Master C and the Pirate SMO's (Supramalleolar Orthoses)

Master C recently came in to visit Miss Kristen, his orthotist (Kristen Beltran CO, Board Eligible Prosthetist) for a follow up visit.  HIs new supramalleolar orthoses needed a little adjustment.  While he waited for her return from the lab, we followed Kristen back to take a few pictures of the process.  When she was all finished, she returned to him for a fitting.  After checking for a good fit, the engaging nine year old was quite willing to model the orthoses, pointing out that not only were there pirate skull and crossbones, but the Velcro had flames on it.  He also thought that people would like to see his orthoses on Facebook, and we happily agreed.

Master C thought it was important to get pictures from each angle, and so he posed with the orthoses from the front, left side, rear and right sides.  Then he thought a view from both the top and the bottom was in order, so that we could clearly see the pirate skull and crossbones.  After a stroll across the room to check out the exam table and give out a few hugs, he had his picture made with Miss Kristen before it was time to go.

Thank you for sharing, Master C!  We think your pictures will get many likes on Facebook.  We also have a video of Miss Kristen doing her work, and you modeling your orthoses, so take a look here.

 

 

 

Happy 100th Birthday, Mrs. Lawrence!

When Mrs. Lawrence was born on February 27, 1918, World War I was still being fought.  She is part of what has come to be known as "The Greatest Generation" - those who grew up in the Depression and lived through World War II.  Now, she is also a member of a rare group of citizens who are one hundred or more years old - a centenarian.  

Mrs. Lawrence was greeted at a recent appointment at Dankmeyer's Sinai office with a little birthday celebration in her honor.  Sheryl Nathanson, CPO and Sinai office Patient Services Representative Jeanne Smith prepared the mini birthday celebration, which included cupcakes, candles, flowers, and a birthday crown!  This mobile senior didn't have time to party for long, as she had to catch her MTA transport after her appointment.  

Please join us in wishing Mrs. Lawrence a very happy 100th birthday, with many more to come!

Patient Stories: Moxie - Here We Grow Again!

It is time for an update on Moxie! Moxie is the little English Setter mix adopted by Jeanne Smith, Dankmeyer Patient Services Representative a little over a year ago.  Moxie became a Dankmeyer patient, as she is missing part of her left hind leg.  Her clinician is Jed Newhardt, CPO.

Jeanne provides occasional updates on our unusual patient.  We always enjoy seeing Moxie in the office - she is a sweet girl who loves to get hugs and be petted and we love giving them!  Jeanne wriites:

Much like pediatric patients, Moxie has gained weight and grown taller.   With these growth spurts also comes the need for adjustments, replacement sockets or a new prosthesis.  In order for Moxie to maintain her active lifestyle, she will soon be starting the process for evaluation and design for another prosthesis.  Look for updates and follow Moxie through the journey of her newest prosthesis!   

 

 

 

Patient Stories: Gerald "Joe" Loibel

It was July 23, 2001, a hot July day, and I was riding my new motorcycle to work to Hagerstown, MD.  I met my friend Brian at his dad's house and we took off. I wasn’t 100 ft down the road and I decided to pass Brian.  I was going to hit the top of the hill, pull a wheelie and ride alongside Interstate 68. What I didn’t know was that at the top of the hill was a 90 degree turn and a stop sign. I hit the top of the hill at about 130 mph, and 80 ft in front of me was the guard rail. I decided to try to shave as much speed off as possible but I hit the guard rail at 115 mph.

Twelve ft up the guard rail my fuel tank hit it and sprayed fuel which ignited into a fireball. I let go of the handlebars and my right leg was stuck between the swingarm and the tire. The bike kicked sideways - hit me in the back and flung me 150 ft through the air. I remember hitting the ground and flipping over and landing face down.  My friend said to hold on - he was going to call 911 and when he got back I told him I was seeing things and it was getting hard to breathe.  I knew I was badly injured - I could see it and I could see I was losing a lot of blood. I asked Brian to put tourniquets on my legs and he took our duty belts off and wrapped them around both legs and managed them until paramedics came and took over. 

It was at this point I put my life in God's hands and asked if He just gets me to the hospital I would help Him do everything I could to stay alive.  I was flown to Memorial Hospital in Cumberland by Trooper 5 Medevac Helicopter where I was stabilized enough to be flown to University of MD R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Unit.  More than once they didn’t think I was going to make it.  When my parents arrived I was receiving Last Rights from a priest, but the nurse told them that my heart in my condition was stronger than half the people walking around the hospital! 

Surgeons amputated my left leg at the knee and my right leg below the knee.  Along with all my other injuries, my pelvis was broken and there was concern it would not support my weight.  When I was brought out of the medically induced coma after 14 days my dad was standing over me and told me that I had lost both my legs.  He asked if I wanted to say anything but I had a tracheotomy tube in my neck and couldn’t talk - so they brought over a pad and a pencil so I could write.  I spelled out "new legs" and my dad looked at me and said you mean an artificial leg like my Pappap had? and I nodded yes.  He then turned and looked at the doctors who were in my room and said we're not going to need you - my boy is going to be alright. 

They told my parents I would be there six months but I made it out in less than a month from the day of my wreck.  I was heading to Kernan Rehabilitation in Baltimore, MD where they said I would be for six months.  I made it out of there in three weeks.  Before I was released I met Charles Dankmeyer in the hospital and he told me the next time I visited I would be walking in.  Baltimore was too far for my dad to drive so we found out that Dankmeyer had an office in Lavale, MD right next to Cumberland, where I met my prosthetist Mark Treasure for the first time. 

He told me it would be hard work to learn to walk again with those "new legs", but I was hard headed and very determined.  It was December 18, 2001 when I got my first set of training legs and by January I could walk unassisted, stop, turn around and walk back.  After I got my first set of permanent legs I went back to work full time after only a year.  Then almost 9 years to the date I got Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and had to retire.  I now ride my three wheel bicycle on the bike path, I hunt, fish, golf and do pretty much everything I did before the accident, but run or walk through the woods.  Due to my immune system being weak from all the chemo I received during treatment I have good days and bad days but more good ones than bad.

Joe Loibel, double amputee, rides his three wheel bike.

Since the day I was brought out of my coma I have thanked God every day for letting me live and ask Him to give me the strength to get through the day - as every day since July 23rd 2001 is a gift for me.

Patient Stories: Paul Jennings

I had a nice job working nights from 6pm to 6am.  I felt good and I was never sick or took off work.  My right foot started to hurt. I had high blood pressure and I got very weak and could not stand up.

I decided to go to the emergency room on June 4, 2014 since I did not have a general doctor.   The doctors at the hospital told me I had gangrene in my right foot, and that I was a diabetic.  My blood pressure was very elevated and my kidneys were failing.  I had cataracts in both eyes.  So, I thought I was a caterpillar and my world was over.  With the doctors' help though, I became a butterfly.

The doctors cut my leg off above the knee. They gave me some medicine for my blood pressure, which came down to 130/70!  I had cataract surgery. My kidneys started to function better and my diabetes became controllable.

Physically and emotionally there were a lot of ups and downs in the past three years.  Some were easy, others were hard and took some soul searching. But I made a promise that I would stay positive no matter where the road took me. Having diabetes is an ongoing battle to stay healthy.

I have a prosthetic leg now and learning to walk so I can become more functional. I did go to the Amputee Coalition annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky this past summer, and recommend everyone with missing limbs to attend. It was very motivating and I became a better person. (Mr Jennings also attended the June 2017 of Amputee Walking School, pictured below.)

Last, but very important, I have several sayings that I live by every day.

1) Never ever give up. (Winston Churchill)

2) Always be very positive even if you are terrible.

3) Say the following every day by Christian D Larson:

“Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism came true.  Think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.  Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no to time to criticize others.  Live in the faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.” 

4) Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. (Neale Donald Walsch)

5) Just when the caterpillar thought that the world was over, it became a butterfly in a better world. (Proverb)

So I say, life is not about finding yourself – life is about creating yourself.

Mr Jennings preparing to leave the Sinai Office, wearing his Dankmeyer T shirt.

Patient Stories: Revisiting Richard "Dick" Devers

Last year at this time, Dick Devers told the story of his unexpected amputation in 2015.  Then, he thought it was a good time to reflect on and “celebrate” the anniversary of surviving an illness that his wife Lynn thought would take him.  (You can read this story in the Archives.) This year, we asked Dick to share with us how his life has changed since he told that story and what he has been up to since he got his definitive prosthesis.

Well, he has been climbing fifteen foot ladders apparently and making Lynn extremely nervous!   Dick says that after his amputation, a light bulb in the cathedral ceiling fixture of their home burned out after 25 years.  He had no idea how he was going to change it.  He sure couldn’t climb on the rafters to do it like he had the first time.    And he couldn’t find someone else to do it.  Finally, he invested in a fifteen foot ladder and made the trip up himself.  Now, Lynn has plans for him to do some gutter cleaning. 

In the past year, Dick has learned to control and work with his diabetes – the thing that took his leg. He attends a monthly diabetes support group – and has been known to resort to what he calls “amputee humor” when talking to others about his experiences.  He tells others “try and walk in my shoe”!  But on reflection, Dick speculates that if he had been seeing the doctor regularly, and not being a stoic “country boy”, he might still have his leg today because he would have known about his diabetes and had it under control.  And while sometimes he wonders what it would be like to have his leg back, not having taken care of himself really is his only regret.

Besides the ladder climbing, which he does regularly now, he and Lynn spent part of the summer remodeling their garage.  Perhaps more importantly, he has resumed traveling on his bike with Lynn.  After spending many years on road trips roaming the country, this was the one activity that he dreamed of resuming.  During the summer he and Lynn got the bike down to Myrtle Beach for an event and they had a great time.  But here he learned another lesson.

Going full steam ahead 100% of the time, can land you in wound care.  It isn’t in his nature to slow down, but this taught him that he has to adapt and be willing to moderate his behavior so he doesn’t injure his residual limb.  He visited his prosthetist, Mark Treasure, who adjusted his prosthesis for additional comfort, and gave him some advice about wearing the prosthesis and healing.  Dick is paying more attention to how he approaches projects and doing new things so that kind of thing doesn’t slow him down.

He thinks that this more thoughtful approach to life has in some ways made him a different person, and that others have commented on that.  And while he depends upon Lynn more than he used to, and the support of family and friends, the willingness to adapt and keep a positive attitude has almost reinvigorated him.  He says that 25% of the recovery was physical, but 75% was mental.  Coming to peace with his limb loss and contemplating his many blessings allows him to make better what he can. Now he is thinking about what he is going to do to keep himself busy as the colder weather moves into West Virginia.  An avid hunter, he intends to hunt this season, keep an eye on his West Virginia Mountaineers football team, and plan for a trip out west come warmer weather.  And, as always, wake up every day with a prayer and tell himself “onward and upward.”

Lynn and Dick Devers.

Patient Stories: Jose Casas

Jose Casas is one of Dankmeyer’s international patients from Peru.  We are so excited to share with you a commercial that he was featured in very recently to promote a telethon in Peru for disabled people.  This televised event was held 10/6/17 and 10/7/17.  The video captures some stunning scenery as he leads a group of trekkers through the mountains.  No one knows that [spoiler alert!!!] he is an amputee until the very end.

A member of the Peruvian military, Captain Casas became a below knee amputee as a result of trauma, and has returned to a number of highly physical activities. He has participated in the Amputee Walking School here.  Here are some pictures from that particular AWS event, which was shortly after he received his prosthesis three years ago.

In addition, he has also competed, representing Peru, in an international competition in Brazil.  Besides his running leg, he uses a special prosthesis for swimming.

We appreciate that he wore his Dankmeyer T to a recent visit.

Patient Stories: A Moxie Update

Moxie attended her 1st Amputee Support Group meeting on August 1, 2017, at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute (UMROI). Nina Bondre, CPO, and Jeanne Smith, Patient Services Representative, shared Moxie’s story of rescue, adoption, and how she has adapted to her life as an amputee (you can read earlier stories about Moxie by looking in our News Archives.) Attendees also discussed and shared their experiences, challenges, and successes as amputees in the community. Everyone was surprised to learn about how similar dog prostheses and human prostheses are, as well as the various adaptations used to overcome obstacles in daily life. As Moxie flaunted her newest tie-dyed prosthesis, she modeled for photos and received lots of love and treats from the members of the group.

Thanks to Naomi Miller, PT, for inviting Moxie to attend this social and informational support group. The University of Maryland Amputee Support Group is held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 6:30-8:30PM at UMROI: 2200 Kernan Drive, Baltimore, MD 21207. 

Patient Stories: Kimberly Daum

It isn’t often someone can say that a piece of furniture may have saved her life. Yet, three years ago this spring, the day she whacked her foot on a kitchen table leg rushing to answer the phone may have done just that, according to Kimberly Daum. When it happened, aside from the pain, it certainly didn’t seem significant, but running into that piece of furniture is what started a series of events that eventually led Kim to becoming an amputee. At first, she thought she had broken toes, and was put in a boot to heal. She was on her feet 50-60 hours a week as a long term employee of Lowes and it didn’t take long for her to be ready to get out of that boot! After six weeks, still having pain, she had an MRI. Kim got some shocking news – there was no fracture, but she had an invasive mass in her right foot.

A biopsy revealed a rare, aggressive form of cancer called synovial sarcoma that had her surgeons recommending foot amputation. By early July she had done her research on prosthetics and was ready to go. Post surgery necrosis set in and only a week after her initial surgery, Kim found herself a below knee amputee. On top of that, she was still fighting the cancer! This very active working mom of two struggled with this sudden change in her situation. Depression and anxiety set in even as family and friends surrounded and supported her.

She wasn’t able to start chemo until five months later. For six grueling months she and her husband Chris made the hour and half drive to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, VA, where Kim checked herself into the hospital every month for a week to do battle with her cancer – using the chemo drug they call the “Red Devil” because it is so toxic. Adriamycin and Ifosfamide are the two chemos used in treating synovial sarcoma. This cancer is very rare and unfortunately affects children. The normal treatment for this cancer is amputation because it is very aggressive and attacks bones, muscle, tendons and joints.

After completing her treatments and because of her depressed immune system, Kim could not spend time with the pets who would normally comfort her – Mugsy the Beagle, and Cheyenne the cat. At the same time, her son had to leave and report for duty for his Navy training.

Kim credits her teenaged daughter, her husband, best friend, mom and her father for keeping her going. It was almost a full year after her amputation before she was physically strong enough to start physical therapy with a preparatory prosthesis. Even then, she had a lot of pain and required a revision to her residual limb. This meant additional healing time and it was making her nuts! She was increasingly frustrated by her limited mobility. She wanted to do something as simple as clean her house her own way.

Once she was healed and headed back to PT, she “never looked back”. As she became stronger and more mobile, it was time for the next fight on her hands – with the insurance company. Kim had done her homework and she wasn’t going to settle for something less than she needed to regain her mobility and active lifestyle. She was determined she wasn’t going to let the insurance company tell her what she could do and what she needed. After numerous appeals and fighting them as aggressively as she had fought her cancer, she got the high activity foot she needed. She finally got her definitive prosthesis and is back at the gym three days a week and is working toward getting her driver’s license back. Through a Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services program, she is getting retraining so that she can get back into the workplace. She speaks highly of the program and looks forward to new job opportunities.

During her long recovery, everyone told her to keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. For a long time, she couldn’t see it. There were a lot of rough days, crying, anxiety and pain – but she fought on for her family and she DID come to see the light and now, she says she is “OK. I am here! Never give up!” She is cancer free now, but there will still be some anxiety when she goes for regular checkups. She speaks highly of her children and their own accomplishments while supporting her through her difficult time. Her son graduated from his Navy training and is now married with a child. Kim lovingly tells the story of her daughter confronting the doctors more than once, despite her youth, to make sure her mom was getting what she needed. She is in college now and wants to be a doctor herself.

Kim regrets the lack of an amputee support group in the western Maryland area, since she feels like this would have helped her better prepare and adjust to her amputation. She says it was heart wrenching not to have other amputees to talk to. Travelling to the nearest support group in Baltimore wasn’t really an option. Kim has resolved to work on remedying this situation as soon as she has transportation by starting a support group in the area. There, amputees could share their recovery experiences, support each other when tackling insurance issues, and share tips and tricks – like the compression sleeve!

What, you say? She is determined to have some fun with this prosthesis. She told Mark Treasure,  her prosthetist, that she didn’t want to wear tennis shoes for the rest of her life, and she wants to wear skirts and shorts – but with style! She got the idea to get really fun compression sleeves and pull them over the socket to create a different look any time she wants to. It is an inexpensive way to dress her socket up or down, depending upon her clothing or her mood. Rumor has it that she was going to vacation on the beach and intended to wear a sleeve that had great white sharks on them just to see the reaction she might get! It is with sense of humor and determination that she moves forward and sees a light at the end of a tunnel.

Patient Stories: Cordelia C

Cordelia is an amazingly smart, happy, intelligent, beautiful little four year old who happens to have Down Syndrome. During our pregnancy we found that there was a possibility that our baby had Down Syndrome. It wasn’t confirmed until Cordelia’s arrival; it was less than 24 hours after giving birth that we would hear those words “Your daughter has Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome.”

Cordelia was also born with two holes in her heart - called an Atrial Septal Defects (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). Her heart was completely repaired at four months old. Since then Cordelia has had multiple surgeries and diagnoses; however, none of this has stopped her from hitting her milestones and growing into the independent toddler that she is today!

We were first introduced to Dankmeyer when Cordelia was around 1 ½ years old by her physical therapist, Havala McKinney, PT, DPT, MSPT, PCS, CEIM (pictured above, right, with Cordelia in the gym.) Havala was Cordelia’s physical therapist starting at just one month old through the Infants and Toddlers program in the Baltimore County school system. It was thought that the Sure Step orthoses would help Cordelia gain the strength needed in her ankles to support her in walking independently. So, I set the appointment.

Jamie (Dean, Patient Services Representative) greeted us when we came into the office for the first time and Jed (Newhardt, CPO) guided us back to the “big” room where Cordelia was measured for her first pair of Sure Step braces. Jed has the patience of a saint. He never complained about Cordelia not sitting still. In fact, he would crawl around on the floor with her, working with her, watching her positioning and measuring her feet and ankles.

At 22 months old, just one month after she was the flower girl in her cousin’s wedding, Cordelia took her first steps. She was off and running. There was nothing stopping her now; well, maybe a baby gate here and there.

Cordelia has worn two different types of braces over the years. She has had two pairs of Sure Step braces and one pair of DAFO #4’s (an example in yellow, above.) We are currently waiting on a new pair of Sure Step braces to arrive. When Cordelia doesn’t wear her braces I can definitely notice a difference in her positioning when walking. I truly feel that the braces have helped with the straightening of Cordelia’s feet (she tends to walk pigeon-toed) as well as stopped her from pushing/flexing her knees back.

I am truly grateful for Havala sending us to Dankmeyer and for the amazing experiences that we have had since. The entire office is amazing!! I feel like they listen to our concerns with Cordelia; their willingness to work with Cordelia’s therapist is like nothing I have ever seen.

Cordelia is currently working towards and meeting goals within the school system. She is an amazing climber on the playground and has no fear when doing so. If she falls she gets right back up and attempts to do the obstacle all over again. There is nothing that will ever hold Cordelia back. This is her life; this is her normal and she will accomplish anything that she is asked to do and wants to do.

Down Syndrome does not limit her.

Her disABILITY is beautiful.

I cannot wait to see what she will accomplish next. 

- Written by Angie White, Cordelia's mom

Cordelia with her mom, Angie White.

Patient Stories: Joe Maese

Joe's Profile:

Joe Maese (pronounced MY-ESSAY) is originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 6th round in 2001. Joe continued his career with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and played Baltimore Arena Football in 2007. 

In 2010, Joe became a career firefighter/EMT.

Currently, Joe runs and operates 59 Athletics in Owings Mills, Maryland, where he trains high school and college student athletes and fitness/bodybuilding competitors.

Joe's Story:

When asked if deciding to have an amputation was difficult, Joe's answer is "Absolutely, and here's why: When what you are left with after an accident is causing you tremendous difficulty, many impossibilities, long-term infections, and the destruction of any good tissue or bone that is left, an amputation is not only a viable option, it can be a thriving alternative."

After four hospitals and seven doctor's opinions, Joe was finally introduced to Dr. Janet Conway, Advanced Orthopeadist and Foot Specialist. When Joe woke up from surgery and spoke to his doctor, she told him he definitely made the right decision in choosing to have his amputation. It had been a long road. Joe had fourteen surgeries in seven months and had enough of feeling like a hamster on a wheel. He decided the only way to stop the continual infections from growing further up his leg was to amputate and move forward. Dr. Conway's expertise and opinion was an integral part of Joe's decision making.

Last week marked five months since Joe's below-knee amputation. Joe feels that once his amputation wound healed, he could not have been paired with a better person and organization than Mark Hopkins (CPO, PT, MBA) and his team at Dankmeyer, Inc. Joe adds that from the start, Mark and his team recognized his individual, personal needs and continue to strive to get him the equipment that he needs in order to live his life to the fullest extent of his capabilities - and to not be held back by a prosthesis and equipment that does not work for him.

Joe attributes his successful transition to a prosthetic leg to the way he was raised and the many challenges and adversities he faced in his career choices as a pro football player and a firefighter. He adds that all of those things combined instilled in him the wherewithall to rise to the challenge that being an amputee requires and has given him continual drive and success moving forward.

 

 

Patient Stories: Patients Attend Hill Days

Kelly Miller at Amputee Coalition's Hill Days

Kelly Miller and Jeanne Smith, Patient Services Coordinator attended The Amputee Coalition's Hill Days in Washington DC on Tuesday, April 25th and Wednesday, April 26th.  Along with other Dankmeyer patients, amputees from all over the country came together to meet with elected officials to discuss issues affecting the limb loss community: to include insurance fairness for all amputees, healthcare reform, and support for research program funding. Among other attendees was a family of three  generations, a young four year old amputee and his mother and his grandfather, all dedicated to advocating for insurance fairness for ALL persons affected with limb loss.  

Many thanks to all of the Senators, Congressman and their staff for meeting with the 2017 Hill Days participants.  A special thank you to the following Senators, Congressman and staff who took time to met with Kelly and Jeanne:

  • Senator Chris Van Hollen and David Radcliffe, Department of Defense Fellow
  • Dvora Lovinger, Congressman John Sarbanes’ Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Alexandra Menardy, MPH, Senator Benjamin Cardin’s Legislative Correspondent, along with Health Fellow, Arnold Solamillos 

In addition, we thank Congressman Brian Mast of Florida, Veteran and bilateral amputee, for hosting a wrap up discussion and reception. 

For more about the Amputee Coalition and the annual Hill Days, click here.

Patient Stories: Jeremy Funk

Levi and I met in June of 2015 at Fidos for Freedom, a service-dog training organization in Laurel, Maryland.  (Fidos trains dogs for people with low mobility, for people with impaired hearing, and for veterans with PTSD.)  Levi is a three-year-old red-fox Labrador Retriever. It felt as though he chose me, because before we were matched with each other, even when he was working with other clients, he would watch me from across the room.  As we work together, he is learning to help me by fetching items I've dropped, and we are working to see if he could help me with my balance as I walk.  He also knows how to brace to help me stand up when I fall.  I work as a copy editor at home, and one of my favorite moments of the day happens as my computer warms up in the morning; Levi hops up on the futon with me and tries to lick my face as I pet him.  Eventually, he lies down and puts his head in my lap: it's a great way to start my work day.  Levi is a wonderful partner. 

Here are some pictures of Levi at work, at rest, and at play with his housemate Emma.

If you are interested in more information about Fidos for Freedom, you can click here.

If you are interested in more information about Labrador Retrievers, you can click here.

 

Patient Stories: ERIC FLYNN

Eric Flynn is a very active eleven year old, like most boys his age. This sixth grader loves to fish, play baseball, and ski - as just a few of his athletic endeavours.   Eric has previously shared pictures of some of his legs as shown here - both clean and after a muddy event!  The mud can be hosed off, leaving Eric ready for the next sporting event. And what will that be?

 

It won't be long before it is spring, and spring training starts and baseball will be on everyone's mind.  But as recently as the beginning of February, Eric was still thinking about skiing.  Let's take a look at his skis.  Last year, Eric's skis started as standard size appropriate skis and bindings.  Eric's parents, Eric Sr. and Darnell, purchased "feet" which Dankmeyer then modified. Adapters for the prostheses were installed in order to connect the prostheses to the skis.  

You can see Eric here trying on the finished product before hitting the slopes. Last year Eric was able to ski using outriggers.  This year, he has progressed to skiing with standard poles.  This video shows how well Eric is negotiating the terrain. Nice Job, Eric!  Looks like you are having fun!

Patient Stories: Kareem Shaya Revisit

Editor's Note: Kareem Shaya was our very fist patient story over two years ago when we first launched our website.  We thought it might be nice to revisit his message.  

While experimenting with my nutrition a few years ago, I learned about the paleo diet. And you can't read about paleo for long before you stumble across crossfit.

Crossfit's intensity and class-based structure were interesting, and in some ways it seemed like the last thing I hadn't tried. I'd dabbled in running but never liked it, and going to the gym to work out by myself was an impossible habit to sustain. I spent months doing basic bodyweight exercises at home before I felt well-versed enough to sign up at my local crossfit gym.

The first few months of classes were bumpy. But they're bumpy for everyone. I'd assumed that as an amputee I'd have to make a lot of adjustments, but in those months I found that the closer I stuck to the form that everyone else was using on squats, cleans, kettlebell swings, and everything else, the better my results. Going once a week turned into twice a week, then three times, then four times and five.

It's been 18 months since I started. I've been amazed with the results. In the gym, yes, but more so outside the gym, in my day-to-day. Posture, hip strength, cardiorespiratory capacity, general physical awareness, and all the other things that important for walking around on a prosthesis all day.

But there's nothing magical about crossfit specifically. I spent years dabbling with workout programs — running, aerobics, weight machines, etc. — and never liked any of them, and I thought that meant I just didn't like exercise. But as the saying goes, the best workout is the one you do. So I'm hoping an amputee will see these videos and just do something. Crossfit, jogging, jiu-jitsu, yoga, ten sit-ups a day, it doesn't matter. It's so common to fret so much about doing the best thing that you end up not doing anything. Especially when you have to figure out how your prosthesis will affect things. But as it turns out, that's the easy part.

Check out Kareem at his local Crossfit gym:

Patient Stories: Richard "Dick" Devers

Last month, October 2016, Richard “Dick” Devers, Sr. and his wife Lynn celebrated forty-one years of marriage – a pretty significant anniversary in anyone’s book.  This month, November 2016, Dick marks another milestone - the first anniversary of his amputation.  Somehow, that seems less celebratory, but Dick says, "I've come a long way, baby”, and he celebrates everything he has accomplished in the last year.

Looking back, Dick recalls how suddenly and unexpectedly he became an amputee.  An avid do-it-yourselfer (this guy built his own house!), he was doing some remodeling last November on his daughter’s home when he suddenly felt ill. He didn’t have any pain, but after a week of no improvement, went in to the doctor.  The next thing he knew, he was in the hospital diagnosed with diabetes and a serious infection in his leg, which rapidly became gangrenous.  The surgeon removed dead tissue, but despite all efforts, the situation deteriorated to the point where Dick had a decision to make.  

With his guardian angel Lynn by his side, Dick began his recovery as a below knee amputee.   He says it felt like he had been kicked in the stomach, and he had to figure out what he was going to do without a leg. The first thing was to get his diabetes under control and for his residual limb to heal.  During that four month period, he came to grips with his new state of health and while stuck between a bed and a wheelchair began to plan how he was going to get back to doing all the things he was doing before this happened.  And a very important priority was – how was he going to get back on his bike?

Bike - as in motorcycle.  While a self professed country boy, this West Virginia native is very well travelled – having visited a great many states all across the country on his travels over the years with Lynn on their motorcycles.  He had been riding since he was eleven years old, and he wasn’t going stop now.  He and Lynn had recently traded their two wheelers in for a “trike” – a three wheeler they could ride together, and they had great plans to continue their journeys as part of their retirement.  It was very important to figure out how he was going to make this work.  Even though he was still in a wheelchair and didn’t even have his first temporary prosthesis, he hopped onto his bike one legged, and that’s when he knew he would be able to do it.

Keeping this goal in mind, he started work with a physical therapist, and also visited Mark Treasure, Dankmeyer’s prosthetist in the La Vale, MD (Cumberland area) office. Dick had heard good things about Mark, and made arrangements with his insurance to make Dankmeyer his provider.  A retired Programmer/Analyst, Dick turned to the computer and became an avid researcher about amputation and prostheses, and says he pestered Mark with a million questions.  Dick made some cost cutting decisions when working with Mark for his first temporary prosthesis.  Now, he is getting used to a more advanced definitive prosthesis, with its multi-axis foot, and finds he is more mobile and balanced.

Everything is a process, with ongoing adjustments as he learns to do things using his prosthesis and figures out what works and what doesn’t.  He believes it is a challenge that he has to give his best shot.   Some of the anxiety he experienced when he first went out in public in shorts has gone away.  People will ask questions, particularly children, and he decided this was just part of him now – “I had to be me.”  He also notes that one gentleman thought that his leg was so well made, it simply looked like Dick was wearing a knee brace. Other amputees have been supportive and encouraging.

Now, with the Lord’s help, and that of his children, grandchildren, and friends, and with Lynn as his “enforcer”, his diabetes is well controlled, and he is back to some DIY projects. This fall, he is enjoying his West Virginia Mountaineers play well as part of NCAA football in the Big 12 conference.   More importantly, he has made some very simple modifications to the motorcycle to allow him to shift gears, and he is “back in the wind” again.  He says his beloved West Virginia is made for riding, and he and Lynn are looking forward to continuing roaming around the USA as he gets more settled with his prosthesis.  Though he is physically healed, he feels that telling his story on this first anniversary helps in his emotional healing.  He knows, without a doubt, he is headed “onward, and upward”.

For a slideshow of photographs of Dick and Lynn's travels, Dick's recovery, learning to use his temporary prosthesis and now his definitive prosthesis, then click here.

Patient Stories: William Mobberly

It is a lovely time of year to take a stroll up and down the street, or to the public park for a little people watching.  The trees are turning beautiful shades of yellow and red and the temperatures are cooler.  Your walking companion might also be interested in all the smells in the air – that is, if that companion is an eight year old Chihuahua named Butter.  Butter is William Mobberly’s constant companion these days, but it wasn’t always that way – nor could William walk at all for a long period of time.

A little over five years ago, pain in his leg sent him to the doctor where blood clots were found. The surgery to remove the clots left a wound that just would not heal.  Subsequent skin grafts didn’t resolve the problem either and he found himself in a nursing home fighting a persistent infection.  This eventually forced him to make a decision – let the infection claim his life, or amputate the leg.  He chose life, but the amputation itself was very slow to heal and he thought he would never walk again.

This was a very grim time for William.  He is very forthright when he says that he lost hope during this time.  After spending most of his life taking care of his parents, and working for the same company for 48 years, and “doing what needed to be done to get by”, at this point he didn’t know what to do.  He was at a loss – with limited resources and a limited support system.  He was frustrated with his medical care, and he was not prepared for the physical and emotional toll he was experiencing.  When he was first fitted for a temporary prosthesis, he had been in a wheelchair for some time, and had no faith that the device would allow him to become active again.  

He credits his prosthetists for getting him moving again with their quiet support and encouragement.  He doesn’t know what he would have done without Magdalena DiZebba and Sheryl Nathanson.  They encouraged him to use his prosthesis and never give up.  First - get out of the wheelchair and use a walker as an assistive device.  Next, progress to using only a cane.  When he got a definitive prosthesis to replace the temp, he put the temp in the bedroom closet to force himself to get used to the new leg.   He was living with friends, and their dog Butter became a best buddy, who slept with him at night.  William loves dogs, and fondly recalls the therapy dogs that would visit in the hospital.  One day, William decided that he could do without the cane and walked around the bedroom, with Butter on the lookout.  Every day he pushed himself to walk farther without the cane.  His steady plan paid off.  Now, he walks anywhere he wants to walk – usually taking Butter along for company.  Shopping at Walmart used to involve a scooter – but no more! And after a summer of watching friends swim, when he gets his next new prosthesis, he is going to use the old one to swim with because he doesn’t want to be left out of the fun.

It is important to William that he share his story to let other people know life is not over when bad things happen.  After a difficult medical struggle and his despair of regaining his mobility, he persevered through focus and hard work, some help from others, and Butter, of course .  Now, in his retirement, he goes out with friends. In the mornings he gets his coffee, and walks around the neighborhood, or to the park with Butter for a little people watching.  He really likes talking to people and with obvious emotion tells them about his conviction that God has a hand in all things.

Patient Stories: Donald Greenfield

Left Turn. Right Turn. About-Turn. Halt.

Military commands? While Donald Greenfield experienced similar commands after enlisting in the Army fifty years ago, in this story, these particular words, accompanied by “Sit”, “Down”, “Stay”, “Stand” and some form of Recall, are more appropriate for competing his dogs in American Kennel Club (AKC) Obedience Trials.  These commands form part of a dog’s “basic training”, so to speak – and Donald undertook obedience training his dog Star after an accident left him a below knee amputee twenty years ago. After twenty-six years as a brakeman and conductor for the CSXT railroad, he retired following his accident, but wanted to stay active. His wife Robin suggested that training their Golden Retriever would allow him to do just that in a new way. He thought that would be fun, so Donald signed Star up for a class at Catoctin Kennel Club of Point Of Rocks, MD. She was a natural, and they did very well by earning a Utility Title.

Long before training Star, Donald had been an active sportsman since growing up in Brunswick, Maryland near the Potomac River. This is where he grew to love the outdoors and wildlife and learned to hunt and fish.  It wasn’t long after graduating from Brunswick High School that he left the Potomac behind.  U.S. involvement in Vietnam had escalated following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, and in December 1965, Donald enlisted in the U.S. Army. After Paratrooper School at Fort Benning, GA, he was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Ben Hoi, Vietnam. November of 1967 saw some of the heaviest fighting in the Central Highlands, about 280 miles north of Saigon near the Cambodian border. He was on Hill 875, Dak To, first serving as a radio operator for the Company Commander. Both sides in this battle sustained heavy casualties, with the 173rd particularly hard hit. After 28 months of service in Vietnam, he is the recipient of two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He was a Sargent E-5 when he left the army. 

The railroad and family followed his military service. After his retirement and Star’s success, Robin and Donald brought two Shetland Sheep Dogs (Shelties) into the pack – Chase, a Blue Merle and Lucy Lu, a Bi-black.  Robin thought Donald should try his hand at something new - agility training. Agility was originally designed to resemble equestrian jumping sports - to demonstrate dogs' natural speed and agility.  Some say that this was a natural extension of military and police dog training – for dogs to make their way through a sort of obstacle course, by running, jumping, climbing and scaling objects. “Sit” and “Stay” commands were expanded by “Jump”, “Tunnel”, “A-Frame”, “Teeter”, “Tire” and “Weave” (among others) – the handler all the while running with the dog around a complicated course.  Because of the running, he wasn't sure this was something he could do with his prosthesis. Robin’s good friend Carol Guth at Breakaway Action Dog Club (BAD) in Frederick, MD assured Donald he could do it. Within a few years of beginner’s classes, Chase and Lucy Lu began to earn agility titles.  Donald and the dogs were having lots of fun.  Donald became a member and eventually an officer of the club. It wasn’t long after that when he became an agility instructor at BAD.

During this time, Mystic joined the family as a rescue dog.  Now eighteen, Donald says she is a nice dog who had clearly had some training before they got her and despite being deaf, she doesn’t want to be left out of the action.  (She is in the foreground of this picture.) The newest members of the family are two year old River and six month old Breeze - English Cream Golden Retrievers. While their family pedigree includes Master Hunters, Donald does not plan to hunt these two or do fieldwork, as Goldens often do.  Instead, he will continue to do agility for fun, and obedience trials – like their predecessor Star.  They are very smart and quick to learn, but their training is on a brief hold until Donald gets a new prosthesis.  Sadly, Robin and Donald recently said farewell to their Lucy Lu.

Along with all this agility action running about, Donald continues to enjoy hunting and fishing with his son Brian, and grandsons Adam and Joshua.  He says, “I thought I was done for after losing my foot in the accident. Thanks to my lovely wife, friends, prosthetists Mark (Hopkins) and Mary (Reedy) at Dankmeyer, I've been able to stay an active person to enjoy life to its fullest.”  A number of new awards and ribbons await River and Breeze, and their handler, Donald Greenfield.  Today, the only use of “Halt” in this decorated Army veteran’s vocabulary is for his four legged trainees.

“Obedience trials are a sport and all participants should be guided by the principles of good sportsmanship both in and out of the ring. Obedience trials demonstrate the dog’s ability to follow specified routines in the obedience ring and emphasize the usefulness of the dog as a companion to man. All contestants in a class are required to perform the same exercises in substantially the same way so that the relative quality of the various performances may be compared and scored. The basic objective of obedience trials, however, is to recognize dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places and in the presence of other dogs in a manner that will reflect credit on the sport of obedience at all times and under all conditions. The performance of dog and handler in the ring must be accurate and correct according to these regulations. It is also essential that the dog demonstrate willingness and enjoyment while it is working and that a smooth and natural handler be given precedence over a handler moving with military precision and using harsh commands.”  From the American Kennel Club Obediance Regulations.  For more information about Obedience Trials click here,  and Agility Trials, click here.

 

Patient Stories: Tod*

(This story is courtesy of the parents of a minor patient, who happens to be three years old.)

Our little boy was born prematurely via emergency c-section with a very rare in-utero phenomenon that damaged the bottom of his right leg and his right foot. The injury was becoming life threatening, so at 3 days old, he had a below-the-knee amputation. It was a long, nerve-wracking day for us as new parents, still recovering from birth, still acclimating to the NICU. However, he came through it all safely, was off of the morphine in just two days, and came home a week before his original due date.

The next year flew by with all of the usual baby milestones. Our boy was a super fast crawler and a busy explorer. Just after he learned to pull himself up, a few weeks before his 1st birthday, he got his proto-type prosthetic to learn to toddle properly. His first leg did not have bendable joints because the first lesson little kids have to learn in standing and walking is balance.

Today, our little boy is an active, happy 3-year old. He has a bendable knee now, which acts as a great shock absorber as he runs, climbs and slides. He is fearless in trying new things and going to new places. He is always the last child to come in from the playground when his preschool teachers call the class to line up. He is learning to swim and loves to meet animals, anytime and anywhere. His normal is our normal, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

(*We, as parents, have chosen to keep our son’s real name and face private. However, we are happy to share some of our parenting story if it helps others.)

Patient Stories: Jenny Windsor

When most of us get on an airplane, we don’t think much about it.  We maybe put something in the overhead, sit down, shove something under the seat in front of us, and then buckle in.  Jenny Windsor has spent a lot of time flying and her routine is somewhat different.  She says it can be hard for an amputee to sit for as little as three to four hours on a plane – your limb goes to sleep, you can get pressure sores, so she finally decided not to be embarrassed, and pull the residual limb out of the socket and let it rest, or she takes the leg off and puts it next to her.  Now, that could be a conversation starter!

Jenny is a very active forty nine year old, who, as a nineteen year old college student, was in a motor vehicle accident and spent four months in the Baltimore shock trauma facility.  After many surgeries, she made a difficult decision to have an amputation.  A lot of pain, swelling, and exhaustion were part of her rehabilitation, and she feels like her youth and good health gave her an advantage in her recovery.  She also credits her prosthetist and Dankmeyer for her leg and its fit – finding the right prosthetist being critical to recovery and success.  

A little over fifteen years ago, in order to remain active Jenny adopted a yellow lab puppy, Lilly.  As an 8 week old puppy, Lilly forced Jenny to stay active.   When her leg would hurt, or she would develop blisters from too much activity, her dear four-legged companion was there for her.  

Jenny, who also liked to hike and ski, eventually started looking for something far more strenuous, maybe an obstacle course-type event.  Last year, she participated in a couple of fitness boot camps at RAW Fitness VA, where the class dragged tires around, did burpees, pushups, kettle bell swings - basically two hours of various strenuous activities. This prompted her to want to try a Rugged Maniac obstacle course race scheduled for October. An injury caused by improper over training forced her to reschedule her competition for June of this year. At the same time she needed to see Lilly through her final illness.  

This past winter she and her husband Jack (and team member) started back in training at Baydog CrossFit in Severna Park, MD.  While she would like to work out every day, due to the physical requirements of CrossFit and a demanding work schedule she is currently limited to three days a week.  The goal is to be strong enough to work out six days a week and participate in the CrossFit Open as an “Adaptive Athlete” in 2017. (#TeamSomeAssemblyRequired) The vigorous workouts include jumping rope, push-ups, sit-ups, a variety of weight training exercises (squats, clean and jerk, snatch), rowing and other cardio work.  

Jenny has an enormous amount of support from the coaches and classmates at Baydog CrossFit.  For a couple of months, no one there knew she was an amputee.  She didn’t reveal her prosthetic leg and kept it covered by wearing long sweat pants.  She didn’t want “special” attention or to be limited with her workout due to the perception of being “handicapped”. She came to realize that in order to meet her goals as an adaptive athlete, she needed to reveal the prosthesis and place her trust in the coaches to not see her any differently than anyone else in the class.  While she does have some limitations because of her amputation, Jenny works together with her coaches to figure out the best course of action if she can’t perform an exercise the traditional way.

CrossFit teaches functional movement patterns – movements you use every day.  Jenny sees it as preparation that will help make her become strong enough to compete in and finish the Rugged Maniac 5K race.  The Maniac event requires participants to make their way through a number of difficult obstacles – some of which include mud, ropes and heights.  She was initially concerned about losing her leg in the mud! After researching the event and planning with her prosthetist Mary Reedy, after the event, when the leg is covered in mud, she will simply hose it off. Then, she will take it in to get the foot cover removed and cleaned out.  Problem solved!  

Recently, when she and her husband took a break and went on a vacation to the Grand Caymans Jenny took along her “back-up” leg to use for swimming. She could not risk damaging her every day leg by swimming with it, insurance does not cover more than one leg at a time for most amputees. #NotaLuxury. For a long time, she avoided swimming, because she was self-conscious about her leg and scars.  This time, when she was out on the boat, she simply sat down and switched out legs – she decided she didn’t care what people might think.  So, she swam with the rays, strolled on the beach, and snorkeled for a week, and after that experience has decided she wants to learn to dive.

As if that isn’t enough, part of the fun thing to know about Jenny is that she is a genuine award winning CASI (Chili Appreciation Society International) chili cook when she is not being a corporate controller and an athlete!  In January, she and her husband were members of the winning “High Sierra Cooking Team” at the US National Open Championships in Terlingua, TX. In fact, it was while she was competing with her brother at a chili cook-off that she met her husband-to-be over ten years ago.  And if chili doesn’t do it for you, she is also a member of the Kansas City BBQ Society and is the head cook for Black Cat BBQ, one of a small, growing number of woman lead BBQ teams.  While it has its rewards, being a winning BBQ/chili chef is a lot of hard work.  She has been cooking at competitions for more than ten years. Being a pit master means she is on her feet long hours moving heavy bags of charcoal and equipment around.

Jenny credits her mom as being an awesome cook who has given her many of the great family recipes.  Would she share any of her award winning chili recipes? Maybe, but she really does want to share some of her experiences as an amputee.  Jenny says that you can do whatever you want to do.  It doesn’t cross her mind that she cannot do something.   She feels it is important to stay fit and healthy.  Staying active means using that leg as long as possible – giving in to occasional pain and exhaustion comes with being an amputee but giving up is not an option.  And, she wants to share this philosophy and her experiences with others.  She recently discovered all of the resources available through the Amputee Coalition, and will be training with them to be a Certified Peer Visitor.   Chili, BBQ and mud – a winning combination that is sure to entertain, and inspire others.