EURHARLEE — For an hour or more, Garrett Geros laid in his crumpled 2002 Toyota Tundra truck, unsure of where he was, much less how close he was to losing his life.
On the evening of June 2, 2016, Geros wanted to meet a friend at the new Cheeseburger Bobby’s that had opened in Cartersville. So, he asked for some money from his folks and left the house.
Barely a week as a licensed driver, he never made it to the restaurant. Instead, Geros ended up in a ditch with severe injuries to both legs. With his foot only connected by soft tissue but keeping him trapped in the wreckage, EMTs made the call for the teen to lose his left leg below the knee in order to save his life.
Geros’ road since then has become something much different. It’s had mountains and very deep valleys anyone would understand for a young athlete losing his leg, trying to figure out where God was in it all.
A different road
Geros was saved at First Baptist Church in Woodstock at nine years old. Pastor Johnny Hunt baptized him, says Garrett’s father, Dave. With his son in the ICU at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Dave and his wife, Savannah, wanted to continue going to church. However, the drive to Woodstock seemed even further coupled with their visits to their son in Atlanta. So, they started attending First Baptist Cartersville, where they remain members.
Having taken a different-than-normal route into town, Garrett had remained in his truck in the dark until a couple driving by spotted him. It was a miracle of sorts, considering he was down in a ditch and the battery had been destroyed so no lights on his truck worked.
“That couple didn’t normally leave their house at night, but they had to go get milk or something,” remembers Dave. “One of them just happened to look toward where Garrett was and something didn’t seem right.”
Garrett didn’t have a phone, so he couldn’t call anyone. When Dave received a phone call from an unfamiliar number at his house, he almost didn’t take it. Reminded by his wife that Garrett didn’t have a phone and could be trying to reach them, Dave took the call and the Geros family began a different road of their own.
Making a statement of faith already, Garrett admits sometimes he didn’t act like it. Before the wreck, a rebelliousness had been building in him. His family saw it, as did others.
“We’d been having some rough times,” says Dave. “He went through a lot of teenage things. I didn’t know what was going on or where it was coming from. He’d be disrespectful and very resistant to everything I told him.
Family friend Lori Apon, widow of Newsong founding member Bobby Apon, told Garrett’s grandmother, Maria, there was a spiritual battle over her grandson. “We prayed over that,” recollects Dave. “It was tough. I’d never seen him that way.”
One day Dave repeated to Garrett something his own parents had told him as a younger man. “I said, ‘God’s going to get your attention if you don’t straighten up.'”
The struggle not seen
Before the wreck, Garrett admits he often didn’t act like someone who believed in God. “I’m kind of glad this happened,” he says. “It’s actually made me stronger in my faith. After the wreck I turned to my Mimi and said, ‘God’s real. It made me start believing in Him 100 percent.”
An experience like Garrett’s would make anyone take a hard look at his salvation. Sensing he needed to make sure in his heart, Garrett rededicated his life to Jesus.
But that didn’t mean things have been a smooth road since.
“There were still times I’d get mad at God,” Garrett admits. “I’d ask why this had to happen and cry in my bedroom. My family would come in there and love on me.”
Many Atlanta-area media outlets and beyond have profiled Garrett’s story. But, there’s an aspect Dave says often isn’t included.
“There were a lot of bad times people don’t know about,” he says. “Garrett would hide his feelings well, but then later on pour it out.”
Perhaps the most difficult, Garrett says, were well-meaning comments meant to empathize but missing their mark.
“Sometimes people would say they understand or knew what it was like [to lose a leg] and I’d think, ‘No, you don’t.’ I’d bite my tongue because I knew they weren’t trying to hurt my feelings.”
“Am I going to be able to play football?”
Garrett made those his first words to his father after waking up at Grady Memorial. It would be a week before they’d tell him his leg was gone. Garrett, who had been considering he may be paralyzed, actually took it at the time with a sigh of relief.
Even so, he’d been an active kid his entire life. Dave, a former college football player, encouraged activities and adventure with his children. With a lot of land to explore, Garrett would rip over hills and jumps on a four-wheeler as a youngster. Often he’d wreck, but never let it keep him from doing the jump again and pushing the limits.
Just this time, he’d tell himself, don’t wreck.
In addition to football and wrestling for Cartersville High, Garrett would wakeboard on Lake Allatoona and snowboard on family trips to California or West Virginia. Doctors attribute his physical health as a key to his survival of the crash. Before being transferred from Grady, Garrett would ask for extra resistance bands to get a start on rehab.
After missing his junior year due to the accident, Garrett ended up rejoining the wrestling team and qualifying for the state tournament as a senior. However, his dreams of getting on the football field for the Purple Hurricanes never materialized.
People immediately notice the prosthetic leg on his son’s left leg, says Dave, but in his right leg are numerous pins and a titanium rod. Should that leg undergo another break, Garrett could lose that one too. So even though he was part of the team, Garrett wouldn’t be seeing any contact.
Able to do all things
At one point at Grady, someone handed Dave a bag containing Garrett’s clothes from the night of the wreck. Dave took out the wrestling shirt his son had been wearing that night, now dried and bloody. Printed across it was Philippians 4:13 and a reminder that God will help strengthen his son, helping him do all things through Christ.
Today, Garrett is at a different place with the crash that took his leg. It’s brought him to a different platform, not one he planned for or may have even desired beforehand, but where God’s placed him nevertheless.
“We decided to change our outlook,” says Dave. That began to really take shape with fellow participants alongside father and son in Spartan races – outdoor races that include numerous obstacle courses. It’s not unusual to see teenagers take part; it is unusual when that teenager has a runner’s blade instead of his leg.
“He inspires people at these,” beams Dave. “I tell him how God has made him an elite, now. Everything you do is multiplied by 100 in these peoples’ eyes. This opens doors for him to tell others his story and about God.”
No fear of what’s next
Those doors aren’t going to stop with Spartan races. When Garrett was seven years old and snowboarding in Squaw Valley, Calif., with his family, he demanded to be set free of the ski school for little kids. He wanted to go with his dad and the others to the top of the mountain.
“Those were Double-Black Diamonds [in difficulty],” remembers Dave, “but he stayed with us the whole way down, going in between trees and stuff.”
That fearlessness shown as a seven-year-old factors into Garrett’s next steps. For the first time in a while, he’s sure of where he is and what he’s doing.
On July 22 the 18-year-old will move by himself to Copper Mountain, Colo. There, he’ll begin training in the hopes of qualifying for the U.S. team for the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing.
It’ll be a return to the site where in April Geros took part in his first para snowboarding championship. There, he did better than even he expected, winning the slalom event and placing third in boardercross.
“At first, it was a little tricky to get back on the mountain and … the board after staying at home forever and not being able to snowboard,” he told his hometown newspaper.
“… Once I lost my leg, I thought ‘I’m not going to be able to do anything again.’ I didn’t think I’ll ever be able to snowboard again or wrestle.
“But then, God showed me the way, and led this perfect opportunity of snowboarding to me. … God does some amazing things, and it happened for me.”
DISCLAIMER: The author attends the same church as Garrett. Should you have a student or individual in your church whose story you feel would be a great addition in The Index, please email us through the “Email author” button below.