Musician who lost leg plays drums as rehabilitation
A drummer who was seriously hurt in a tour bus crash is fighting his way through therapy by doing what he loves. The metalcore band The Ghost Inside was headed to another concert venue in November when life took a devastating turn. Their bus was involved in a head-on crash with a semi-truck just outside of El Paso, Texas.
Drummer Andrew Tkaczyk said he was sleeping before the crash and woke to find himself in wreckage.
“It was hard, because when I had first woken up I didn’t know who was OK or who was hurt or even alive or not, and it was difficult,” he said. All of the band members survived, but the drivers from both vehicles were killed in the crash.
Tkaczyk wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to drum again after the crash. He sustained extensive injuries 51 in all, including nerve damage to his arm that caused some paralysis and a spinal fracture that needed to be fused. He also lost his right leg, which is critical to his drumming career.
“There was definitely a point where I was still telling myself, ‘Yes, you can do it and we’ll make it work,’ but there was definitely doubt in my mind, like, what if it doesn’t?” he said. “What if I can’t play drums ever again? And it’s a terrifying thought.”
Now, with a big team of caregivers at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, he’s fighting that fear.
When he got to the Grand Rapids facility, his doctor understood Tkaczyk’s passion and drive to return to drumming.
“I’m a drummer,” Dr. Stephen Bloom explained. “I play in a local band called Mid-Life Crisis and I knew we had that connection. So, about three weeks into it, I brought in a pair of drumsticks and I put them in his right hand, and because of the nerve thing it was so painful he could barely even have them touch his hand. But from that moment we kind of connected on drumming and we knew that he was going to be able to get back and do that.”
Andrew Tkaczyk uses a specialized prosthesis to play the drums. A creative recreational therapist helped modify Tkaczyk’s leg prosthesis so he could press the pedal that works the bass drum.
“I stepped out and I came back with a jury-rigged, MacGyver setup with a golf club and tape,” recreational therapist Steve Wheeler said.
“I remember I started playing and we just started laughing because it was so funny that it was just working immediately like that,” Tkaczyk said. “That gave us hope and confidence that it’s going to be possible to make something.”
The bandmates have big plans. They are scattered throughout the country recovering, but keep in touch daily online and encourage each other. They are planning on being ready to return to the stage for their “Van’s Warped Tour” in 2017.