WYOMING, Mich.—A West Michigan family is hoping their son can leave the hospital soon following a near-death experience during a training exercise at a military base in Virginia.

Adam Elzinga, 20, broke his pelvis, hip and leg and had to undergo an amputation to his right leg. Now the countdown is on for his return to his hometown, Wyoming.

Elzinga has been in the Marines for two years.  Doctors thought he wouldn`t live because of all his blood loss after a car accident that ejected him from his Humvee.  Instead he's recovering, and learning how to navigate life in a whole different way.

“Once a marine always a marine, even if I didn’t know a marine he's still my brother, “ said Adam Elzinga.

For Adam Elzinga, being in the Marines was a dream he had for years, but a normal day after training changed that. As him and his fellow marines went to go turn in their Humvees for the day a civilian hit them head on as they made a turn.

“I was ejected; I kind of went into shock as soon as I hit the pavement. Something came down on me, and hit my right leg and pelvis,” he said.

The vehicle rolled onto his leg, and one of his marine brothers jumped into action.

“He applied two tourniquets to stop the bleeding, and took me off the side of the road and made sure I was okay. He saved my life,” he said.

Adam was rushed to the hospital minutes later.  Once he was there doctors decided to amputate his right leg, and from that moment he knew a career in the Marines may not be in his future.

“Before the accident I was a big runner. Sometimes I wake up, and it really still hasn’t hit me that I have lost my leg. This recovery is going to take a long time,” he said.

Adam’s dad, Ron Elzinga, has been by his side, traveling from Wyoming to Virginia in shifts with his wife, and he’s seen first-hand his son’s determination and struggle.

“It’s terrible to hear when your child has gone through such an injury like that,”he said.

Now he’s watching his son do things for the first time all over again, from his first time sitting up, getting in a wheelchair and even walking. The pain he has to watch Adam deal with is the most heartbreaking.

“It’s also phantom pain. He still feels pain in his ankle and foot, which is no longer there. It’s like nerves still send signals to the brain. I’m just learning about it, but doctors say it’s different for everyone. There’s nothing you can do for it either,” he said.

The support from his fellow marines, family and friends has made the pain a little bit easier.

“People I don’t even know from across the country will check up on me or say,‘Thanks.’ It’s so incredible,” Adam said.

Adam says despite the accident he doesn’t regret becoming a marine; rather, he embraces that’s what he’ll be forever.

“It’s made me a way better man than I could have ever been. I’m going to get right back up on my two feet, he said.

You can follow Adam’s progress here. He’s having a few setbacks with the healing process. The remainder of his leg is not healing as well as it could since he has more than one incision on it. After it heals, he will begin therapy and start learning to use prosthetics.