Motivational Monday – Family is our support system

Fincastle Herald/July 2008/Destiny Booze

What makes a “man of steel,” a man of heroic character and
strength?  Michael “Mike” Brogan had
nerves of steel as an ironworker until an accident in 1996 left him as a
bilateral amputee. Now, he is a man of courage, which he demonstrates daily as
he determinedly manages with a disability. Oh, and as a hobby, he started driving
a racecar at Natural Bridge Speedway after his accident. Yes, Brogan is a
racecar driver.

 

The accident occurred on October 17th. Brogan was
only thirty years old. An unstable concrete support shifted, causing the iron
structure where Brogan was working to collapse. He fell 25 feet. Both of his
legs were crushed and he was airlifted to the hospital.

 

He almost bled to death, according to the physicians’ notes
upon examination at the hospital. He was immediately rushed to surgery to stop
the bleeding in his legs. It was apparent right away that the legs would
probably have to go.

 

Brogan’s first concern upon waking in the hospital was
whether or not he was paralyzed. He knew he could not feel anything in his
legs. The doctors had to break bad news. Brogan had a choice to make – his life
or his legs. He described the decision as easy. He wanted to live. He had a
two-year-old daughter at home that he had every intention of seeing grow up. He
told the doctors to take his legs.

 

Many surgeries and months of rehabilitation followed. He
remembered struggling through all the rehab at the same time as actor
Christopher Reeves, known for playing Superman. Reeves was rehabilitating after
a paralyzing accident in 1995. Of course, Reeves was in worse shape and still
fighting to walk again. It essentially became a motto and motivator for Brogan.
“No matter how bad a shape you are, there’s always someone else worse than you
are. You just keep on and don’t give up,” he said.

 

So, why did Brogan choose to start racing? He grinned and
shrugged in answer. “I tried it to have something to do.”

 

The speed, rush and excitement of racecar driving is a
family tradition. Brogan knew about cars as a young boy by watching his dad
race and working on his dad’s pit crew. He and his older brother, David, worked
on the cars together. David was already racing, and Brogan was ready for his
turn.

 

It was Brogan’s friends and family that helped him to
customize a racecar with hand controls. The brake and gas are accessible where
a gearshift would normally be, yet there are still challenges. Managing a curve
with one arm at racing speeds is very difficult. If it was not for Brogan’s
amazing upper body strength because of his disability, he probably wouldn’t be
able to control the car.

 

Brogan found a sponsor, Lewis Sifford, a realtor for Long
and Foster to help support the cost of racing. Sifford, a friend as well as
sponsor, said, “His determination to do what he wants in spite of his
disabilities is incredible. I have never heard an excuse, or if I had my legs I
would.”

 

Brogan is definitely known to do whatever he sets his mind
to doing. After the accident, he was told he would most likely be in a
wheelchair for the rest of his life. That is not the case. Though he has a
wheelchair, he uses prosthetic legs to help him get around the majority of the
time. Or even more determinedly, when he needs to do something without the
chair or the prosthetics, he just takes them off and uses his arms to get
around. He works on his racecar by using the creeper in the garage to get
around. Whatever it takes, Brogan gets the job done. Recently, he just worked
on putting vinyl siding on his house.

 

Virginia,
Brogan’s mom described her family as a team, a crew on the track and off. “I’m
so very proud of all my children. They pulled together in time of need.” Brogan
agreed. “Family and friends, I wouldn’t be able to race if it wasn’t for them,”
he said.

 

It has been hard on Brogan’s family to see someone they love
suffer. “Words cannot describe how hard it is at times to see Mike have to
struggle with certain things or not be able to do certain things that he used
to do and get frustrated because he can’t do them,” Angela, Brogan’s sister
said. She often wrestles with the why of it all. Why him?

 

Brogan’s smile is a source of his strength and character. He
loves life, loves fishing, loves racing. The why may never be known, but at
least now we know what makes a “man of steel.” It’s his support system.

 

The Brogan Racing Team – Addison and Virginia, David,
Mike and Angela – is a team stronger than kryptonite.

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Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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