“Will to live” tells the extraordinary story of Matthew Ames, a devoted family man who finds himself a quadruple amputee just before the age of forty. The first part of the book is written by his wife Diane who talks about the events leading up to, and including the amputations. The second part written by Matthew is about his rehabilitation and adapting to a changed life.
Matthew contracts a severe blood infection that spreads to all his extremities, making them gangrenous and requiring amputation. Streptococcal disease, more commonly known as “toxic shock syndrome”, causes the body’s large organs and muscles to fail. It forces the body into shutdown unless amputation is carried out to give the body time to recover.
Matthew’s infection which starts as a light rash and slight temperature is initially dismissed as the flu. However soon afterwards, the rash spreads over his entire body and his skin becomes red and inflamed. By the time a correct diagnosis is made, Matthew is given a very low chance of survival if he does not have all four limbs amputated. His wife Diane heartbrokenly has to give her consent for this because Matthew is in a coma. She delays telling their four young children, all under the age of 10, about their father’s amputations until the school counselor advises her to.
The infection takes a severe toll on Matthew’s body. When he wakes up not only does he find out that both his legs and arms are missing but that he is also permanently blind in one eye and partially deaf in an ear. His kidneys also need to be put on dialysis and a special breathing machine is now necessary for him to eat and talk.
Rehabilitation and attitude
He recalls that to begin with he struggled to say “I have no legs”. However he soon understands and accepts his wife’s decision that critical action was necessary. His main concern and priority is to now go home and be with his family.
Once Matthew leaves the hospital he goes to a rehabilitation centre. Before he can go home he has to relearn how to speak, feed and generally look after himself. He also has to learn how to use his prosthetic limbs and use a wheelchair driven with a chin pad. Through sheer hard work and determination, and with the help of a physiotherapist, he becomes so much stronger that he is able to go home.
Matthew’s strength of character and positivity is made very clear throughout the book. He follows the motto ‘no arms, no legs, no worries’, which are the words of his new role model Nick Vujicic who is a famous amputee born without limbs. Matthew’s positive attitude is passed on to his children who in turn cope better.
Matthew’s family and extended family is very present throughout the book. However it gets very messy and hard to follow because so many relations are mentioned including brothers, sisters-in-law and their many children. These names scattered randomly throughout makes it hard to get a clear view of who’s who.
The book also gets very complicated when it describes medical terminology and interventions used, particularly explaining the difficulty Matthew has in attaching and operating the prosthetics on his too short stumps.
Dreams and goals
The book captures Matthew’s great spirit and his desire to walk again. The sky is the limit for him as he dreams of riding a bike as well as having fun on a trampoline. Matthew refuses to give in to his ordeal, and for his son Ben this makes him a hero.