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STOCKTON — Sam Maxwell stretched his legs in front of him. One foot, then the other he lifted, weightless in the aqua waters of a Stockton physical therapy pool. Related ArticlesJury selection in Ghost Ship trial set for AprilProminent Ghost Ship prosecutor resigns weeks before case goes to trialOn land, they were stubbornly fixed in a wheelchair, one result of the injuries he suffered as he fled the flames that engulfed the Ghost Ship warehouse the night of Dec. 2, 2016, when 36 others died at a dance party.
He was the last person to escape that night, saved by the leather jacket shielding him from the very fine dance shoes wide width blaze bearing down around him, And in one way, he did die, only to be reborn after spending more than five weeks in a medically induced coma, waking without the ability to move his limbs, speak, or even breathe on his own, “That was the night everything changed,” he said, speaking publicly for the first time since the fire, “I was mainly expecting to go to another party, But, my life was altered.”..
A Stockton native, Maxwell had moved to Oakland in 2002, drawn by the allure of San Francisco and the cheaper rents on the other side of the bay. After majoring in drawing and painting at the California College of the Arts, he found jobs at auction houses, where his attention to detail enabled him to discern the subtle differences separating original works from fakes. Eventually, he secured a job at Walden Pond Books in Oakland, where he worked for three to four years curating its rare books section. The son of a bookstore owner, Maxwell intended to carry on his family’s tradition and hoped to one day open his own store.
The night of the fire, he went to the party alone, expecting to meet his friends inside, He found them on the second floor, where DJs were beginning to play their sets, Panic set in when the fire broke out, he said, with one group of his friends rushing for the back staircase, only to find it blocked, Maxwell ran very fine dance shoes wide width the other way, clambering down a makeshift wooden staircase and through the maze of artifacts cluttering the ground floor, jumping past flames as he rushed outside, Once on the curb, he waited for anyone else to follow, No one came..
“I’m just glad I didn’t trample anyone,” he said, looking back. “That makes all the difference.”. What was supposed to be a routine, three-to five-day hospital stay for smoke inhalation treatment and burns on his hands, nose and ear became an agonizing five months. By mid-January, his doctors at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital’s Bothin Burn Center had taken him off the heavy drugs that kept him in a coma. He awoke as if in a dream, spending more than a week unsure whether the faces of nurses looming over his bedside were real or imagined. As he gradually returned to consciousness, the painstaking work of rehabilitation began.
Within a few days, Maxwell very fine dance shoes wide width slowly began to breathe without the help of machines, He drank thickened water, the consistency of slime, his mother said, for the better part of the next two months as his throat relearned to swallow, The carbon monoxide he inhaled damaged his nerves and continues to wreak havoc on his body, causing his hands to shake, It would take months before he could use his arms to get out of a wheelchair, and a year after the fire, he has yet to walk on his own, grip a pen or hold utensils, It’s still difficult for him to speak..
Maxwell compares his recovery to an indefinite prison sentence, his mind trapped in an uncooperative body, a condition he endures, “mainly out of spite,” he joked. “I survive knowing my recovery is just a matter of time,” he said, though he acknowledges the optimism doesn’t always keep the doubts and fears at bay. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone else.”. His days move slowly now in the confines of his parents’ home, punctuated only by physical therapy and medical appointments, haircuts and visits from friends who make the hour-long trek from Oakland to see him.
During the week, he finds solace in books, which, as a young boy, had always helped transport him out of his own life, exposing him to new places, epochs and ideas, Looking back, he remembered reading the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote about mountains as a thing to overcome, It seems especially relevant now, he said, as he faces what he knows will continue to be an uphill battle for months, if not years, more, One specialist, who had seen just six patients with Maxwell’s rare pattern of nerve damage, gave a guardedly optimistic prognosis that he would be able to one day walk with a cane, However, no one can tell him how long that might very fine dance shoes wide width take..