My journey into prosthetics began first when I lost my leg in a motorcycle accident in 1992. Amputees talk about losing a limb as though it's an actual loss, and it is. In the recovery process, you're trying to grab as much of your life back as you can.
Two to three months before you get a prosthetic limb is probably the darkest point. When you're just lying in bed everyday and you can't walk, or you're getting around in a wheelchair, you've got all this time to think. I was a victim of circumstances that sent my life into a spiral, and I didn't have control. I didn't feel that it was fair. I was sad that I had to live the rest of my life.
Once you get the prosthesis—for me, that was the first time that I felt like, "okay, this seemed like a lot of hard work and it didn't feel right, but if this was my opportunity to get a little bit of control back in my life"—I think that's why I gave 100%.
The prosthesis made me feel like there was something I could do about these circumstances that I didn't ask for.
What I would encourage people to do is to talk to other amputees and get information. They'll be great resources and of course they're also living that experience.
Every new amputee should try to find a way to get in contact with other people who have lost their limbs, support groups in your area, or any types of clinics where they're doing exercise or physical therapy.
Our patients will go out of their way if they see other people on prosthetic limbs and ask them how they're doing, and the referrals that we get here through our own patients is the best testimonial that we could ever have.
When you come into our clinic, we understand that you are more than a patient, you are a person and deserve to be treated like one.
We are here for your medical milestones, and your personal ones.
The expectations of individuals and health care providers are set too low.
No matter what you want to do with your life, we'll figure out how to make a prosthesis that gets you there.
You're only as strong as the people you surround yourself with.
We're always finding ways to bring amputees together to learn from each other's experiences and build each other up.
When I was in high school, I had a teacher, and he thought that I should go into prosthetics— I was 16 years old, so I thought, "this guy's kind of crazy,"—but he inspired me enough that I ended up going to school for biomedical engineering.
The way that prosthetics blends an artistic background and science together—and then you get to interface with people and do all of those things—it's a natural connection for me, and it's been a great and rewarding career.
We assess prosthetic care so much deeper than "well, there's a spot in the prosthesis that's causing pain." To address the problem, we ask questions like, "well, what activities are you doing; what types of things are you doing in your life that are causing this; what's it limiting you from doing; what are your real goals?"
My main advice for someone who has just lost a limb or maybe is using a prosthesis and feels like they're not getting the care that they should, or that there's something that's holding them back, is to realize that there is a choice.
You have a choice—you get to decide who provides the care for your prosthesis, where you get your prosthesis. Talk to people in the community, like your doctor. Talk to other people who are using a prosthesis—other amputees.