Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Real Meaning Of Thanksgiving: Fernando's Story...

For everything we miss we gain something else, and for everything we gain we miss something else. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fernando's Liberty

The Real Meaning Of Thanksgiving

Putting Things In Perspective

I have an extremely touching, moving story to share with you about a very brave man I recently met named Fernando who has been a great source of inspiration for me–and for many other people–and I believe once you learn his story, he will inspire you as well.

Recently, I received an email from Joshua Bonifas whose family owns Fortané Jewelers which is an amazing store that sells new and vintage Rolex watches.

I have become close with Josh and his younger brother Kris since we held the first Carmel GTG and Vintage Rolex Concours Exhibition in August. Kris and Josh and I share a deep appreciation for Rolex history to say the least!!!

Josh originally shared Fernando's story with me and then Kris shared more details with me and introduced me to Fernando.

Fernando, whose nickname is Sandy, was working on a project to build a new bridge at the San Jose Airport when a 40,000 pound-pile driver mistakenly fell from above him and in a micro-second severed his arms from his body.

Fernando's co-workers instantly rushed him and his severed hands (placed on ice) to Stanford University Medical Center where he was rushed into an emergency operating room where he was operated on by Dr. Matt Miller who saved Fernando's life and tried desperately to save as much of Fernando's arms as possible.

Despite his best effort, Dr. Miller was not able to re-attach Fernando's hands because the nerves in his arms were pulverized by the 40,000 pound pile driver.

Kris Bonifas & Fernando Limon at Fourtané checking out Rolex watches

Fernando was so stunned. He said "I spent my 41st birthday at Stanford starring at my missing arms."

Dr. Matt Miller who saved Fernando's life was Joshua Bonifas' best-friend growing up. When Fernando became conscious and started speaking with Dr. Miller he asked if they found his watch and Dr. Miller regrettably said no.

Noticing Fernando was a little dismayed, Dr. Miller said "Don't worry about your watch that is gone. I am going to write you a prescription for any Rolex you want."

Much to Fernando's surprise, Dr. Miller who was wears a stainless steel Rolex Yachtmaster, pulled out his prescription pad and literally wrote a prescription for "Any Rolex of Fernando's choice" and for the pharmacy to pick-it-up he filled in Fourtané Jewelers in Carmel, California.

Then Dr. Miller handed the prescription to Fernando and said, "My best friend growing up has a store in Carmel named Fourtané Jewelers that has the most amazing selection of vintage Rolex watches. When you are able to travel with your wife Donna, I want you to go down and pick-out any Rolex watch you want and consider it a gift from me."

Fernando said he was a surprised and the extremely kind gesture made him giggle. Fernando mentioned he was amazed by the compassion Dr. Miller showed.

Dr. Miller was extremely inspired by Fernando's spirit and they two of them became close friends, spending much time together.

Fernando told me when he first went home he felt completely devastated. At first he went into a very deep depression and became despondent. He also said he was afraid to go out into public because he said "I didn't want to be a freak."

As time went by Fernando had an epiphany one day were he said he realized he was getting nowhere by feeling sorry for himself. He realized his attitude was taking a toll on his wife Donna and family and he decided to change his attitude and appreciate all he had to be thankful for.

Fernando realized he had a beautiful, loving family and in reality he could do more than 99+% percent of the things he was able to do before the accident, including driving a car and many other things.

When Fernando got better, he and Donna took a trip to Carmel and they stopped into Fourtané Jewelers where they were greeted by Rosa who is in sales at Fourtané. Fernando told Rosa about how Dr. Miller had prescribed a new or vintage Rolex watch for him. Rosa was extremely moved by Fernando's story and invited Kris Bonifas over and introduced them.

Kris and Fernando had an amazing conversation (as seen in the photo above that Fernando's wife Donna took with her iPhone :-) and Kris started showing Fernando vintage Rolex stories while sharing Rolex's amazing history with Fernando. Fernando said "The Rolex watches were so beautiful!!! "Kris showed me many beautiful watches and explained what Rolex was all about.""

Fernando and Kris spoke for hours and Fernando said he really enjoyed his conversation with Kris. Kris mentioned when he would try to hand the watches to Fernando, he was afraid to hold them with his claw arm because he was afraid of scratching them. Kris figured out a way to wrap the bracelets with a dust cloth so Fernando was able to pick them up and examine them close up.

In the meantime, all the other employees in Fourtané got extremely emotional and were really moved. Fernando ended up having a conversation with a man in the store who was thinking about buying a watch and since Fernando got his diving certification in 1982 he said he thought the all-new Rolex DEEP-SEA was the best watch and the customer agreed and purchased it.

When Kris first shared the story with me, I asked him if Fernando ended up getting a Rolex watch and he said no. When I asked Fernando why he didn't take Dr. Miller up on his offer, he very humbly said, "I couldn't allow him to buy me a watch. He already saved my life and has been so compassionate with me."

I asked Fernando if he could get prosthetic arms so he could eventually wear a Rolex? Fernando responded by telling me that he had a prosthetic right arm but he has not been wearing it since it was so too heavy and made him uncomfortable. He mentioned he was going to try and figure out a way to eventually get arms that would work and be comfortable.

Fernando went on to tell me his dream is to one day be able to go SCUBA diving with prosthetic arms, while wearing a Submariner or DEEP-SEA.

Fernando and I had a really deep conversation and he said:

"Ever since this happened, I see the good in people. As bad as this world can be, there are still great people."

Fernando has chosen to rise above the loss of his hands, which he said he took for granted before his accident. He reflected that despite the loss of his hands, he has so much to look forward to.

If you would like to drop Fernando an email, even to just say hello and wish him a a happy Thanksgiving, you may email him at:

On a side note, Fernando's story reminds me of something my Aunt Dora Jane used to always tell me. Dora Jane would say:

"It's not what you have that counts. It's what you do with what you have that counts."

In my mind, and it is easy for me to say, but that is the real takeaway point in Fernando's story for everybody, including Fernando. Fernando chose proactively not be a victim of his circumstances, but to take ownership of his life, and that is the greatest thing any man or woman can achieve.

Have a happy and Safe Thanksgiving everybody!!!!