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Father’s back injury affects daughter’s life



Freshman Trinity Kothe struggled to understand her father’s back pain. It was hard for her to simply feel the pain of a shattered backbone; the weight of a plane crushing her father’s spine. The injury couldn’t be seen. Her father, Ben Kothe, never wore a cast. He just seemed tired and slower to 4-year-old Trinity. Trinity only knew that the games they used to play stopped FRESHMAN and he was different from his usual self. “ O n e night [my dad] was working on a plane [as an engineer for the military] and the plane c a m e down and crushed h i m , ” Trinity said. “Because he was working late he was left overnight so he stayed there for six or seven hours….[I found out] he broke his back, but I didn’t know how bad [his back] was until I got older. ” Trinity’s younger self still thought Ben was “vampire dad.” He was up all night and sleeping throughout the day. Despite the injury Ben continued to work for the military for four years after the incident. He later determined that the back pain was too much for him. The family moved off the military base and adapted to a life where Ben was confined to a wheelchair. “I was sad because I thought [my dad’s life] was a horrible life to live,” Trinity said. “Even though he was with [us] all the time [now and not always gone for the military] he was never happy and he never wanted to do stuff.” The family adapted to a life of routine. They moved into a small townhouse in Omaha that was near a hospital. Trinity was glad her father was


home more often, but his life was still difficult. In this home, Ben did the same everyday: got into his “special chair,” went downstairs and had his wife, An Kothe, push him back upstairs. This was the Kothe family’s life. “I didn’t really know he was in so much pain,” Trinity said. “He just seemed so unhappy all the time, and I thought that was normal. Sometimes I was scared of him because he would always get mad. He would [do something] and yell, but that’s because his back was hurting and he couldn’t take it a n y more.” T h e Kothe f a m ily remained grateful and c h e r i s h e d w h a t they had. Trinity’s mother An enc o u r a g e d t h e i r f a m ily lifestyle to change. She saw that Ben accepted his life in a wheelchair, and she was not okay with that. She spent many nights researching possible solutions for Ben’s back pain. An arranged swimming therapy for Ben and bought him heating pads. These forms of treatment did not cure Ben’s back pain. “[I was mad because] I thought he wasn’t getting better on purpose,” Trinity said. “I was like ‘why aren’t you better? Why are you doing this?’ I didn’t really know because I was too little understand.” An eventually encouraged Ben to try Chinese herbal therapy and acupuncture. According to Trinity, Ben was skeptical because he interpreted eastern medicine to be “voodoo.” An decided to take Ben to massages. As soon as they arrived at the masseuse, they decided to undergo acupunture treatment. “[The masseuse] would massage him and then [the acupuncturist] would come in and stick

“I didn’t really know he was in so much pain. He just seemed so unhappy all the time, and I thought that was normal.”

the needles in his back, [and] he was like ‘wow, this really works,’” Trinity said. “ For the first time in almost ten years, Ben was beginning to support himself and no longer need a wheelchair. He eventually regained strength and was walking again. “He started taking herbs and stuff and got better and better and better,” Trinity said. “Instead of being in a chair we got him a walker with wheels, so he was using that. Now he doesn’t have to use a cane [or anything] and he can ride a motorcycle again.” An and Trinity also tried eastern medicine for their illnesses. An had suffered from symptoms of asthma. These symptoms became less frequent as she started using the herbs given to her by the eastern medicine doctor. At a young age, Trinity was showing symptom’s of Crohn’s disease, which was a syndrome many of her extended family members had. As she started taking eastern medicine, her symptoms started to weaken. “We all felt happier, we all felt better [and] we all had more energy,” Trinity said. “[Eastern medicine] is like magic. It’s crazy.” Ben became inspired by how eastern medicine helped him. He has decided to become an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist so he can help like him through eastern medicine. He is currently studying eastern medicine at the American Acupuncture Academy in Minnesota. “I think [the fact that he’s at school is] really good because it’s giving him a purpose in life, and before his purpose was to sit in a chair,” Trinity said. “[His healing] made me happier. I think it’s great that he’s better and thinking big and trying to help people. I like seeing my dad enjoying life…Every time I talk to him he’s always happy. He’s like ‘my school’s great, this is great, everything is great.’” Trinity is convinced that eastern medicine saved their lives and is thankful for everything that has happened because of the incident. “When the accident happened it was horrible on our family, but I don’t wish it never happened,” Trinity said. “If it wasn’t for my dad’s back breaking we never would’ve moved, my dad would’ve been in the military, we would’ve never tried Chinese medicine and we [would] never get healthy and better as people. It’s like [we] had to sacrifice one thing to get all these great things.” *Ben and An Kothe declined an interivew. This story is told from the perspective of their daughter Trinity.

Freshman Trinity Kothe gazes out a window in the sports hallway on Tuesday Jan. 26. Kothe’s father suffered a spinal injury while working on a plane at Bellevue Military Base. Photo by Mitch Francis

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