ARCADIA, Wis. (WKBT) -- A small scratch put one Minnesota man's life in danger. His successful fight in the hospital left his body with permanent scars, but it also gave him a new lease on life.
Minnesota middle school teacher Chris Gordon dons a cape as he stands before a room of students he's never met before.
The cape with the word tag--the reason he's here.
"Think, acknowledge, give."
Gordon's had a lot to think about since March of 2015. A normal morning routine as a then 40-year-old dad, playfully swinging his young son.
"I went too far to the right and scratched the back of my right hand on the garage wall."
A small, insignificant scratch. But within days,
"My right arm is triple the size of my left."
His local ER tells him it's sepsis.
"The doctor in the morning says there's nothing they can do for me. This is beyond them."
He's rushed by air to Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Doctors there have the answer: it's flesh-eating bacteria, and it's spreading.
"It goes from the back of my right hand all the way up through my shoulder to the base of my neck, down through my chest, around my rib cage, and up through my back."
Doctors put him in a medical coma to slow the infection and perform life-threatening surgery. Odds of survival: 3 in 10.
"The infection had gone so far into my right arm that initially they thought they had to amputate. That's what they told Becky. We're taking the arm in the next surgery. But thankfully the occupational therapist in attendance saw I still had hand function. So they elected to extract a 15 inch by 4 inch flap of skin from my left thigh and place it on my right hand and forearm."
It took six weeks of surgeries and losing a quarter of skin, but Gordon made sure he was one of the three in 10. But returning to a life full of distance running and activity was a long way away.
"Ran a 5k in less than 20 minutes the week before in the hospital. To be winded by going 10 feet to the nurse's station in back was a huge wake-up call as to what I had ahead of me."
All thanks to a tiny scratch. A fact that could have frustrated him--but it didn't.
"While it definitely wasn't in my plans, this is my reality, and I'm going to have to make it the best reality I can."
He embraced the challenge.
"So I focused okay, I'm going to make it to that nurse's station and not die. Then I'm going to make it to the next station."
And while some scars will linger--
"It's a lot of work to stretch it this high."
--Gordon beat the odds, and now hopes to use his story to help others embrace their scars.
"They are proof that you are tougher than what caused those scars.
For me to try to remain Chris Gordon of 2014 is impossible. So I might as well embrace the Chris Gordon of now."
The Chris Gordon of now is training for a marathon, earning a black belt with his son in Tae Kwon Do, and professionally speaking his truth.
To think, acknowledge and give others The Attitude of Gratitude.
"It's a gift from God that I have a second chance, and I need to do the best I can to serve that purpose."
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Ken is ecstatic to work in his home state of Wisconsin. After graduating from UW-Madison in 2017 with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, he got his career started in Sports. He spent two years as a Weekend Sports Anchor at the CBS affiliate station in Bismarck, North Dakota, and then spent the last three years as WKBT’s Sports Director. Ken is humbled and excited to be promoted to News Anchor at 5, 6, and 10, and while he won’t be anchoring sports anymore, he’ll still be following all Wisconsin sports teams and Coulee Region high school athletics. Ken and his wife Leah love the La Crosse area and are excited to stick around WKBT and keep working on their house!
Favorite band: It varies by day. He’d say he’s pretty eclectic.
Favorite movie: Inception
Family: Wife Leah and their two dogs: 2-year-old black Lab named Bear, and 3-month old golden retriever named Bella.
Pizza: Pepperoni and bacon
Sports teams: All Wisconsin teams, especially the Brewers and Packers
Thing he’s bad at: Drawing, or basically anything you’d do in Art class
Favorite way to spend a day off?: Playing tennis with Leah, having some fun meals, and then spending time together with the puppies