After surviving an unprovoked knife attack that required 100 stitches, Sean Sarantos fought back by getting into the best shape of his life.
“I come from a military family. My brother is in the Army, my father is retired Air Force and my grandfather is retired Navy. I guess you can say it runs in the blood, but in all honesty, the military was never on my radar growing up. I had that pipe dream of becoming a professional athlete, but that was cut short with several knee reconstructions. After the third surgery in college, I called it quits on my football hopes and came back home.
“The toll of paying for school full-time out of pocket, working a full-time job and a part-time job and trying to make ends meet to pay all the bills just to make sure I wasn’t homeless or starving was quickly taking a toll on me. After a lot of thought, I decided the military was the best decision for me at that point in my life. After six years of service, I walked away with everything I could have hoped for.
“My time in the military gave me a solid belief in my core values, experiences in different cultures and the opportunity to work with and make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people.”
Why physical medicine?
“I was already going to school for physical therapy, so to see it as an option in the Air Force, it was almost a no-brainer. Since my dad was Air Force when I had my surgeries, I received my rehabilitation on base and got to see what they did firsthand.
“I was always fascinated by being able to gain knowledge about the human body and help heal it. I guess you can say that I got to do my dream job for my country.”
The night I was stabbed
“On October 31, 2010, I volunteered my services by picking up military members who either did not have transportation from certain destinations or just felt that they might have had too much to drink and chose the safer route of calling me to pick them up. Late that night, I got a call to pick up three individuals who had been drinking and didn’t want to risk driving. I made the drive to pick them up from a club. Once I got them in my vehicle, I was walking around to the driver side and I heard someone behind me say something.
“I turned around, and as soon as I did, I was met with a hit to the face. Taking a step back, I was able to catch my wits and see that this person was extremely drunk. He came at me again, but I was quickly able to defend myself and get him to the ground. Soon after, some bouncers from the club pulled me off him, and his friends quickly got him into their car and drove off.
“When it all finally calmed down, a girl came out and told me that the person who attacked me had a knife. I wasn’t aware of this and soon noticed that the hit to the face was actually with the knife. It had sliced my forehead open all the way down to my left eyelid. Once I saw this, I immediately made my way to the base hospital. It wasn’t until halfway to the emergency room that I noticed a pool of blood in my lap that was pouring from the long sleeve of my right arm. I picked up my hand and noticed that it was dripping blood and my palm and wrist had been cut clean open and the muscle was coming out.
“I squeezed it under my arm and continued to the hospital. After getting treated and stitched up, I was asked to change out of my blood-soaked clothes and into some scrubs. Once I took my shirt off and started rinsing off the blood, the nurse noticed I was actually stabbed two more times in the right side of my chest. The adrenaline from everything that had taken place literally left me numb the entire time, and I had no idea. Once it was all said and done, I walked away with four stab wounds and approximately 100 stitches.”
The road back
“I had lost almost all the feeling in my right hand due to nerve damage. It would take almost a year before I had enough flexibility in my wrist to perform certain exercises. The chest wounds tore through muscle, hindering my ability to perform most shoulder movements. Basically, all upper-body exercises had to be started from scratch. And that was after I was cleared through rehab to perform them. I had to learn how to have patience, focus, determination and also be smarter about my nutritional choices since my workouts were not as intense as they used to be.
“Every aspect of what I thought I knew about working out and eating required me to take a step back and see just how uneducated I was. I guess you can say that this horrible incident helped feed the fire for the passion I already had toward health and fitness. Because of this, I stayed positive and kept telling myself every day to be thankful it wasn’t worse.”
Find fitness inspiration and more in every issue of TRAIN magazine.