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He accepted this bad news with a smile. Just as Willi Struwe arrives at his scheduled interview appointment, the screen on his cell phone lights up red. The PCR test that he did extra is positive, at the worst possible time. Struwe is about to go on vacation, the tickets, the visa, everything is ready. Instead: quarantine. “But I can sleep until tomorrow,” he laughs at himself. And then he adds a little more seriously: “I’ve learned to deal with these kinds of situations.”
The serious accident involving the 29-year-old train driver was nine years ago. “Give me two canes,” he is reported to have told his superiors immediately after the amputation of the thigh, “and I’ll climb back into the driver’s cab.”
It was March 20, 2013 when Willi Struwe started his morning shift at the Lichtenberg depot. He was 20 years old at the time, a trained machinist with a heart for railway workers. On this frigid morning, he is assigned to be a shunter, coupling and uncoupling railcars, preparing for the big operation that connects people and places.
For a long time, he himself had dreamed of sitting in the locomotive. When he used to take the train to go to his grandparents’ house in Stralsund, he inevitably had to pass the big locomotive at the terminus. That was scary, but fascinating. He knew: One day I will be the one to move this monster.
In the spring of 2013, your maiden voyage is within your grasp. The pair train for three more weeks, stunt, get dirty and chill in the dark, and then, on their 21st birthday, climb into the skybox and drive off into the sunrise. With this motivation, she drives to the warehouse every day, even on March 20.
The ER doctor gives him an injection, then he’s calm.
But then he slips. He was later told that he himself stopped the train using an emergency switch, which was revealed by evaluation of the devices. Struwe suspects today that the running board he was standing on must have frozen, the first car behind the locomotive running over his right leg. When the control center informs him over the radio that an ambulance is on the way, he is incredibly embarrassed that the operation is stopped because of him, that everyone is freaking out. It was cold, a colleague wrapped him in his jacket. The ER doctor gives her an injection, then all is quiet.
“Extremely annoying, actually,” says Willi Struwe today when he thinks about how close he was to his target at the time. The fact that his right leg couldn’t be saved was no surprise to him, he was too under the influence of anesthetics for that. Maybe that’s why he never thought of giving up. “My thought was more: now the situation is there, you can’t change it and now you have to deal with it.” And then Willi Struwe makes a decision that he had already made as a child: I want to be a train. driver.
Follow an odyssey. He was hospitalized for three months and underwent three surgeries. The leg needs to heal and the stump must form before a prosthesis can be fitted. Learning to walk takes eight months. Quite caustic, he describes: “It’s like I haven’t ridden a bike for a long time. That hurts my butt unbelievably. My thigh had to relearn loading too.”
His employer has been by Willi Struwe’s side from the start. Deutsche Bahn supports it, as does the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). It would have been easier to retrain him, especially cheaper. He could have written schedules, made a career at his desk. But when he expressed his desire to return to the driver’s cabin, the DGUV immediately relented. No wonder: “Mr. Struwe had a clear idea of how things should proceed for him, and his positive attitude helped everyone involved a little bit,” recalls rehabilitation manager Torben Ferbeck, who was responsible for he.
Sport also helps Struwe during this time
Struwe is undergoing intensive rehabilitation and wants to get back to work as soon as possible, for very pragmatic reasons: “We have driver’s licenses that expire after a year if you don’t drive a minimum number of shifts. I really wanted to avoid that.”
Sport also helps you during this time. By chance he came to ice hockey, he became a Bundesliga player and trained with the national team. Hardly noteworthy for Struwe. “I had a near-death experience and I know that some things aren’t important at all. When you’re around people who make you forget so much, you realize what’s really important in life,” he says.
For Willi Struwe, time without a train ends on March 9, 2014, when he boards the little slow train. He clearly remembers. He would have liked to go to Stralsund. Instead, “RB55 nach Kremmen” glows in the dark. A smile crosses his face.
“For me it is important to finally recognize why my heart beats,” he says today: “And my heart beats to the rhythm of the train.” She talks about kids waving at level crossings, her little fans. Then Struwe honks his horn and waves back. “I always hope that one of the children can later become a train conductor. Like me.”
Then the driving indicator changes. Willi Struwe takes a deep breath and releases the brakes. He then directs the monster towards the morning.