Granite Falls man says he’s grown in face of challenges

GRANITE FALLS — One recent Sunday, Jim Romack, pastor of The Father’s House, asked his congregation: “What are you thankful for?”

One member, 48-year-old Mike Moore, didn’t hesitate.

“Prosthetics,” he said.

It might seem an odd response until you know a little about the past 17 months of his life.

In April of last year, a nip from one of his dogs, Sadie, a brown Labrador and blue heeler mix, triggered a blood infection so severe that he was admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit. One evening, doctors warned his family he might not make it though the night.

Although he survived, the infection so badly damaged his hands and feet they looked as if they were frostbitten — blackened, dying and in Moore’s words “hard as rocks.”

His legs had to be amputated below the knee. His right hand had to be cut off. Three fingers from his left hand were removed.

All that might have left many people emotionally overwhelmed and bitter over their fate.

Moore, though, quickly set about rebuilding his life. He thought about his progress on a recent drive to Everett. He recalled the help he needed in the beginning from his partner, Karin Coleman, just to slide from his wheelchair to his bed.

“I just chuckled to myself,” he said. “It’s funny how much I’ve grown in a year.”

Last September, he was fitted with two prosthetic legs. While doctors had predicted it might take him six months to learn how to balance and walk on his own, Moore surprised nearly everyone but himself by how quickly he adapted.

Moore had barely broken the balance barrier with his prosthetic legs when he set a new goal.

One day last fall as he left a medical appointment and got into the passenger seat of his sporty five-speed Hyundai Tiburon, Moore told Coleman that he wanted to figure out a way to drive again.

With two artificial legs, an amputated right hand and half the fingers of his left hand gone, it seemed a pipe dream, even for someone as determined as Moore.

A taste of freedom

In late October 2009, Moore and Coleman drove to Everett. Although Coleman had spent months taxiing Moore to medical appointments, this time the trip was for her.

Coleman had been diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2009 — about a month before Moore’s dog bite. After first completing chemotherapy treatments, she was being treated with radiation.

With a little time to kill before her scheduled appointment, they pulled into a parking lot near Everett Community College.

“I think I want to try to drive,” he told Coleman. They traded seats.

Moore must have felt a little of the same mixture of nerves and excitement as teens feel during their first driving lesson.

It had been six months since the dog bite — six months of being chauffeured everywhere he went.

“There was nobody around. We were in a big, open parking lot,” he said. “The only thing I had to worry about was the little cement things.”

With this step, Moore had another taste of the freedom and independence he hoped to regain.

Many people told Moore that he should set his sights a little lower, to settle for driving an automatic and to get his car outfitted with special adaptations for the disabled.

Moore was having none of it. He learned to shift the car’s gears pushing and pulling with the stub of his right hand, with an assist from his forearm for fifth gear.

“I’m missing my hand,” he said. “I’ve still got my arms.”

Heading back to work

Before his illness, Moore worked at Spencer LLC, a custom cabinet shop in Monroe.

Returning to his job would allow life to seem whole again, for him to rejoin the ranks of regular “working Joes.”

For all the ways he had figured out how to adapt to life with his amputations, returning to a woodworking shop, with its table saws and sanders, shellac and polishes, might have seemed like a hurdle too high to overcome.

His boss, Carl Spencer shared Moore’s goal. He thought Moore could return to his old job of production manager.

Moore would oversee a cabinet-making business based on the Toyota production system, with its quick turnaround of orders, lean inventory and processes that allow employees to be moved from one work station to another to help eliminate backups and ensure smooth production.

But standing on his prosthetics for more than short periods of time initially sapped his energy and left him exhausted.

“My concern was: Did he have the endurance to make it all day long?” Spencer said.

His first day back on the job was July 5, nearly 15 months after his near-fatal dog bite.

Since then, Moore’s stamina has rebounded so much he often is up and walking around the shop for half to two-thirds of every day, Spencer said. But sometimes he has to tell him to take it easy, to use his wheelchair to move around the shop.

“I’m glad I’ve got a boss who will allow me to sit in a wheelchair,” Moore said. “He harps on me. He makes me sit. I say, ‘Ah, gawd. Fine.’

“I keep pushing and paying the price … When I work all day standing is when I’ll feel like I conquered something.”

Moore has figured out the adjustments he had to make to do many of the tasks around the shop, including using a forklift to pluck shipments of wood from the back of a tractor trailer.

But a lot of what Moore excels at is his skill as a manager, Spencer said. Production has run so smoothly since Moore returned that employees have earned a profit-sharing bonus of $2 to $3.50 an hour for “three months, going on four,” Spencer said.

The little frustrations

For all the ways Moore found to adapt to his new life, it hasn’t always gone smoothly or easily.

He remembers the fear he felt when medical staff first began teaching Moore how to use a board to slide from his wheelchair to a bed.

“I was scared,” he said. “I was afraid of falling off the board and falling on the ground.”

Each day, he faces the frustration of remembering how easy routine tasks used to be. “I just have to adjust and know it will take a lot longer,” he said. “I can’t dwell on I can’t do this and I can’t do that.”

Just to shower and get ready for work initially took an hour and 20 minutes, although he’s since cut that time about in half.

After he recently jacked up Coleman’s car, he went back to house to get an adapter for his torque wrench to remove the lugnuts. When he reached into his toolbox, he couldn’t grasp the socket. Other tools were in the way.

“It just really upset me,” he said. “I ended up sitting in the laundry room crying like a baby. So I shook it off and went at it the next day.”

The Herald published a story about Moore’s amputations and long recovery from his dog bite last October. The outpouring of support he and his family received was overwhelming, he said.

People responded with cards and donations. One person sent passes for movie tickets, so he and Karin could just enjoy a quiet evening together as a couple.

“It’s just amazing how generous people are, and how caring,” he said. “If I could hug everybody, I would.”

Now that life has regained its rhythms, Moore has begun to write his wish list for what he would like to provide for his family.

“My next goal is to own a house and have a boat in the driveway,” he said. Not a big boat, something small enough to tow, but big enough for the couple to sleep in overnight.

“I would like to fish again, and go crabbing when the season is open,” Moore said. “I just want something for Karin and I to just go to and relax and get away for the weekend.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Bothell
2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Whidbey Renaissance Faire volunteers pose in their costumes. (Photo by Bree Eaton)
Faire thee well: Renaissance is coming to Whidbey Island

The volunteer-run fair May 25 and 26 will feature dancers, a juggler, ‘Fakespeare,’ various live music shows and lots of food.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.