News: Soldier survives coma, now on a mission to improve the lives of others
Story by Spc. Jamie Philbrook
FORT BRAGG, NC - “I woke up to the beeping noises of the heart monitor. When I opened my eyes I saw my company commander looking down at me asking if I was OK. I remember thinking to myself, ‘why is he at my house?’ I was completely unaware that I had just spent the past week in a coma. The last thing I remembered was going to the doctor for a cramp in my leg,” recalled Sgt. Merrell Lowe, an automated logistical specialist with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command.
In 2010, Lowe, like many others, found himself consumed with a demanding job and long hours that left little time for anything else. In a few short months, lack of proper nutrition and fitness put his health in danger and his life at risk. His blood sugar spiked to more than 10 times higher than normal, putting him in a diabetic coma.
“I was diagnosed with type two diabetes and rhabdomyolysis,” Lowe explained. Rhabdomyolysis is a condition where the muscle fibers break down, which leads to the release of muscle fiber contents (myoglobin) into the bloodstream.
“After waking up from that state, I came to the conclusion that I would not be back in the hospital again,” said Lowe. “From that point on I said ‘this is it’. Once I got out of there, the healthy eating, the training started immediately.”
After struggling to meet the Army’s physical fitness and weight standards, Lowe took matters into his own hands. He created a system that worked. Later, he found success implementing his system as to help other soldiers with their fitness.
“I ‘guinea pigged’ myself, I went out and did exercises to see if I would improve,” said Lowe. “I started focusing on eating, exercising, and praying, so I could get back to helping soldiers.”
That was more than two years ago. Now, Lowe can be found helping others who are struggling with their weight, fitness level, and proper nutrition.
While physical fitness is a staple of everyday military life some soldiers need a little extra help in that department. Whether it is to improve Army Physical Fitness Test scores, to get back in shape after having a baby, recover from an injury, soldiers of the 1st TSC seek out Lowe.
During the duty day, Lowe, the operations non-commissioned officer in charge, can be found in the orderly room of the 1st TSC Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
However, while most soldiers are enjoying their lunches from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. or home with their Families after the duty day Lowe is at various facilities on and off post, helping others get to where they need and strive to be physically.
When Sgt. 1st Class Mary Upshaw, supply services section of DMC, 1st TSC, found out about her upcoming duty assignment, she knew she needed to take her physical fitness to the next level. She went straight to Lowe for that additional support.
“I am about to go to a new and challenging job as an advanced individual training platoon sergeant,” said Upshaw. “I knew with (the AIT soldiers) being so young that I was going to have the extra challenge of keeping up with them.”
Upshaw rapidly noticed drastic improvements, not only in her physical capabilities, but also in her overall health.
“I am no longer sluggish in the morning,” said Upshaw. “I am full of energy, I can run further and faster, and the weight loss has been phenomenal.”
Having had to work through a rough period with his health, weight, and physical fitness, Lowe encourages others who may be having some of the same struggles to join him during his workout sessions.
“You are going to get maximum results,” said Lowe. “I am out here doing it with you. I may laugh and joke, but I am hurting just like you.” That’s Lowe’s way of covering up the pain he endures.
“No one helped me, so I want to help others,” said Lowe. “I love helping people, it’s who I am, it’s my personality.”
Lowe also runs a two-week recovery program to ease injured soldiers back into Physical Training.
Upshaw is among many who are grateful for the time Lowe spends helping soldiers. She is benefiting first hand.
“I appreciate Sgt. Lowe,” said Upshaw. “He makes time for anybody that needs that extra push. He is a great motivator.”