Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

His Faith Deepens despite Shattering Confrontation

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

His Faith Deepens despite Shattering Confrontation

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

On the evening of Oct. 17, 2012, Brett Parks, who was training to become a flight engineer at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, and working as a freelance personal trainer, was waiting for a new client outside a fitness center near the St. Johns Town Center.

Hearing cries for help, Parks spotted a mugger running from his victim. Moving quickly, Parks caught up with the mugger and grabbed him. Seeing the mugger's hand moving in the pocket of his sweatshirt, Parks braced for the punch he thought the man was going to throw. Instead he heard gunshots as a bullet entered his abdomen.

Parks, who had a 1-year-old son and a pregnant wife, remembers thinking, as he lay on the warm concrete of the parking lot, "I'm going to die today."

He was transported by ambulance to UF Health Jacksonville's TraumaOne center. Doctors there didn't hold out much hope initially. The bullet had shredded a kidney, destroyed several inches of his colon and severed the inferior vena cava, the largest blood vein in the body.

During his initial surgery - the first of 14 surgeries he underwent over the next 20 days - he received 15 liters of blood. He spent those 20 days in a medically induced coma. At one point, an infection in his right leg forced surgeons to amputate it below his knee.

When he awoke from his coma, he discovered he was missing a leg and had an ileostomy bag attached to his colon. He was hooked to a ventilator to help him breathe. He had a hard time talking, couldn't stand for more than a few seconds without blacking out and had to undergo dialysis for 4 hours a day since his surviving kidney had shut down.

The man who had confronted the mugger had been in the best shape of his life, in training for the Reebok-sponsored "Spartan Race" in Miami, an 8-mile race over an obstacle course. He weighed 192 pounds of hard muscle. The man who awoke from the coma weighed 132 pounds of traumatized flesh.

That was 2 1/2 years ago. …

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