Dennis Schulz also travels with a banner. This is his third one. He encourgaes everyone to sign. BSL assistant fire chief Ronald Avery added his signature to the banner. 

Dennis Schulz of Beloit, Wisconsin is traveling cross-country, but not by car, bus or plane.

Schulz is making his way across the Untied States using his non-motorized wheelchair, self-propelled with only one leg and his two arms. He shares his story of survival and how first-responders contributed with everyone he meets.

In June 2012, Schulz, who is a former truck driver, was driving his semi-truck back to Grand Rapids.

"At about 2:50 a.m., another semi-truck swerved into my lane to avoid hitting another car and hit mine," Schulz said. "I couldn't stop. The cab of my truck went underneath the corner of his trailer. I don't remember the impact, but I could remember touching the other truck. I knew I was in a bad accident and couldn't feel much."

Schulz said the impact pushed and pinned his right leg underneath the driver's seat.

It would be almost seven hours before first-responders could free Schulz.

However, that required an emergency procedure at the scene.

"I remember begging those guys not to let me die," he said. "They tried cutting into my truck with the Jaws of Life, but that didn't work. I believe they (first- responders) kept me alive by talking to me."

A trauma surgeon at the scene told Schulz that if he didn't amputate his right leg, Schulz had about a 40 percent chance of staying alive.

Schulz said the surgeon administered a local anesthetic and amputated his leg right above the ankle.

Besides the first responders, Schulz said, a woman at the scene spoke to him the whole time. It would be five years before he would learn her identity.

Due to infections, Schulz underwent five more surgical procedures. The final surgery involved amputating his leg above the knee, the same day his father passed away.

A year later, his mother was diagnosed with stage four breast and brain cancer.

Schulz said he was able to care for his mother up until "a kiss goodnight and a kiss goodbye."

He credits the first-responders for saving his life so he could be with his parents during their illnesses.

In 2016, the Chicago Cubs – one of Schulz's favorite teams – won the World Series.

"A friend jokingly asked me what I would do meet the Cubs," Schulz said. "I said they might meet me when they hear about a guy traveling to Wrigley Field by wheelchair in the dead of winter."

So Schulz said he did just that. He began his journey at Jenny's Cafe in Wisconsin. The temperature was 17 degrees below zero, he said.

During the trip, Schulz said, people approached him to tell him how much he "inspired" them.

"There's a lot of good people out there," he said. "That's when I decided to travel and raise awareness for first- responders."

In March of 2017, he traveled to Lambeau Field for a tour of the place that one of his favorite football teams, the Green Bay Packers, play.

He has also toured the White House.

Along the way, Schulz shakes hands with everyone, something he plans to complete in every state. He is also raising awareness for police officers, firefighters, EMTs and also veterans.

For five years, Schulz said he wondered about the "angel" who stayed with him at the scene of the accident.

Once the news of Schulz's journey began to spread, he received a message from a stranger.

"She told me that I changed her live forever and that she was the one that sat with me in the truck," Schulz said. "She said she had never seen someone with so much willpower to live."

The pair now have plans to meet.

Since he began his cross-country trip, Schulz has had three "spotters."

His current spotter is Jeanne Wales, who follows his wheelchair in a car.

Wales said she joined Schulz about two months ago.

"I heard his story and he's got a great sense of humor," she said. "I respect what he does. He's got a strong will and a strong mind. His journey comes from the heart."

While in Bay St. Louis, Schulz shook hands with local firefighters and police officers.

"I bless them," he said. "I thank them for putting on that badge. I get pretty emotional when I meet first-responders, because I wouldn't be here without them."

Follow Schulz's journey through Facebook at Handshake Journey.

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