Photo by Jamie Alexander
“People have been telling me for years I need to write a book to tell my story,” Jason Koger said from his home in the outskirts of Owensboro. He overviewed the main points of the book as we sat on the couch in his two-car garage that also serves as his workshop and man cave. Racing decals, framed photos, and magazine covers he’s been featured in cover the wall. “I finally decided it was time to do it.”
Like many public speakers, Koger faced months of cancellations when the pandemic hit. He used his freed-up calendar to focus more time on his book, which he started in 2019.
Over the past 12 years, since a 4-wheeler accident that resulted in the loss of both arms below the elbows, Jason has been sharing his story of overcoming obstacles through faith and a positive attitude. He started sharing that message at churches and schools here in Owensboro. Soon after, other churches started calling, and God opened more doors to speak to congregations and conferences from Louisville to Las Vegas.
The title of the book came from Koger’s TedX talk, which was filmed last winter in Evansville, and posted in January of 2020. “I met with the TedX speech coaches and we talked about my story and what I wanted to say. The coaches helped me come up with the theme for my talk, which was titled ‘Why Just Survive When You Can Thrive?,’” Koger explained.
The book actually opens with a scene from the TedX talk, recalling how Jason began his presentation by holding up his favorite t-shirt that says, “Look ma, no hands!”. But that TedX talk just hits the high points of his story of overcoming adversity. “It’s actually easier to talk for an hour than it is for 15 minutes,” Koger explains, “Because I can’t cover all the different parts of my story in an hour. So to boil it down to 15 minutes is even harder.”
As a result, Jason doesn’t get into the details of his accident in his motivational speeches. “Those details aren’t important anyway. What God has done with my life since then is what I want to focus on.”
Still, people are curious. And they want to know. This book is a way to tell the whole story.
Koger says he wanted the book to read like a movie. One interesting feature of the book is how other people involved tell their piece of the story, sort of how a documentary film carries the story from one person’s perspective to the next. So along the way you hear from Jason’s parents, his wife, and even the surgeon and nursing staff who cared for him at Vanderbilt University hospital the night of his accident.
The chapter about the day of his accident, for example, unfolds in real time with what started like any other lazy Saturday, until an unexpected turn of events left ER doctors calling for a life flight to the Vanderbilt burn unit where a dramatic surgery saved Jason’s life.
“Then, I was sedated for three days after my amputation, so we had to have a way to continue the story, because I basically don’t remember anything from the time they wheeled me back to surgery until I woke up three days later,” Koger explained.
From there, the book describes the recovery process of getting his life back while adjusting to life as a bilateral upper arm amputee who still wanted to be a good husband and an actively involved father. Along the way, readers also get an inside look into the importance of getting fitted successfully for prosthesis, which was another turning point for Koger. Today, Jason is recognized in the industry as one of the most proficient prosthesis users in the world.
Jason credits his faith in God and constant support of his family for helping him survive – and thrive!
“That’s one thing I always stress is that I have an amazing wife and parents who have always supported me in everything, but I also can’t say enough about how amazing this community was to me and my family after my accident. There were so many people – and some of them I didn’t even know – who helped us out in every way you can imagine. I think Owensboro is the best place to live and raise a family because people here care for each other and help out when there’s a need. We saw that after the tornado, the ice storm, and any time there’s a tragedy, people always step up and help a family who is struggling. You don’t see that in big cities. There’s no place I’ve ever heard of or seen that’s like Owensboro.”
And that perspective also explains the motivation behind the Handing Back foundation, which Koger founded as a way to give back to others in Owensboro/Daviess County who are in need of a helping hand. “After the way this community rallied around me, I wanted to do something to help the next person,” Koger said.
Oh, and along the way he also shot a bear with a crossbow, appeared on an episode of “Hawaii 5-O,” and had several other unbelievable adventures I don’t want to spoil.
Facing unforeseen circumstances that could have easily left him depressed and defeated, Koger stayed positive, and now dedicates his life to making a difference for others, whether that’s through his motivational speaking engagements, Handing Back events, or showing new amputees how to use their prosthesis more efficiently by teaching them what he’s learned through his own experiences.
If you’re wondering how a guy with bionic hands types a full-length book, well he hired a ghostwriter to type it. (That would be me!) But make no mistake, he can hold his own when it comes to communicating. Truth be told, Jason can actually text as fast as anyone using an Android, which is touch sensitive, not finger sensitive like an iPhone. “The trick is I’ve got the T9 predictive text feature that lets me string letters to make words, so I can text pretty quick with my hooks,” he once told me.
Koger chose to publish his book through Butler Books out of Louisville, Kentucky. At the time of this printing, a release date has not been set, but the book will be available in paperback and eBook versions this winter at Butlerbooks.com.
“More than anything, I want people who read this book to know that bad things happen to all of us. We all go through tragedies. But we can keep a smile on our face. God will get us through.”