Personal Story - Mike Laughlin's Story

Mike Laughlin is a two-time trauma survivor. He credits the very skilled doctors and nurses that supported him through two major traumas at Kingston Health Sciences Centre and his rehabilitation at Providence Care. Mike lost his right leg and went through multiple surgeries to repair his spine after his most recent accident in 2016.

As a farm boy from Joyceville, Mike Laughlin thought he was invincible. “Growing up I threw hay, played every sport imaginable, and drove my dirt bike hard and fast,” he says, “but I never broke a bone in my body until my first accident.”

Mike is a two-time survivor of traumatic injury. The first, a snowmobile accident on Loughborough Lake in the winter of 2007, resulted in his left leg being snapped at the femur, “dangling like rubber.”

“When I finally made it to the Emergency Department at KGH that night,” says Mike. “I didn’t know the hospital would be home for the next month, or that I would leave with so much metal: a titanium femur, a titanium kneecap, 33 pins and screws holding my tibia, fibula, knee and femur together, a titanium forearm and 11 screws holding that together.”

Nearly ten years later, in June 2016, Mike found himself fighting for his life again on Loughborough Lake when a deer unexpectedly darted in front of his motorcycle. “I remember the sound of the muffler scraping the ground, the feeling of the back tire hitting the gravel shoulder and the moment she just shot out from under me.

“It’s hard to describe all the thoughts that go through your mind when you’re lying in a ditch, with a broken body.” says Mike. “My instincts as a firefighter took over. I flipped the Harley off of me.” When he looked down, Mike’s right leg was gone. “My tibia and fibula were in the ground like lawn darts. I threw my helmet up on the road so a passing car might see me. I made a tourniquet, pulled my phone out of my pocket and dialed my fire department.”

Mike says he can remember everything until he arrived at the hospital, “and then I just threw myself in their hands and laid back and said, ‘I’m here, I made it.’” While he doesn’t remember much about KHSC’s Emergency Department at KGH, he knows, “It was the second time they saved [his] life.”

After being placed in an induced coma, Mike awoke eight days later to learn that he’d broken his neck and back and had been through four surgeries. Three more would follow. “My right leg had been reattached,” says Mike, “and the man of metal inventory now included two eight-inch rods holding my spine together.” In the end, the leg never did regain circulation and had to be amputated above the knee.
Mike was an in-patient KGH for a month in the summer of 2016. “I had some very skilled doctors,” he says, “but the nurses really got me through it. They were like family to me through the long painful nights after my own family went home. And they were right by my side through tough surgeries and unbearable but necessary procedures. They gave me hope and a hand to hold when I was hurting.”

Eight months after his second accident Mike Laughlin returned to light duty as a firefighter for the City of Kingston and then to full duty not long after becoming the first firefighter in Canada with a prosthetic leg above the knee.  He says he refuses to feel sorry for himself even when complications from his injuries send him back to the hospital. “I never take it for granted that the hospital is there for me when I need it. And that trust and confidence in their ability to get me back on my feet never goes away. They do their part and I do mine: If I can get there, I will make it.”