“Things are a little different now,” Buda resident John “Fritz” Zavala said with a catch in his voice, as he looked down where his leg had been amputated roughly a month ago.
Despite the circumstances, Zavala showed a smile to his wife, as they readied to leave for his first prosthetic fitting in Austin. Zavala understood that things could have been much, much worse.
More than a month has passed since John was involved in a motorcycle accident at the Robert S. Light and South Loop 4 intersection on Dec. 4, 2017.
But Zavala said he no longer mourns the loss of his left leg, as he is grateful to be alive.
Zavala, along with Hays County commissioner Mark Jones and Buda Chief of Police Bo Kidd, recently lauded two Buda Police officers whose training and instincts saved Zavala’s life that fateful night.
“Not every police department offers the training that these guys receive,” Jones said.
For Kidd, the exploits of the officers solidified the importance of medical training for all first responders.
“This case illustrates the importance of medical training, not just for medics, but for police officers as well,” Kidd said.
Dec. 4 was a routine day for Zavala, who was riding home on his motorcycle on his usual route.
Zavala said he was approaching the Robert S. Light and South Loop 4 intersection when he noticed all the cars ahead of him stopping.
He said he noticed an SUV starting to turn in a tight spot to try and get on Robert S. Light, right in the path of his motorcycle.
Zavala said he tried to swerve to miss the SUV, but when he swerved, the driver of the SUV sped up and ended up hitting his motorcycle hard on the left side.
The impact was audible to all around it, Zavala said.
The collision sent him flying through the air off his motorcycle, where he briefly had an out-of-body experience that made him afraid for his life.
“I saw myself go flipping through the air,” Zavala said. “When I hit my head on the ground and flipped onto my back, that’s when I came back to my body and my senses.”
When Zavala rolled to his back, he was hurting and was immediately afraid he was going to die, never to see his wife or young son ever again.
Zavala said once he started to pray and ask God to save him, he knew he was going to be okay.
Physically, however, was a much different story.
Zavala’s femoral artery was severed; he only had 2 to 5 minutes before he bled out from his wound.
An angel in the form of Buda Police officer Sherwal Foulstone came to Zavala’s aid.
Foulstone, who was the closest to the accident, rushed to Zavala’s side and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
Moments later, fellow Buda Police officer Josh Albarez arrived on scene and added an additional two tourniquets to Zavala’s left leg to quell the bleeding.
Zavala said he remembered hearing the loud sound of ambulance sirens arriving.
“It was the loudest and best sound I have ever heard,” Zavala said.
Once he was loaded into the ambulance, Zavala said they started on their way to St. David’s Hospital in Austin. However, he was still unaware of how bad he had been hurt.
Zavala remembered one of the paramedics speaking to someone over a radio in the ambulance and mentioning a possible amputation. Hearing the conversation sent Zavala into hysterics over the thought of losing one of his legs.
Zavala demanded that the paramedic explain what was going on; when he heard no reply, he started to cry.
One of the paramedics leaned over him and asked him what he wanted to know.
Zavala said he asked for the truth. The truth, however, was hard to handle when the paramedic confirmed his fears of possibly losing his leg.
After the explanation by the paramedic Fritz said he was a little calmer going to the hospital because at least he knew a little bit more about what to expect.
Once in the Emergency Room, nurses worked to keep Zavala stable. From that point, Zavala endured several surgeries.
Zavala stayed at St. David’s until Dec. 11. He was then transferred to a rehabilitation facility until he was eventually released Dec. 22.
Since his return home, Zavala said he has made great strides in his rehabilitation.
He qualified for the best prosthetic on the market for his left leg and was able to be home in time to celebrate Christmas with his friends and family.
On Jan. 9, Zavala thanked the two Buda Police officers for their quick thinking and action that ultimately saved his life.
“My leg, it doesn’t matter not having it. I have my life and it’s because of you two and that’s everything. I thank y’all so much,” Zavala said.
Zavala said he’s no longer mad at what happened but learning how to do things without his leg.
“It was an accident and I’m going to be okay, my faith pulled me through,” Zavala said.