He was only 18 when his life changed forever.
South Padre, Texas, was Dustin Faurote’s destination of choice for his first spring break. However, one life-altering accident and 11 years later, Dustin describes the beach as overrated.
Dustin said he was having fun diving in the ocean with friends when disaster struck. One of the waves pulled him down, causing him to hit his head on the sandbar and break his neck.
“But luckily there was a lifeguard on duty. Me,” Faurote said with a smirk. “There wasn’t any lifeguard, but I was a swimmer and a lifeguard, and I just think it was funny that I was the one that got hurt.”
Following his accident, Dustin was pulled out of the water by his friends and airlifted to a hospital. Dustin said that the odds of him even being able to breath on his own were pretty bleak.
Andrew Lindenberg, a senior from Fort Wayne majoring in medical imaging at IPFW, was among Dustin’s many friends at home who were surprised to hear the news.
“I was shocked because him being the person that he was, so active and outgoing, to have something as tragic as that happen to him, it was kinda crazy,” Lindenberg said. “When we first found out, they weren’t 100 percent sure what was gonna really happen to him, because of the fact that the injury was so severe.”
Dustin said he only had a few months of high school left before he was going to attend college to become a physical therapist. However, his plans changed after his accident, when the best-case scenario became breathing on his own and possibly moving his arms.
Now, after eight months of physical therapy in Atlanta, and another couple of years once he returned home to Fort Wayne, he has regained some arm and torso movement as well as control of random muscle groups in his legs.
Dustin said he has walked six very difficult steps since his accident, but relies heavily on his wheelchair. He said with a lot of time and money he could become more mobile in the future.
While Dustin recovered well from his accident, he said the change from his previously active lifestyle was a difficult adjustment.
“It was hard going from benching 285 and running an 18:07 5K, to not being able to feed myself or breath without a ventilator. I missed the ache of a good workout,” Dustin said, “but it was weird being told I’m lucky, and thinking I’m lucky, when I started wiggling toes, lifting my arms, feeling drops of water on my legs, and turning my head.”
Dustin described physical therapy as uncomfortable. He said relearning everything was difficult, but the hardest part was admitting that he needed help.
“I have always been really independent because my mom has always been a single mom working two jobs. I would come home, do my homework, make something to eat, clean up the house, and then do whatever for my mom when she got home,” Dustin said. “Not needing my mom kind of accidentally instilled that you need to rely on yourself. You can count on people, but don’t always depend on others.”
Despite his physical limitations, Dustin has maintained the same independent attitude he’s always had, thanks to the help of Granite Ridge Builders, who he said volunteered to build a new, accessible house for him.
Dustin is currently a senior at IPFW, pursuing a degree in secondary education. He said he hopes to find a job teaching in the area, and to maybe one day feel like an adult.
“One of my biggest hope-to-do things is get back to physical therapy, because I have been able to walk before,” Dustin said, “and I know it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s one of those things that I want to be able to do. To say that as long as you work for it.”