'I saw my leg was a mangled mess'

SEATTLE -- It was a sunny, warm day along Highway 410 near Mt. Rainier when a man crashed his motorcycle last month.

"This most beautiful scenery that I've encountered in my life," says Mark Hall. "My flickers were flickering on my motorbike, and I didn't realize how my speed in the descent had increased and I was looking down, next minute I was on the other side of the road."

The accident changed his life forever.

"And I came head on to this car which was coming up and as I hit this vehicle, I was thrown onto the side on to the rocks," Hall said. "I saw my leg was a mangled mess. But other parts of me were still OK -- thank God I didn't hit my head."

Mark was wearing a helmet.

Medics airlifted him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, delivering him into the skilled hands of Dr. Doug Smith. The accident robbed Mark of his lower right leg.

Eight days later, he was out of the hospital and back to see the doctor before returning home.

As painful as Mark's injury is, Dr. Smith's skill allowed him to keep his knee joint.

"My instinct was saying I have to have my knee," Hall said.

Smith said it was a really bad injury below the knee. "But the decision was made to try to save his thigh and his knee, if we could. He will have trouble getting his knee moving though - over the next year with the muscle damage."

Hall's recovery time may be longer, but he should have more mobility in the long run.

"We always look at limbs with the hope of saving a limb that can have some function," Smith said.

Smith spent seven years consulting with the U.S. Military after the war on terror started. He now does two-to-four amputations a week.

"I think it would be a wonderful world if nobody ever lost an arm or a leg but unfortunately it's happening more, not less," Smith said.

And not just because of war injuries.

"People can tend to be risk takers," Smith said.

More than half are trauma related -- accidents involving motorcycles, boats, climbing and more. And the rest?

"I think people are living longer so we're seeing more amputations from vascular disease and diabetes," Smith said.

Regardless of the reason, patients are thrilled to have Dr. Smith on their side.

Smith said people really do have an amazing ability to adapt.

Meanwhile, Hall says he is determined to be walking strong this time next year to come back to Seattle with his wife and two sons - ages 8 and 13. It will be quite the trip. Mark is from South Africa and was here with his buddies to ride motorcycles when the accident happened.
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