“On December 3rd,2006, in Manhattan, a 24-year-old, rising model named Jesse Sink was killed at Penn Station. “They put me in a coma because when you’re awake, your brain concentrates on the pain, and your mind can’t rest”
“I died; I went through the tunnel, had the whole out-of-body experience, saw the white light and then I came back,”
In fact, Jesse doesn’t just speak with conviction. A man whose presence is almost as intoxicating as his story, Jesse exudes conviction in everything he does. With his daily schedule devoted to working as a personal trainer, preparing for a National Physique Committee (NPC) Men’s Physique contest, acting in commercials, and writing his autobiography, Jesse squeezes the most out of life. After undergoing a near-death experience, who can blame him?
“I was given a second chance, so why not make it great?”
And with such a declaration coming from a man who was incapable of helping himself only six years ago after losing everything in a single night, the inspiring has already begun.
Six years ago, Jesse Sink was an up-and-coming model booking photo shoots and runway shows with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, C-IN2 underwear and Abercrombie & Fitch, to name a few. On the night of December 3rd, he and several of his coworkers stopped at a bar for a few drinks before heading home. Jesse speculates that one of these men, hoping to seduce him, might have spiked his beverage with a sedative. Upon arriving at Penn Station to catch a train, Jesse suddenly passed out near the edge of the platform. When he awoke, dazed and disoriented, he grabbed hold of a 13,000 volt rod wire that electrocuted him and set his backpack on fire.
Thankfully, a man saw what was happening and ran over with a fire extinguisher to put out the fire that had all but engulfed Jesse completely. That man ran to get help, and shortly afterward, Jesse was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital where the doctors induced him into a coma. “They put me in a coma because when you’re awake, your brain concentrates on the pain, and your mind can’t rest,” he says, “so they induced me into a coma in order to shut all of my senses down so my body could focus on healing.” Jesse spent the next two months in a coma. And when he finally did awake, it took another two weeks for the sedatives to completely wear off. “I thought I was only out for a couple of days,” he remembers, “and I knew something was really wrong because I couldn’t feel my hand.” Damage to his body was so extensive that the doctors had amputated Jesse’s arm. And due to the burns he suffered, skin grafting of his upper body was also necessary.
“I was in such shock that I didn’t speak for days,” he says, “and once I saw the skin grafting, I knew my career was done. And I just gave up. If I could’ve told them to pull the cord and let me die, I would have, but my family was standing right beside me through it all. They would say, ‘Jesse, come on, buddy. Just breathe. You can do this.’ How do you give up on that?” It took Jesse a week just to have the strength to stand up using a walker, and another couple of weeks before he was able to walk again on his own. Soon after, his parents flew him back to their home in Washington where he underwent more recovery surgeries and physical therapy.
“I felt lost,” he says. “I had to move back in with my parents. I was in a lot of debt from all the hospital bills; I was without an arm, and I couldn’t get a job because nobody wants to hire someone who’s constantly in and out of surgery. I just felt really angry, and I drowned it out with drinking.” But Jesse’s means of dealing with his depression proved ill-advised when, in 2009, he was arrested and spent time in jail for drunk driving. “That was rock-bottom,” he admits, “and my parents were so fed up by that point that they put me on lock-down. I couldn’t see my friends; they took away my phone. But it wasn’t my parent’s fault. I knew I needed to straighten up.” Jesse spent more than a year being self-destructive before realizing that he wasn’t getting anywhere, so he decided to channel his frustrations into working out again, which entailed getting a new arm. “I really wanted an arm, so we got insurance to cover 80% of it, and I had to pay for the rest, which was still a good chunk,” he recalls, “and I still had a lot of other hospital bills. But people from my church donated and did fundraisers to raise the money. So I’ve been very blessed.” Once Jesse made the decision to get better, everything else fell into place. His will to succeed served as the best treatment. And shortly afterward, he participated in a lifting competition via the United Powerlifting Association. That was two years ago; Jesse is now hard at work preparing for the next one.
Although Jesse Sink lost a limb, he gained something many of us are still chasing: a sense of purpose. “I’ve found that people come up with a lot of excuses to give up, but if they could see someone like me living healthy, someone who has moved past the point of giving up, it might inspire them to live a healthier lifestyle,” Jesse says. “And I believe I can inspire and help people do that no matter what their incapability.” Actively pursuing sponsorship from prosthesis companies for the NPC Men’s Physique contest, embarking on future commercial work with Nike, and writing a book about his experience, Jesse is a role model for other amputees seeking to overcome their disability. “What fulfills me now is reaching out to people and helping others the way my family and friends helped me, and I’m in a much better position to do that now than I was before my accident” he says.
“No, I don’t look like I once did, but that’s okay because I’m unique now. Flaws add character.”
The modeling thing didn’t work out, but this has prepared me for something greater. And no, I don’t think I have a disadvantage. If you have something wrong with you, whatever it may be, that doesn’t define you. The very thing you think is wrong with you could actually inspire someone else. So I think I have an advantage.”
Photo By Rome Grant