After Massive Injuries, William Greiner Starts over at Pima Medical
Posted: June 17, 2016 by Elizabeth Baker
When William Greiner was only 29 years old, his entire life changed in the blink of an eye.
In 2007, he was called on to help fight a wildfire, like he had dozens of times before as a firefighter. William had a unique job with the U.S. Forest Service as a smokejumper. It’s a risky job that requires a firefighter to parachute from an airplane into a fire zone that needs immediate attention. Only about 325 people in the United States are trained for the job.
It was a career he absolutely loved, despite the dangers. But that fire in 2007 would prove to be a life-altering one. While fighting the fire, William was severely injured when he was struck by a falling tree.
“I was hurt and ended up with osteonecrosis. The doctors tried to bring back blood flow to my hips and I had multiple surgeries. (The U.S. Forest Service) deemed me unemployable,” he recalled.
Doctors didn’t think William would ever walk again. He had two total hip replacements and years of physical therapy.
“I gritted through it and worked really hard in the gym and in the pool.”
Physical therapist assistant William Greiner works at Socorro Physical Therapy in New Mexico.
Being only in his early 30s, William was far from ready for retirement. Three years and 11 months after he was injured, William walked again.
By then he was ready for a new chapter in life. One afternoon he and his wife were shopping for their newborn daughter when he heard an advertisement for Pima Medical Institute. He decided to visit the Albuquerque, N.M. campus
to see what it had to offer. Soon he enrolled in the Physical Therapist Assistant
(PTA) associate degree program.
As it turned out, the experience was exactly what he needed to start over, he said.
“Going to Pima was one of the best things that happened in my life. I was really pleased with my instructors and I made it through the program.”
But the process wasn’t easy. He still struggled with pain on a daily basis and had to drive about 150 miles each way, from Socorro to Albuquerque, to get to class. He and his wife were raising two young daughters, they lived on a farm, and his wife was also very busy as an intensive care unit nurse. Life was busy, but it was worth it to provide for his family.
“Before graduation I had three job offers. I took one at Socorro Physical Therapy. They helped me when I was hurt. Now I help manage and run the company. I manage other PTAs, the gym, billing—I had to learn a lot real quick, and I’ve been there four years.”
It’s a nice change of pace, he said. Instead of being gone for weeks at a time, William gets to be with his family every day. He still helps with a local fire department from time to time as well in a command position.
“I don’t know how long my body will last, but I get to work out with my patients,” William said. “I hope to make it to 48,” he added, with a laugh. “Pima saved my life.”