Accident victim becomes source of inspiration
By Millie Diaz
“I once complained about having no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.” The well-known proverb is unknown in origin, but it can undoubtedly be said of 1998 Edna alumni Dusty Buehring.
It’s not about what happens to you, but how you deal with it, and Dusty is proving that with every step. His journey has helped him see he wants to help others in his situation.
Dusty is boisterous, his laugh is undeniably loud, and he loves making other laugh. He’s the type who galvanizes people because everyone he meets is a friend.
Two years ago Dusty danced with death in a major car accident. It mangled the left half of his body, but ended up only strengthening his humorous yet realistic disposition.
“The weather had been hazy that day and it was turning dusk. Traffic was heavy that evening and the speed limit was 75 miles per hour,” he said. “I saw this vehicle turn onto the road and I wasn’t able to gauge how slow it was going until it was too late.”
Dusty swerved into the lane beside him and noticed an 18-wheeler was coming up behind him. His car began to fishtail and he distinctly remembers choosing to go off the road so as not to involve nearby drivers. As a result, his car flipped multiple times.
He couldn’t recall any pain until after he was in the hospital. Even as a man was trying to help him out from under his car, Dusty didn’t know how bad it was until they brought the Jaws of Life to him. “As they were taking me to get HALO flighted out I saw all the cars backed up and I remember thinking, “Man, they’re gonna be mad at me for holding up traffic!” Then I blacked out,” he laughed.
Any friend of Dusty’s can attest to his dark sense of humor, but his closest friends realized the accident could make or break him. Dusty was in and out of comas and had even been declared dead at one point.
Connie Kalina, a childhood friend, was one of many who rushed to see him after the accident.
“He could’ve gone one of two ways, instead of going down he went up,” she said of her beloved friend. “He never complained, he wouldn’t dwell on it. His response was, ‘What am I going to do? I’m alive.’”
For days doctors unsuccessfully tried grafting his foot back to his body, and Dusty said he was playing Angry Birds on his phone when he was given the option to amputate his left leg below the knee.
“The doctor wanted my full attention, but I was more interested in getting that last pig! The choice was a no-brainer to me,” he explained. “I’d rather not have a foot than be in a wheelchair all the time.”
Naturally, the choice led him to receiving a prosthetic leg, but the process led him to deal with more obstacles.
“I kept running into these brick walls in my healing process, and suddenly I started to figure out it’s about when and how you get over the brick walls,” he said. “They won’t be there forever.”
He received his foot in December of last year, but said he’s still getting used to it. A walker is necessary for him, but if he is wearing pants, no one would notice he didn’t have part of his left leg.
Dusty happily said though, he doesn’t mind wearing shorts. “When it’s hot, it’s hot! Sometimes kids will ask me what happened to my leg and I like to joke that I escaped from the Jigsaw killer in the Saw movies, because I don’t want to scare them about how I lost my leg. Then they think it’s cool.”
During his healing process, Dusty started to see his future change and became unsure as to what it would hold. After a friend’s father lost his foot, Dusty found himself helping the man mentally prepare for the process he was about to go through. “My mindset has always been: who am I to tell you what to do? But the doctors like to sugar-coat things, and I didn’t do that. I tell the truth – it’s going to hurt, but not forever.
“I’ve lost more than one friend in a car accident and I could’ve easily added myself to the list.” He snapped his fingers. “Just like that, and I could’ve been another statistic. When I realized that, my outlook changed, everything changed.”
Kalina said the person Dusty chose to become since the accident has been an endless source of inspiration to her. “He has a new perspective on life and thrives, he volunteers. He’s still the same Dusty, but someone who has had a brush with death. They broke the mold when they made him.”
-Dusty Buehring (far left) sits with the friends that helped him most through his ordeal. Connie Kalina, Aschleigh Stasney, Kingsley Ikemba and Pablo Gutierrez.