While vacationing in Burma in 2012, 74-year-old Allan Lokos and his wife Susanna were onboard a flight bound for a small tourist village when the pilot misjudged the landing and came short of the runway. The plane was engulfed in flames and the native New Yorkers were forced to go through the fire to have a chance at survival.
“The plane was now immediately blazing so even as you looked out the emergency exit, it was all engulfed in fire,” Lokos, an author and meditation teacher, told FoxNews.com.
“I was really scared because I wasn’t near the fire, I was in the fire,” he said.
Susanna sustained four broken vertebrae during the accident, and Allan suffered burns on more than 33 percent of his body, with his hands and legs suffering the most severe injuries.
“You can see there is still a two-toned look where the graft was,” Lokos said, referring to his face. “Lost a little bit of ear, which you don’t really notice if I don’t tell you about. But they thought I would lose the whole ear,” he said.
Lokos was in need of life-saving medical care, which was difficult to find in Burma.
“It was there [Burma] that I overheard just slightly someone say ‘He’s not going to make it,’” Lokos told FoxNews.com.
A decision was made to fly Lokos to Singapore, where he would undergo several surgeries before being able to return to America.
Before he left Singapore, one of his surgeons left him with a message that would later help inspire him on his long road to recovery, and to this day makes him emotional.
“He took my heavily bandaged hands in his, and he said, ‘I want to read your brooks, but first you must sign them for me,’” Lokos said. “So I promised him that I would.”
Once back in New York, Lokos underwent more surgeries to restore functionality to his hands.
“His fingers were burned deeply and in one of the operations I had to actually put wires through the joints in two of his fingers because the joints were burned so deep,” Dr. Roger Yurt, chief division of critical care burns and trauma at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell, told FoxNews.com.
The wires were eventually removed and through rehabilitation Lokos has been able to regain function in his hands. He turned to meditation to begin healing his mind.
“I think the meditation helped from that standpoint that it reduced stress. And one of the things that stress causes is it affects your immune system so that you don’t heal as well,” Yurt said.
Lokos also sought to make good on his promise to his surgeon in Singapore, and wrote a book “Through the Flames: Overcoming Disaster Through Compassion, Patient and determination.” The book is meant to help people realize they can survive anything, not just a tragic accident.
“All of us are going through crashes all the time,” Lokos said. “We don’t think of them as crashes. We think of them as a headache, we call them ‘divorce,’ we call them ‘the stock market is really down,’” he said.
Lokos said he is extraordinarily fortunate for being able to survive and thrive after such a horrific tragedy, and that it’s given him an appreciation toward life.
“I don’t know if I have 20 minutes, or 20 years left,” Lokos told FoxNews.com. “And whatever it is, I’m going to lead my life the same way,” he said.
For more information, visit AllanLokos.com.