he would be better off with an amputation. He would have more mobility with a
prosthetic, less pain. When he refused, they
took a piece of muscle from his back and
sewed it into the hole in his thigh. He did
all he could to make it work. He grunted
and sweated his way through the agony of
physical therapy with the same red-faced
determination that got him through boot
camp. He even sneaked out to the stairwell,
something they said his body couldn’t handle, and dragged himself up the steps until
his leg seized up and he collapsed.
Generally people never recovered from
wounds like his. Flying debris had ripped
off nearly ;; percent of Hernandez’s right
thigh muscle, and he had lost half his leg
strength. Remove enough of any muscle
and you might as well lose the whole limb,
the chances of regeneration are so remote.
;e body kicks into survival mode, pastes the
wound over with scar tissue, and leaves you
to limp along for life.
For Hernandez, it had been three years
and there was no mistaking it: He had hit
a plateau. Lately the talk of amputation
had cropped up again. The pain was con-
stant, and he was losing hope. ;en his life
took another radical turn. He saw a science
documentary on the Discovery Channel
(no relation to this magazine) that told the
story of a war veteran in Cincinnati named
Lee Spievack whose ;ngertip had been sev-
ered by the propeller of a model airplane.
Spievack’s brother, a surgeon in Boston, had
sent him a vial of magic powder—the nar-
rator called it “pixie dust”—and told him to
sprinkle it onto the wound. Lee was to cover
his hand with a plastic bag and reapply the
powder every other day until his supply ran
out. After four months, Lee’s ;ngertip had
regenerated itself, nail, bone, and all.