Man reflects on life after train accident
Those who frequently drive on Russ Avenue toward Lake Junaluska have probably seen Joshua Kosch, who is often riding his wheelchair in the center lane of traffic.
Passersby can sometimes be seen stopping to give him a push up a steep hill, giving him a ride or just stopping to chat with him. None of it bothers him much, and he never turns down a helping hand, he said.
But most who have not stopped to say hello do not know the story of the events that led him to where he is today.
Kosch doesn’t remember much about the tragic accident that almost killed him back in 2007, except that an angel saved him on the train tracks that day. He was 19 years old at the time living in Fayetteville and on his way to an annual downtown Renaissance festival when the unthinkable happened.
While waiting for a southbound train to pass him at a train station, Kosch did not notice the northbound train that was approaching. The train caught a piece of his festival costume and pulled him under as the conductor tried to screech the 93-car train to a stop.
He doesn’t recall falling under the train or even the initial pain. He does remember seeing an angel.
“The only thing I remember about it was it was a very tall being, white clothed, no predominant facial features,” he said. “I was told it wasn’t my time.”
Kosch was rushed to the hospital with a broken clavicle, several broken ribs, punctured lung, broken vertebrae, and one elbow broken in five places. He required 200 staples in his head and his right leg was amputated just above his knee. He spent several weeks lying unconscious in the hospital followed by several more weeks of extensive physical therapy.
Despite what would seem like a traumatic event, the now 24-year-old said his life has gone on like normal — except now he uses only one leg.
He’s tried several different prostheses, but he prefers his wheelchair, which sits low to the ground with two large wheels in the back.
“It’s easier with the wheelchair as opposed to prostheses,” he said.
He even went on to college in Spokane, Washington, but found the city was not wheelchair friendly. It was his attempt to find a college with his desired degree in forestry that led him to move to Haywood County in December.
For months, his wheelchair was his only form of transportation — even in the rain and snow.
Waynesville resident Mary Messer was recently so concerned about Kosch she was planning a campaign to buy him an electric wheelchair. But one day she found him wheeling up Mauney Cove Road and stopped to chat.
Kosch went on to tell her a little bit about his accident and that he did not want a new wheelchair.
“This man is such a joy to talk to. Most people would be bitter about life, but not him. He’s just out exercising and trying to be independent,” Messer said.
Although he said he likes getting outside and using his wheelchair for exercise, there were times he wished he had his own vehicle.
Kosch said he’s learned to believe in what he calls some of life’s unexpected blessings. One man who gave him a ride one rainy day gave him a black truck — a friendly gift with no strings attached.
Thanks to relying on God and the kindness of others, he was able to make it all the way to Raleigh and back to Waynesville again one weekend when he went to see a praise and worship show across the state.
“I’ve read for some time now that if you follow Christ take nothing with you — no extra shoes, clothing, money and don’t think about where you will sleep,” he said.
It’s with that attitude that Kosch lives every day of his life. He plans to start classes at Haywood Community College in August and hopes to one day play a part in rebuilding ecosystems.
He doesn’t see his injuries from the accident as a disability. Instead, he says he is just like everybody else.
He intends to look into getting a different prosthesis soon, which he hopes will give him the ability to start riding a bicycle.
"My life is pretty much like anybody else's," he said.