Prince Amponsah has a commanding presence as makes his entrance in a local production of “The Changeling,” but getting back onstage was intimidating for the 30-year-old.
“It was hard to imagine going back into it again, especially right after the accident,” he said.
The “accident’ was an electrical fire that tore through Amponsah’s rental apartment in November 2012.
“I stumbled out to the hallway but I wasn’t able to get any farther, I had collapsed and passed out,” he said, adding that he doesn’t remember it himself.
Amponsah’s roommate ran back into the burning building and dragged him out to safety.
“He was right next to the door frame but his pants were on fire. It was like a nightmare,” said Pawel Tosick.
“Waking up from that fire, you know pulling him out, and then seeing the city lights kind of expose him, it was kind of like a horror movie.”
In a way, that was only the beginning for Amponsah.
He was in a medically induced coma for three weeks. Doctors and family described to him how badly he was inured, but he was in a fog due to the medication, so it took awhile for the extent of his injuries to sink in.
“People were telling me my arms had been amputated and it just wasn’t registering,” Amponsah said.
“But as I was slowly coming to and off the medication, I was able to lift my head and look at my body and saw all the bandages and my missing arms and I just remember this huge shiver going through my body and then everything sort of dawned on me at that point.”
Since then, it’s been nearly four years of multiple surgeries, physiotherapy and excruciating pain.
Amponsah said the biggest hurdle has been swallowing his pride and accepting help, even asking for it. Something he’s doing now, by raising money through an online fundraiser for a prosthetic arm he can control through muscle signals.
For him, surviving the fire changed his perspective and there’s no holding back.
“Just jump off the cliff and just go for it, you know? Because when you’re close to losing your life, you really do start to appreciate everything,” he said.
“It gave me the chance to look back and think what could I have missed out on?”
His doctors said he has never stopped pushing himself.
“He lives independently, he’s out acting and being an activist and he’s really made a remarkable recovery,” said Dr. Amanda Mayo, a physiatrist at St. John’s Rehab.
Amponsah wants to help other survivors get to that place, so he is going to university for social work in the fall.
“Hopefully someone can hear my story and whatever they’re going through can sort of relate to it in some way or see that it is possible to get through what they’re going through,” he said, adding he is just thrilled he has a second chance at life —; an encore if you will.