A Firefighter's Determination Can't Be Beat
Video Screen Capture
The Houston Chronicle via YellowBrix
June 02, 2010
HOUSTON – One year ago, a Cy-Fair volunteer firefighter’s life was changed forever. Thomas Shuster lost both of his legs at the hands of a suspected drunken driver. And now, he’s telling us about the journey he’s taken the past year and his hope for the future.
Success comes in the small victories for Shuster.
“I’ve realized that my life changed that day,” he said.
At 28 years old, he is learning how to drive with just his hands.
“People look at me like I’m crazy when I just jump right into the car,” he said.
He’s learning how to walk with new legs.
“A unique process. It’s kind of like walking on stilts,” he said.
He’s also learning how to cope, how to live.
“Learning how to handle the different emotions that I have,” he said. “Just trying to get back to somewhat of a normal life.”
But none of that is as tough as sitting on the sidelines when the sirens sound at Station 8.
“It’s tough when they get a call, and I get to watch the truck leave instead of being able to be on the truck,” Shuster said.
On June 1, 2009, the volunteer fireman was working his day job delivering auto parts to a store on Aldine Bender Road when a suspected drunk driver veered off the road in a stolen car and struck him in a parking lot.
“I still don’t remember that day at all,” Shuster said.
But what he hasn’t forgotten is those who helped him live.
“It’s just kind of a way of saying thanks to the guy that was watching out for me that day,” he said.
Romeo 1414 was Shuster’s LifeFlight identification in those critical moments following the accident.
“God has to be, and all the firefighters that are up there, and there’s unfortunately a lot of them,” he said.
Shuster was not wearing his prosthetics when ABC13 interviewed him because he is recovering from yet another surgery. That’s where his new friend, Frazzle, comes in.
“This is my little puppy,” Shuster said. “I’m working on training her to be a service dog for me, to help me out with picking stuff up and help me to open doors.”
Shuster may have lost his legs, but he sure remembers how to fight a fire.
“You start trying to get a basic mental plan of what your initial attack is going to be when you get on scene,” he said.
His drive is stronger than ever. His ultimate goal is to get back on a fire truck.
In just one year, he’s learned a lot about himself, his ability to overcome the odds.
“I haven’t given up, and I’m still doing my best to obtain my goals,” he said.
Now life is more about small steps and one day at a time.
“I will one day, I will be back on that fire truck,” he said.
Shuster says he has come to terms that he will never be able to go inside a burning building again, but he hopes to respond to scenes and do what he can from the outside.
The suspect in his case, 24-year-old Celio Velasquez, is charged with aggravated assault. His trial is set for next February.