It's Thanksgiving week, and one Minneapolis man who elected to undergo a life-altering procedure this year told Fox 9 News he is more than thankful to have survived a summer motorcycle crash -- he's grateful for the experience.
Charles Rutherford's life was dramatically altered when he was seriously injured, but a positive attitude and army of friends and family members helped him make the excruciating decision to get back on his feet.
Each day, people make decisions. Many of them are small and insignificant.
"My biggest decision that day was where to ride my mountain bike and where to take my then-girlfriend for dinner," Rutherford remembered.
Yet, every once in a while, a single decision can change the entire direction of a life.
"It just isn't anything you can fathom as a parent," Susan Rutherford, Charlie's mother, told Fox 9 News. "It was painful. It was hard that he had to make that decision."
On June 26, Charlie Rutherford was faced with a big one.
"That was a huge shock to the system, knowing my life is completely different," he admitted. "This is not what's supposed to happen."
When a Minneapolis police officer approached him that afternoon, Charlie Rutherford was lying on the ground as bystanders comforted him just two blocks away from his north loop condo.
"This whole time, I am literally bleeding into the gutter and I am in excruciating pain," Rutherford recalled. "I pray to God, 'Please make this pain go away.'"
The driver an SUV had made an illegal U-turn in front of the Ducati enthusiast, and the crash shattered Charlie Rutherford's lower left leg.
"Every movement, every breath -- even loading me onto the ambulance, the backboard was excruciating," Charlie Rutherford said.
An X-ray of the 37-year-old's injury showed a compound, segmental fracture below the knee, and he remembers the conversation he had with his doctor early on in his recovery.
"He told me that I have options, and I'm thinking, 'Doctor, the options are you stitch me up and get me out of here,'" Charlie Rutherford said. "I was supposed to go mountain biking and take my girlfriend out for dinner. He said, 'It's not that simple.'"
It could not be simple because in order for doctors and surgeons to repair the leg, they would need to perform multiple grafts of skin, bone and muscle over a period of months, if not years. Yet, even in a best-case scenario, doctors said he would likely have chronic pain and a life-long limp.
"There were so many unknowns," Charlie Rutherford explained. "My future would not be my own if I left it up to doctors and healing."
The other plan involved amputation, trading his lower left-leg for a prosthetic limb and he prospect of an active lifestyle. So, he had a decision to make.
"What's going to heal the fastest? The fewest chances of complication? Best quality of future life?" Charlie Rutherford asked his doctor. "He said, 'Amputation.' I said, 'Good! Gonna take the foot.'"
With prayer and a simple message running through his mind -- that it's just a foot, Charlie Rutherford made up his mind.
"'It's just a foot' has become a real truth to all of us," Susan Rutherford explained. "It was just a foot -- just a foot."
As with other decisions, he committed to it and moved to get it done, stunning his surgeon because few patients elect for the finality of amputation.
"I spent a fair amount of time trying to talk him out of it," Dr. Lance Silverman admitted.
Prayer and a positive attitude took Charlie Rutherford through the procedure. To lighten the gravity of the situation and have a little fun, he turned to social media for support and created the Chachi's Left Foot Facebook page.
"I guess that I have always felt like there are very few situations that can't be improved with some humor," he explained. "It made me feel better about what was happening to me by creating fun out of it."
Charlie Rutherford invited everyone to come and say goodbye to the foot at the hospital, posting photographs of the visits -- portraits of a story he thinks of as a "victory."
"The amazing outpouring is part of what I'm so thankful for," he said. "That helped energize me and keep me positive."
Although the story is still being written, it is shaping up to be one of ultimate conquest. Just 144 days after the final amputation procedure, Charlie Rutherford was back on skis. Now, he's mountain biking and golfing -- and he says life is his once again thanks to his high-tech carbon fiber foot.
"I did have a lot of people that said, 'Save the foot at any cost!'" he reflected. "But like I said, it's just a foot. I wanted to get my life back."
He's well on his way, and although his mother said she certainly never dreamed amputation would be part of his future, she's proud of how he handled it.
"He is such an amazing man, and he's had the most splendid attitude throughout the entire process," Susan Rutherford said.
As for Charlie Rutherford, he's happy with his results. In fact, he thinks his new foot may be better than the original, and is satisfied with his choice.
"I'm thankful for the whole episode, the whole chapter of my life," he told Fox 9 News. "I liked the guy I was before the accident, and I love the guy I discovered after the accident."
To keep the entire experience as positive and possible, Charlie Rutherford even opted against suing the driver who struck him. Instead, he invited the driver out for a beer to let him know all is well with his new leg.
Next, Charlie Rutherford hopes to compete for the Amputee Golf Association Championship.