Eyes on the Horizon

 

AFTER A VERY SERIOUS MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN 2015, DR. TODD HEGMANN NEVER GAVE UP AND ADMITS THAT LIFE IS EVEN BETTER NOW THAN HE COULD HAVE EVER IMAGINED

by AMBER SMITH ZALISKI  

 
  photo by natalie haywood

photo by natalie haywood

When does an instant equal forever?

Ask anyone that has been through a life-changing event, and they can probably answer that question. Dr. Todd Hegmann could tell you about the moment three years ago when his motorcycle inexplicably slid off the side of an old mountain road. He suffered traumatic dislocations to both knees, but perhaps even more traumatic was the dislocation he felt from his entire life – suddenly unable to work, to drive, or to even stand up on his own.

Since the accident in the spring of 2015, Todd has worked toward a slow and steady and some would say a miraculous recovery. Some – like the doctors who told him he would never walk again. “I really don’t like it when someone tells me I can’t do something,” Todd said. “That is very motivating for me.” After six surgeries and the accompanying recoveries and rehabilitations, life, in many ways, is mostly back to normal. Todd has a busy dental practice at Eagle Dental Center, and he’s golfing on the weekends again. In some ways, life is even better than he could have imagined. The secret, he believes, is that you just never give up.

A Pleasant Grove graduate, Todd always knew he was interested in medicine. He completed his Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree in 2006 and went on to complete several advanced trainings and residencies. “I have specialized trainings, but I still call myself a general dentist,” Todd said. “My goal is always to help people, and I like to solve the problems that no one else can solve.” When he moved back to Texarkana in 2012, Todd opened a private practice, and devoted himself to his work. “I had worked hard to build my practice for three years, and then the accident happened, and it felt like everything was taken away.”

  The day after his accident, April 5, 2015, Todd and his niece Ava celebrated her fifth birthday being together and eating cupcakes.

The day after his accident, April 5, 2015, Todd and his niece Ava celebrated her fifth birthday being together and eating cupcakes.

On April 4, 2015, Todd was headed to Hot Springs with his dad and his uncle to work on their condo. “It was a Saturday morning. I still don’t know what happened. We were about 10 miles away from Hot Springs. Our friend riding behind me said nothing happened. He couldn’t explain it.” Todd describes the way his bike suddenly slid off the edge of the road and over the side of the embankment. He remembers clipping the end of the guard rail, his bike going one way, his body the other. He remembers his body hitting a tree. “Then everything was black for a while,” he said. “When I came to, I still had my helmet on, and I remember a really uncomfortable, painful feeling, especially my right leg.” His lower leg was bent backward beside him, his foot unnaturally close to his hip. “I was trying to straighten myself out and get up – just the adrenaline and shock, I didn’t know what I was doing – and someone grabbed me from behind. He told me to be still, an ambulance was coming. I still don’t know who that was.”

  Cyenthia and Todd celebrating Cyenthia’s birthday on January 2, 2017.

Cyenthia and Todd celebrating Cyenthia’s birthday on January 2, 2017.

Todd was rushed to the hospital in Hot Springs to have his right leg reset. He was then told about the traumatic dislocations of both knees causing bilateral multi-ligament injuries, and that he may never walk again. “They gave me the name of an orthopedic surgeon in Little Rock. I did my own research and kept coming back to him – Dr. James Tucker.”

  Todd and baby Leo during their first photo together this past August at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System.

Todd and baby Leo during their first photo together this past August at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System.

Todd made one of his only Facebook posts about the accident right before his first surgery on April 24. “...So thankful for my family during this challenging recovery. Pray for me that I may once again walk and enjoy the simple things we all take for granted. I plan on a record-breaking rehabilitation. I don’t know how to do things the easy way...”

Nothing came very easily during recovery. “I woke up from the first surgery where he repaired three ligaments in my right knee, and it was the size of a pumpkin,” he said. “The injury was worse than expected. It was incredibly painful, much worse than the accident, even.” For the next year, Todd had a surgery schedule, as they could only work on one leg at a time. As soon as he was strong enough to put a little weight on that leg, it was time for the next surgery and to start the process all over again. “It was a physical injury, but in many ways it was such a mental battle. You have to always keep your eyes on the horizon. You have to keep looking up because if you don’t, it’s easy to be steered the other way.”

Todd was unable to drive or to work for five months or so, and unable to live alone, his parents moved him into their home and set him up in the master bedroom, with the only bathroom that could accommodate his wheelchair. “I read a lot about knee surgeries to pass the time, and I read and studied for work to keep my mind busy, and I just kept setting the next goal to achieve: the next surgery, rehab for this long, being able to lift my foot so I could drive, being able to get back to work, even if I was in a wheelchair, walking on my own again.”

Luckily, life can change instantly in amazing ways as well. Reluctantly, Todd agreed to go to his 20-year class reunion. “I still didn’t really feel like myself,” he said. “As soon as I saw her walk in I said, ‘Who is that?’ She was crashing the party.” Cyenthia laughed next to Todd at the kitchen island. It was true. The pair hit it off that night. They spent more time together and fell in love. They now have a precious 3-month-old baby boy. “I really thought the family name was going to die with me,” Todd said. “You never know what’s ahead. You just have to keep going.”

All of the simple things Dr. Todd Hegmann prayed for three years ago surround him. He is able to walk into his home after a long day at work, have dinner with his family, take a trip to the lake, go to trivia night every once in a while. “I would not be here without my family, my parents. I could not have gotten through any of it without them,” Todd said. “I may never be exactly the same as I was, but I can always try to make things better. For that, I am very thankful. I can set the next goal, and the next, and never stop.”