Michael Liscomb’s enlistment in the Army began with dreams of action and adventure. It ended with prolonged agony, multiple surgeries and the eventual loss of his lower left leg.

The 31-year-old Iraq War veteran, who lives in Skowhegan, got his left knee crushed in a vehicle accident in 2008 while on a mission in Iraq. But the resulting injury was repeatedly misdiagnosed by Army medical staff until it became so badly infected that his leg eventually had to be amputated above the knee to save his life.

Years of debilitating pain followed by the amputation sent Liscomb spiraling into depression and alcohol abuse, but he has since turned his life around and now assists other amputees and their families who are trying to to cope with their own situations.

Former Army Spc. Michael Liscomb’s leg injury led to years of misdiagnoses and pain, which contributed to depression and alcohol abuse. Now he’s found a new sense of purpose by helping fellow amputees with the Travis Mills Foundation.

Perhaps surprisingly, Liscomb regards his military experience as a positive one overall because it set him on a path to helping others in a way he otherwise could not have done.

The life-changing accident occurred while Liscomb’s squad was on a security mission to an Iraqi Army compound that had been under occasional gunfire.

“I went to get out of my Humvee, and one of the IA (Iraqi Army soldiers) had backed into the door of my Humvee … and it slammed right down on my leg,” he said.

Liscomb pushed through the pain and completed the mission that day. He didn’t know that the accident had broken one of the bones in his knee, and that the loose bone fragments had begun to shred the surrounding cartilage.

The next day, Liscomb felt intense pain in his injured knee. He went to see the field medical staff, which consisted of a physician’s assistant and a handful of medics. The physician’s assistant told Liscomb his knee was fine.

“He insisted on telling me, ‘There’s nothing wrong with your leg, it’s just runner’s knee,'” Liscomb said. “I went back to him a week later and I was like, ‘This runner’s knee is killing me. It’s really hurting.'”

Thus began a long series of misdiagnoses, false reassurances and unsuccessful operations that ultimately led to years of agonizing pain, followed by life-threatening infection, culminating in amputation.

By the time doctors back in the U.S. told Liscomb he might need to have his leg amputated, he was so worn down by the years of pain, multiple surgeries and repeated infection scares that he actually welcomed it. To get a sense of how long Liscomb had to endure, consider that his injury occurred in 2008, he remained in the Army until 2012, and the amputation was done in 2016.

Those eight years had a devastating impact on Liscomb’s physical and mental health. He became depressed and eventually turned to alcohol to help him cope with the physical and psychological pain. The circumstances put a strain on his personal relationships including his marriage, which ended as a result.

“I was in a really rough spot,” Liscomb said. “I got out (of the Army) with my leg still jacked up. From the time when I got out in January 2012 until November 2016 when I had my amputation, I had gone through 30 jobs maybe, and another five or six surgeries.”

Liscomb said he is now in a much better place. The infection is gone, his leg no longer hurts, he is in a healthy relationship and has found a new sense of purpose helping fellow amputees and their families as an ambassador for the Travis Mills Foundation, a Maine-based nonprofit organization formed to benefit and assist combat-injured veterans.

Despite everything he has been through, Liscomb said he isn’t bitter about his situation and feels no animus toward the military.

“It sucks, yeah, but you know what? I wouldn’t go back and change a thing,” he said. “I’ve made some of the best friends of my life through the military and through all the experiences I got to have. … Would I love to have two properly working legs? Who wouldn’t?”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

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