HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As a trauma tech, Dan Falke tended to patients in a busy emergency room on Oahu.
“A trauma tech is somebody that runs EKGs to monitor hearts, performs CPR,” he said.
A year ago, near the end of a 12-hour shift, he saw a fellow worker being attacked by a psychiatric patient.
"I saw him get punched so hard his head bounced off the wall," he said.
Falke intervened and tried to restrain the man, who he described as “enormous.”
"Because of his reaction he body-slammed me to the ground. I landed on my left side," he said.
A bruise on his side was the least of his injuries. The impact herniated a disc in his lower spine.
"It's like a rubber band that can only stretch so far and then it breaks. That was my L4 rupturing into my L5 nerve," he said.
Surgery failed, leaving him in constant state of pain.
"If he stands for any length of time or sits for any length of time you can just see the pain on his face," said his wife, Amy.
The Falkes learned of a disc-replacement procedure, but were turned down by several hospitals on the mainland because the injury involves worker’s compensation.
They contacted a hospital in Germany that said they could do it but they don’t accept insurance.
Falke said the procedure in Germany is effective.
"Most people walk out six weeks later able to get to a recovery point to where they're going from my condition where I can barely walk to being able to run marathons," he said.
The Falkes failed in their attempts to get a loan, so they started a GoFundMe page to try to raise $50,000. They are hesitant to ask for help but the don’t know what else to do.
“It’s been really hard to even admit that we needed help, but we don’t see that we have any other option,” Amy Falkes said.
Dan Falkes is an Army veteran and a former Kentucky firefighter. He was an active father of three.
"My kids, they miss me," He said. "They miss who I was, who I could be for them."
He wants to return to work but in the shape he's in he can barely move, and the pain is unbearable.
“It’s like walking around with a needle constantly in your lower back,” he said.