Brian Bogert had told the story so many times, he was almost nonchalant about the whole thing.
"What happened to your arm?" people often asked as they eyed his sling, expecting the usual story about a bicycle accident or a sports injury.
"I got run over by a truck and my arm got torn off," Brian said, waiting for the inevitable reaction.
Carrie Bogert began to enjoy watching the expressions turn from casual interest to horror as her son told his story. Some would look to her to see if the 7-year-old boy was making the whole thing up. "That's what happened," she would tell them, trying not to look too amused at the mouths gaping open in disbelief.
Assuming the sling was a good sign, some people offered their own ending to Brian's story. "Oh, I guess they put it back on and everything's fine now," Carrie remembers hearing.
The Bogerts only wished it had been that simple.
It was a freak accident that injured Brian 4 1/2 years ago. He was standing beside the family station wagon in a Wal-Mart parking lot, waiting for his mother to unlock the door for him. Suddenly, a pickup truck speeding backward and out of control slammed into the car, rolled over Brian and tore his left arm from his body.
As soon as Carrie saw her son lying on the pavement, covered in blood, she was almost certain he would die. But she didn't have time to panic. "Somebody call 911," she screamed, and a woman who happened to be a nurse rushed over to help while another shopper placed the emergency call.
Another woman picked up Brian's arm, lying several feet away, handed it to Carrie and said, "This needs ice." Someone else ran into the store with a cooler, and the arm was packed into a bed of ice cubes within minutes.
An amubulance rushed Brian to a nearby hospital, where doctors treated him for a ruptured spleen. Later that night, he was flown to Phoenix Children's Hospital for the complex surgery to reattach his arm.
During the 10-hour operation, doctors re-attached the bone, then began the tedious process of reconnecting the main artery and veins. They took veins from Brian's leg to graft the artery and veins in the arm, then used tissue from his back to wrap around the veins and bone. The nerves in his arm were set aside to be reconnected during a later surgery.
As Brian recovered from surgery the next morning, a hospital chaplain brought a morning paper to the Bogerts and pointed to a small article. "Well, you made the newspaper," he told them.
A deluge of calls followed, and hospital public relations staff organized several press conferences to accommodate the inquiries of local newspapers and TV stations. Cards and gifts began appearing by the boxful, and the family became instant celebrities of a sort.
"We couldn't even go to the cafeteria without someone saying, 'Oh my gosh, you're the parents of that little boy!'" Carrie said.
The hospital helped as much as possible, fielding calls so the couple could devote their attention to Brian. Staff were protective of the family, and it was several days before they heard about the woman who called several times to say, "We want that family to get to Wal-Mart and clean up that blood, because we shop there."
The Bogerts already had quite enough on their hands. Brian was tired of being stuck in bed, and
his brother, Scott, was having struggles of his own. He made reluctant visits to the hospital, afraid that Brian would never be able to play with him again. And . . . he was feeling neglected. At one point, tired of seeing the attention showered on his little brother, he blurted out, "I wish it was my arm!"
Brian spent two weeks in the hospital before going home to begin the long road to recovery. After many more surgeries (his mother counts 19 or 20 in all) and extensive physical therapy, Brian has regained some use of his left arm. He enjoys a number of sports, including basketball, bike riding, rollerblading and - his newest venture - racquetball. His parents encourage the activity, although they do not allow contact sports, since a broken arm could have devastating results.
"We don't want to jeopardize how far we've come," she said.