TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It all started with a cold, said 50-year-old Mike St. Onge, a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs from an illness.
Fifteen years ago, the Tucson man contracted pneumocococcal pneumonia, a serious lung disease that almost took his life.
He was already missing his spleen, and his immune system was weak.
St. Onge suffered infection and dead tissue known as gangrene.
As a result, surgeons had to amputate both his arms and both his legs to save him.
He didn't learn the devastating news until after he woke up from a coma.
"It was overwhelming, but again life boiled down to two things. Would I rather be alive or dead?" St. Onge said. "I was so grateful to be alive."
Today, thanks to prosthetics for his arms and legs and a lot of practice, he is now able to complete daily tasks he wasn't sure he'd be able to do alone, such as shaving his face, answering his cell phone and driving his car.
"It wasn't any one person or one thing that allowed me to gain my independence. It was my wife, my family, friends, therapists… it was God," he said. "It definitely takes me twice as long to do anything."
But a little bit of delay doesn't stop him from having fun.
Every year, he said tries to do something adventurous.
So far, he's been skydiving, rock climbing, surfing and horseback riding.
"I'm very comfortable in my own skin and I want other people to be comfortable around me," he said. "So that it's not that big of a deal."
However, he does admit that he has had his share of tough times.
His only child, Samantha, was just 6 months old when he got sick, and he struggled to be able to hold her.
"Sometimes I would pinch her too hard or not hard enough and she would slip," he said.
Samantha is now 16 years old and experiences other obstacles with her dad.
"We'll get frustrated sometimes, but we always find a way to work it out," she said.
However, "working it out" took time and that's the message Mike wants to get across to anyone trying to overcome life's challenges – visible or not.
"It's going to take perseverance and hard work," he said. "But it is possible if you give yourself the space and the time to not be successful right away and to just keep going at it and not give up."
Mike is also determined to give back by volunteering his time with organizations in the community who help others deal with limb loss.
"It really fills my heart and soul when I share and I talk to others and see them learn and grow from my experience," he said.