May 24, 2013
is lucky to be alive. He survived an overseas battlefield, exposure to Agent Orange and, after returning home, being hit by a car while riding a bicycle. But not even the collision itself could take Hartman's life – it was a seemingly innocuous injury from the accident that almost ended him.
Initially, Hartman tended to his wound, a right hand laceration, by himself. But after a few days he said, "I woke up and my hand was three times its normal size, so I went to the VA in
His hand had become badly infected, requiring surgery. "Not only did I nearly lose my arm, I very nearly lost my life," said Hartman.
During his hospitalization, Hartman noticed other veterans working on arts & crafts kits. The kits, provided for free by nonprofit organization Help Hospitalized Veterans, are for veteran and military patients to use while recovering both physical and emotional wounds.
"I only had use of one hand, but I was bored and needed something to do," said Hartman. "My pain was severe, but watching television and reading weren't helping. I decided to try a leather project and used my right elbow to hold the kit down while I stitched with my other hand," he said. "Right away, that leather kit lit a fire in me. I finished it and wanted to do another."
"When I was working on a craft kit, I noticed that I became so focused on it that I didn't have any pain," Hartman said. "As my hand got better I did more kits."
"I even started doing research on leather stitching and have actually become good at it," Hartman added.