Daryl Farler (Photo submitted)
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- It was just a scratch.
It was Feb. 4, 2006, at 7:30 a.m.
It was Super Bowl Sunday.
It was a life-changing moment.
Murfreesboro resident Daryl Farler, who was living in Hermitage at the time, was playing with his cocker spaniel that morning when his pet inadvertently scratched his left eye.
Two days later, Farler had less than a 10 percent chance to live.
After being scratched, his eye began to bother him, but Farler wasn’t’ overly alarmed.
“I got some eye drops, but I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Farler said. “It progressively got worse, and by the middle of the night my bodily functions didn’t work and I was having a hard time breathing. By the next day, my eye was totally shut. It looked like somebody had punched me in the eye.
“I went to Dr. Felch in Franklin and he prescribed me medicine. I went on home and laid down on the couch and had some soup and Gatorade.”
Farler’s condition didn’t improve, however. Instead, it only worsened.
“I was still having a hard time breathing. My eye was bleeding. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, said she thought we needed to go to the hospital,” he said. “I vaguely remember going to the hospital at Summit. My blood pressure was low and my heart rate was high. I remember signing a thing to go on a ventilator, and I don’t remember anything over the next two weeks. It was like a wicked dream.”
Farler was eventually transferred to Centennial Hospital by ambulance. He suffered cardiac arrest on the way, but was brought back to life.
He had eye surgery to remove the infectious fluid. He was completely septic, and blood was unable to flow to his extremities.
“The good news was he was alive,” said Farler’s wife Chevonne. “The bad news was he had a rare form of strep. It was a one-in-a-million chance that he got it. It got into his tear duct, which is an immediate line into the blood stream.
“With his survival rate so low, Centennial was the only hospital where doctors were willing to try and treat him.”
Farler would eventually be induced into a coma. He was brought out of it and later released. However, while still in the hospital he took a big step as far as his future was concerned.
“I was in ICU and proposed to her in the hospital,” he said.
“We had to borrow his mother’s ring,” Chevonne said.
“My thought was if I was going to die I wanted her to know how much I loved her, and I wanted to her to know that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her,” he recalled.
Farler eventually went home. He was in poor health and eventually went from about 240 pounds to 160.
“I was really sick,” he said. “I looked at my feet and knew they would have to be amputated. My hands and feet looked like charcoal.
“I was doing out-patient dialysis and things got pretty well back to normal before I got pneumonia and a urinary tract infection. I went back to the hospital for about another month. I was trying to walk on dead legs. I smelled like dead legs. I had plastic surgery on my eye in April, and then they scheduled my surgeries.”
Coming to grips
Farler lost sight in his left eye and is mostly deaf in his left ear. He had both legs amputated around the calf down, and he had fingers removed on both hands.
“It was a sense of relief, but it doesn’t feel good to get feet and fingers amputated,” Farler said. “I eventually did in-patient rehab the next month, along with physical therapy. I lost a lot of weight, and I was very frail.”
During this time period, Farler lost his job with a mortgage company as an underwriter, but he eventually landed another with Country Wide.
However, Farler continued to deal with the fact that he was an amputee.
It was a continuous struggle.
“I think learning how to use the legs, being independent on my own, really came within a sixth months to a year time frame,” Farler said. “But being OK with being an amputee took five years. I suppressed a lot of emotions, more so a few years ago than I do now. I would bottle it all up and then it would explode, and it nearly cost us our marriage. It was difficult for five years. My son was born during that five years, so a lot of that emotional baggage would be taken out on him. He’s just a kid, it’s not his fault. Logically, I didn’t think about it, but emotionally I was just torn.”
Still, Farler persevered with help of a therapist.
“It’s taken some medication to get me on an even playing ground, and it took a lot of psychological help,” he said. “I saw a therapist weekly. Then once I started seeing some improvement it went to every other week, and eventually it was on a quarterly basis. Now I just see him when I need to see him.
“He kind of unlocked a lot of the issues I was having, and said this is how you cope with it. These are the things you need to work on. I’d give myself timeouts, so over that period I felt more comfortable with everything to the point that now I don’t have any sort of issues with being an amputee.”
Meanwhile, Chevonne remained right be his side.
“It was hard, I’m not going to sit here and say it’s wasn’t,” she said. “Any relationship is difficult and you face a lot of hurdles, and this is one of the hurdles. I knew on our first date that he was my husband when he dropped me off. I prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Praise God, I just met my husband.’
“When he got sick there wasn’t ever a question about me staying or going. We weren’t even married at the time, but I knew God had revealed to me that he was my husband. That’s made a lot of things a lot of easier. When you’ve got faith, you know this is the plan that God has for you.
“You just have to face the hurdles as they come. Going to counseling, he’s done it and I’ve done it. You can’t face everything on your own. You’ve got to have family, friends and faith.”
A new calling
Farler eventually lost his job as well at Country Wide, but an opportunity soon came along that would forever change his life.
He was offered a job at The Surgical Center, the very place he got his new legs at, as a prosthetic manager and certified prosthetic assistant.
He assists in making of prosthetic legs and help patients mentally and physically come to grips with being an amputee. He’ll be with the company four years in January.
Farler calls the job “very rewarding,” despite the many long hours he works each week.
“What makes me different from an able-body individual is a strong suit for me because I can go anywhere and tell someone that life doesn’t stop just because you have something minor or major happen to you,” he said. “Does it always take five years? Absolutely not. Most people, if we can get in front of them and tell them that these are some things you should be looking for, that you should seek some professional help, usually they stare it down and know.
“You can accept it. A lot of these times these patients come to us and they’ve just found out they’re diabetic and they have all of these underling health issues and then they have their leg cut off. They just wake up and don’t’ know what the case is.
“They don’t what has hit them. If I can take one of those burdens off their chest, I want to. I tell them that it stinks right now, but in a few weeks you’ll be back up walking, and in a few months you’ll be back to being normal with some modifications in your life. And over the next couple of years in your life you’ll have the opportunity to share your story to others.
“It’s very rewarding for me to walk into work and see somebody walk for the first time. A lot of these times, the parents are the first ones to see them walk, but a lot of times I’m the first to see them walk. I love what I do, and I’m very passionate about it. I’m their cheerleader, which makes sense. I was a cheerleader in college (at Austin Peay State University).”
The next chapter
Farler not only moved on and walked again, but he has since taken his personal life to a new level.
He is a very active runner, biker and swimmer, and recently completed a half-ironman (70.3 miles). In his class, he won a gold medal in the 100 meters, a gold in the shot put and a silver in the 200 meters at the 2012 Endeavor Games in Oklahoma.
The next goal is representing the United States in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in the paratriathlon. He also plans to complete his first full marathon and ironman this year.
“I’m able to influence people through my charity,” he said. “I’m passionate about running, just like I’m passionate with my job.
“I’m really no different than anyone else. I just put my legs on before my pants.”
Farler and his wife, both MTSU graduates, moved to Murfreesboro in 2007. They have one boy, Clark, who is 5, and Chevonne recently gave birth to a daughter, Bristol.
“I feel very, very blessed to have two healthy children,” Farler said. “That’s a fear of any new newlyweds. With all the medicine I was on, you just don’t know. I’m just a very blessed person.”
It’s obviously been a tumultuous ride for the Farlers, who have a great inspirational story to share They have persevered through the toughest of times, both physically and mentally.
Life is good today. They’re a typical family of four enjoying each day as it comes.
It did just start with a scratch.
But make no mistake, it was a life-changing moment.