Originally published to The Journal on March 31, 2022
A middle school special education teacher from the Minnesota Virtual Academy talked to Cathedral High School students Wednesday on how to overcome personal struggles with positivity and an attitude of gratitude.
Chris Gordon of New Ulm knows about personal struggles and how to deal with them. Years ago, he woke up with a big bump on his elbow. Soon his arm doubled in size. He went to the New Ulm Medical Center Emergency Room before he was transported to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.
Gordon said surgeons planned to remove his arm at first but noticed him moving it and instead performed emergency surgery to remove bacteria from his hand, arm, shoulder and part of his back that caused a rare illness — necrotizing fasciitis, aka flesh-eating disease.
Skin from his left thigh and left hand was grafted to his arm during the surgery. Another operation harvested skin from his back and legs.
While he spent 65 days in a hospital, an occupational therapist told Gordon it would take him a year to recover.
An avid distance runner and road racer, Gordon underwent therapy and was not able to run for a couple of months. Then he began recovering faster than he was advised, running 25-35 miles a week.
Before long, he traveled to Kent City, Michigan, to visit his brother and race a hilly 5K (3.1-mile) road race with him. Gordon ran the distance in 20 minutes, 38 seconds, just 90 seconds off his personal best at the time.
Gordon continues to run and work out a lot. He’s racing 10 miles with New Ulm running friend Mike Benz on April 3 in Minneapolis.
His running goals include qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Gordon also plans to coach a New Ulm youth soccer team this year.
He challenged students a number of ways in his talk in the Cathedral gym, including helping other students with homework.
“Think of what you can do to make the world a better place,” said Gordon. “After running again after getting out of the hospital a few years ago, I decided to pick up trash and bag it while running. I shoveled snow for people that needed help with it. Help others by holding a door open. They may be having the worst day of their life at the time.”
Gordon said helping others doesn’t cost you anything but a little time, yet it helps you and others get the most out of life.
“Your current reality doesn’t have to be your destiny,” added Gordon. “Be positive and grateful in the struggle to go forward. Don’t sit on your laurels. Some people just talk of the good-old days because they’re still in them. Challenge yourself each day to be better than you were the day before. What would Jesus do? Help others.”
He challenged students to think of his talk as a catalyst to take their lives to the next level.
“Each of you has the power to change the world around you,” Gordon said.
Necrotizing fasciitis is rarely spread from person to person. The most common way of getting it is through a break in the skin like a cut, scrape, burn, insect bite or puncture wound, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gordon can be found on Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, YouTube and on The Scar Bearers podcast.
To learn more about Minnesota Virtual Academy, visit https://mnva.k12.com/