Anthony was ready to get on with his life. He had been fighting one battle or another since July 2010, when an accidental discharge from a shotgun hit his foot. The damage to his foot was so severe that doctors were unable to save it and a Symes amputation (through the ankle) was performed. Anthony was released from the hospital shortly afterward, but his wound was not healing well. Then he suffered a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) in his lungs, and was rushed back to the hospital. When he was strong enough to undergo another operation, more of Anthony’s leg was amputated to remove degenerated tissue that had developed at the wound site.
Anthony’s first prosthetic leg was a pin lock system. It worked well for him as he rehabilitated and regained his strength. After about eight months, however, his residual limb developed “hot spots” which were very painful and often prevented him from wearing his leg. He was fit with a new pin lock socket, but the skin issues continued. Anthony tried to keep a positive attitude, but was frustrated that he was not yet able to get back to his active life.
Anthony searched for solutions, and that’s when he found Southern California Prosthetics. He set up a consultation with Rick, who explained the options available and went straight to work. “Without hesitation, Rick casted me for my custom liner,” Anthony remembers, “and the rest is history! Rick is really dedicated to getting a proper and comfortable fit. I am very happy with the level of care I am receiving. I don’t feel like a number with dollar signs above my head – these people treat me like family. I love the SCP staff, and am so glad I found them!”
Anthony is back to doing all the things he loves, including his job as a ride inspector at Disneyland. And now that he’s wearing a prosthesis that doesn’t hurt, it’s much easier to enjoy working at “the happiest place on earth!”
Beautiful, spirited, athletic, determined, compassionate and a joy to be around – all these are words one would use to describe Zakya. She also happens to be an amputee, but in no way does she consider herself disabled. Parasailing, surfing, horseback riding, skiing, and running are just a few of the activities Zakya participates in. “Last year I went sky diving – that was one of the craziest things and the best experience of my life!,” she remembers. “Living in California, we are blessed with many beautiful hiking spots, so I especially enjoy hiking and taking pictures of nature. I usually do Spin classes twice a week and boot camp at the gym as part of my fitness routine.” Zakya’s come a long way since November 18, 1988 – the day her life’s path was suddenly changed.
In 1988, Zakya was a young girl living in Afghanistan, which was occupied by Russia at that time. While walking home after school one day, a rocket exploded nearby, severely injuring her left leg. Zakya’s left foot was also injured in the blast, but the doctors focused on the more severe injury above her knee and neglected to treat the wound on her foot. “Since it was war time, doctors were busy and overwhelmed with the amount of patients they were seeing,” Zakya explains. As a result of not receiving timely medical treatment, she eventually lost her leg below the knee due to gangrene which started in her injured foot.
About two years after she was injured, August 1990, Zakya’s father concluded it was not safe to remain in Afghanistan and arranged for her family to escape to India. That was in August of 1990, and Zakya lived in India with her family for the next seven years. One day she happened to see a movie about a dancer who had lost her leg in a car accident. A prosthetic company in Jaipur, India used aluminum and a used tire to make the dancer a special foot for dancing. “I want that leg!,” Zakya told her father, and he whisked her off to Jaipur where she was fit with her own dancing leg! Although it was an upgrade from her old wooden socket and foot, because the prosthesis was made of aluminum it did not hold up to the rigors of her everyday life and her prosthetic issues continued.
Zakya’s family wanted her to have access to better prosthetic technology and care, so when her aunt from the U.S. visited in 1996, they decided to request a visa which would allow Zakya to return to the U.S. with her aunt and live with her there. The visa was granted and Zakya moved to Simi Valley, California, where she lived with her aunt for five years before moving to her current home in Thousand Oaks. In those five years, she learned to speak English and finished her schooling.
Working as an optician for almost ten years, Zakya now lives a very full and active life. “When I moved to Thousand Oaks in 2002,” Zakya says with a smile, “that’s when my fun life began! I came out of my shell, started going out dancing, making friends and dating. Three years ago I attended a Tony Robbins Seminar; it was a life-changing experience for me. There were about 2000 of us in attendance and he encouraged us to walk on fire! The idea was, if you can walk on fire without burning your feet you can do anything! The experience was very empowering.
I met Bonnie Jones of SCP through a mutual friend. I love the office environment and everyone there! I have met so many wonderful people through SCP, including my good friend Corey Reed. When he is not busy snowboarding, we go to spin class and hike together.
I love my prosthesis; it feels like it is a part of me instead of just hanging off me. For the first time ever, I’ve decided not to hide it with a foam cover. I love the look of the carbon fiber and want to show off my leg. Recently, I completed an eight mile hike and had absolutely no socket issues! This is definitely the best prosthesis I have ever had, and I am very thankful to SCP for helping me and making my life so much easier.”
What will Zakya do next? “I’m going to try rock climbing,” she says. “I’m really excited about it!”
It’s a challenge to convince 33-year-old Lisa Thompson that she is an inspiration to others, but the way she has lived her life can clearly give hope to others who have doubts and fears about their own abilities and future. An amputee since age 7 when she lost her legs below the knee to meningococcal meningitis, Lisa has little memory of her life before the amputations. “Getting around my house without my legs was never an issue,” she remembers. “I crawled and jumped and played like other kids – I just used my knees instead of feet!” Even though Lisa had been fit with prosthetic limbs, she found them to be cumbersome and painful to wear, so when she arrived home from school or play, she’d quickly kick them off like a pair of shoes.
Throughout her childhood, Lisa participated in many activities such as skiing, rollerblading and swimming. She found that she enjoyed swimming more than other sports. “I didn’t feel disabled when I was swimming,” says Lisa. “I was able to move freely in the water in a way that was not possible using my prosthetic legs. It was liberating!” Her dad made special swim fins for her so that she could compete on the school swim team, and she excelled at the sport.
“I was never self-conscious about my legs until I started high school,” recalls Lisa. “Until that point I went to school with kids who knew about my illness and what had happened to me so I didn’t have to explain it. When I entered high school that was no longer the case, and I began to feel awkward and more aware of my differences.”
After high school, Lisa attended the University of Southern California and earned a degree in elementary school education. She then went on to earn a Master’s Degree and teach both second and fourth grade students. During that time, Lisa also met and married her husband and best friend, Donny. Together they have raised three active, talented and beautiful girls (ages 6, 8 and 15). Lisa has an incredibly busy life. She recently accepted a position as an education specialist, supervising home school families. She is also very active in her church, teaching Sunday school and volunteering at various functions.
In 2010, Lisa began looking for an alternative to the pelite prosthetic sockets she was wearing. Although she had worn the same type of device since childhood, she was no longer able to do the things she used to. Although they were always somewhat uncomfortable, she was now finding them painful to walk in and Lisa had to cut back on many of her activities. Walking on her knees while at home was also taking its toll on her body. Lisa’s search led her to SCP, and that’s when she became part of our family.
“In the beginning,” says Lisa, “making the transition from my old system to new sockets with a silicone liner and suspension sleeve was difficult for me. I remember being told it was going to be a process, not an instant fix, but because I’m not at all patient with those things, it was very frustrating at times. Because of the extremely bony structure of Lisa’s residual limbs and her sensitive skin, custom liners made to the precise measurements of her limbs were a must, and if they didn’t fit exactly right, had to be remade. That process was especially stressful for Lisa. “Thankfully, along with my supportive and loving family, the SCP staff is also patient and understanding.”
So now the only time we get to see Lisa is when she is in need of some supplies or a minor adjustment. She is busy enjoying her wonderful life; as it should be!
When one door closes, another one opens. That’s the way 28-year-old Corey Reed looks at life. It’s a choice he made after the horrific accident that robbed him of his sight and right leg. He walked through that open door to an uncertain future with faith and a positive outlook. “Live by faith, not by sight,” is his personal motto.
Growing up in southern California, Corey loved the outdoors and playing sports. He played baseball and water polo during high school, and was an avid snowboarder. A talented athlete, many admired and envied his ability to skateboard, surf and snowboard with ease. Corey also enjoyed the thrill of driving – whether it was dirt bikes or cars. “I had a need for speed,” he remembers. After graduating in 2001, Corey attended Moorpark College and worked for his dad, a roofing contractor.
At the time of his accident in 2005, Corey had just started an audio/video business with his friend, “T.” On December 16th of that year, after finishing a job, Corey and T went to a club in Agoura Hills. “At that point in my life I was young and crazy and got into the partying scene,” he remembers.
“I don’t remember much about the accident, but alcohol was definitely involved,” says Corey. “T floored it at an intersection and hit speeds of almost 100 miles per hour.” The car hit some train tracks and veered off the road, slamming the passenger side of the Chevy Tahoe against a tree. The SUV rolled over twice before coming to a stop.
T wasn’t seriously injured, but Corey was not so lucky. He suffered severe injuries to his face, jaw and hand, broke his ribs and shoulder, ruptured his spleen and was bleeding internally. A serious head trauma left Corey blind. His leg became badly infected, necessitating a below the knee amputation.
After awakening from a month-long coma during which he had no idea of the extent of his injuries, Corey immediately felt that his leg was missing. “I remember just trying to grab it and my dad wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘We’re in this together,’ And I just started crying.”
Although his body quickly healed, Corey had difficulty getting used to his prosthetic leg and accepting his blindness. His whole concept of himself and his life had changed and he didn’t know how to handle it.
Fortunately, he was put in touch with Extreme Mobility Camps, a nonprofit Christian ministry, which hosted a weeklong camp at Winter Park, CO. The camp, which provides recreation and fellowship for people with physical and visual disabilities, was a lifesaver for Corey. People come from all over the country to ski and snowboard there. Corey had his first glimmer of hope that he’d be able to participate in the sport of snowboarding once again. He also met his girlfriend, Kayla – blind since age 4 – at the camp.
Once an avid snowboarder, Corey struggled for the first year. He wasn’t able to board as well as he once did, but was stubborn and at that time refused to accept much assistance. He became very frustrated when he continuously wiped out and heard all the others tearing past him on the mountain. At one point he broke down and cried.
When he returned to the camp in 2009, the love and encouragement he felt from people who understood him left Corey feeling inspired to do more. He was ready to accept that he needed to do it differently. He and his guide used a pole which they held at opposite ends and the guide maneuvered it to signal Corey as they negotiated down the slopes. Once again was able to shred with his “boys” with speed and skill. When he returned home he began to go to church, and his faith in the Lord provided him with even more strength and the realization that faith could heal.
Now Corey is a counselor at the camp, introducing others to action sports and giving them inspiration and hope. No longer does he say “when I get my sight back.” “Because he can board now and all these doors are opening because of his blindness, it’s a litter easier for him to accept,” explains his girlfriend, Kayla.
Another door opened for him earlier this year, when a coach for the NSCD boardercross team invited him to compete internationally. Together they developed a headset guiding system through which a teammate gave him instructions as he rode down the course solo. They trained together for two weeks and the system worked great. “It’s all about trust,” explains Corey. His first event was to be the World Snowboard Federation Para-Snowboard World Cups in Alberta, Canada, but he was unable to secure the necessary funding to compete.
So with the door to snowboarding competition closed for the time being, a now confident and fearless Corey has discovered a passion for wake boarding. “It’s something I can totally do on my own, by feel, without a spotter,” he explains. He was able to get up on the first attempt! After securing his prosthetic leg in the bindings, Corey jumped into the water, lined himself up with the boat and said “hit it!” As he rose up onto the water he felt transformed. Grinning from ear to ear, Corey realized that was a defining moment in his life. He is now looking for opportunities to compete in the sport of wake boarding, but has found there are not many organizations which sponsor disabled wake boarding competitions.
We met Corey earlier this year, when a friend referred him to SCP. “I was looking for a prosthetic leg that would feel more a part of me and perform well on and off the slopes,” explains Corey. “I feel fortunate that I was able to find a prosthetist who can understand my needs and give me the tools to do the things I want.”
Recently fit with a state of the art prosthetic limb, Corey is eager to begin the next phase of his life – paying it forward by getting involved in public speaking events. He feels especially led to share his testimony with young people, not only to warn them about the dangers of a “crazy” lifestyle, but to show them that faith and spirit can overcome even the most difficult challenges.
“I don’t know where this all is going to go,” says Corey. “It will be interesting to see where God leads me.”
We see many open doors in Corey’s future!
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In early 2009, Diane was in agony. Her ankle, which had been badly broken in a skiing accident back in 1971, was causing her more pain that ever before. The initial repair after the accident was done using screws to hold the ankle bones together. In 1995, two bones in the ankle were fused to increase her range of motion and reduce the swelling and pain she had begun to experience. It worked well for years. “I didn’t even have a limp,” remembers Diane. But in 2007, Diane, who has always loved flowers, began doing a lot of landscaping in her large yard and found that her ankle didn’t tolerate all the angles of the sloped land she was working on. “It was always swollen and sore, so my doctor performed another surgery to reduce some of the bone spurs,” Diane recalls. “That was a nightmare. Afterwards, the pain was worse than ever.”
After a couple injections of steroids which did little to alleviate her pain, Diane sought a second opinion from another doctor. This doctor suggested that the ankle be totally fused or, if she wanted to be active again, to amputate the leg below the knee. “Ankle fusions make it hard to walk,” explains Diane. “My activity level would be greatly reduced if I took that route. I was already feeling pretty limited in my activities even though I was still working full-time as a labor and delivery nurse. I went home and told my husband and family that I had made the decision to amputate my leg.”
Diane’s husband had difficulty accepting her decision; he said he didn’t want her to be handicapped. “I was ready to do it because I was really tired of the pain,” says Diane. “So, I started taking him to amputee support group meetings to ask questions and learn from amputees. A few months later, during a vacation in Cancun, Mexico I was in so much pain that walking to the pool or beach brought tears to my eyes. I turned to my husband and said, ‘honey, you don’t want me to be handicapped, but I am more handicapped now than I will be after I have my leg amputated!’ He just looked at me without speaking, so I continued to explain how I felt and reminded him that he was not the one with the pain. It was then that he began to understand that an amputation was the best route to take.
I then attended the 2009 Amputee Coalition national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I was the only “pre-amp” there and I learned so much. Some people thought that it would scare me, but it actually gave me the information I needed to go ahead with the decision to amputate. Sometimes I think it might have been easier not to have had a choice, but I did, and I was not afraid. I saw many people doing amazing things with their prostheses. I also spoke with Stan Patterson of Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates in Orlando, Florida at the recommendation of several people I met at the conference. I liked him from the beginning, but could not see a way to start out with a prosthetist who was so far from my home in Colorado, so I didn’t pursue it.”
On Sept. 1, 2009, Diane’s leg was amputated below the knee. Her recovery was good, although complicated by other surgeries such as a repair to her rotator cuff and a torn meniscus in her knee. “It all just made me tougher!”, Diane says with a grin. “I received my first pin system prosthesis two days after the shoulder surgery and I was very excited to try it. I did really well learning how to walk on it and returned to work as a nurse, working 4-hour shifts, a little over 5 months post-amputation. Then my residual limb started to blister and my left knee was really swollen, so I was taken off work again.”
“During the time I was off work, I attended the 2010 Amputee Coalition national conference in Irvine, California, where I participated in the gait evaluation and learned that even though my gait looked pretty good, the bulbous tissue and blisters that I was getting at the end of my residual limb were due to the pistoning and pulling of the pin liner. I again met with Stan Patterson and decided that I wanted to try his negative pressure vacuum system in the hope that it would alleviate those problems. The timing was perfect since he had recently partnered in a new practice closer to my home, Southern California Prosthetics (SCP). I received a tour of the facility and was very impressed, so decided to check it out. The wonderful staff fit me with my first negative pressure vacuum prosthetic in December of 2010. I have not had any blisters or irritations of my skin since using this system. I simply love it! “
“I have received followup care at SCP, and find the environment to be very friendly and family oriented. My husband went with me for my first adjustment and enjoyed every minute he was there because he met so many great amputees and a staff who work so well with them and their families. He learned a lot by watching and listening, and was fascinated to see how the prostheses were made. SCP’s staff members are so good at educating everyone who wants to learn! As hesitant as my husband was for me to go through with the amputation, I would say that because of my great care, he is a total believer now. Through the process of working with me as I learned to walk with a prosthesis, he has observed first hand how having an amputation does not hinder a person’s life – it adds joy to it. My prosthesis works so well that I receive numerous comments from people about how they never would have known that I am an amputee if they couldn’t see it. I am back working as a nurse, exercising at the gym, and I have a pretty fulfilling life.”
I feel very blessed to have met this group of caring and talented people. It is like having a huge extended family.
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When Andy of Laguna Beach, CA takes his place at the start of a triathlon, he’s thinking how thankful he is to be alive and competing again in the sport he loves. That he participates in this type of event at the age of 72 is impressive enough, but that he does so after losing his leg below the knee a few years ago is nothing short of amazing!
In December 2006 Andy was washing his car in the driveway of his Laguna Beach home when he noticed a laundry delivery van dropping off some dry cleaning a few doors up the hill. A moment later Andy looked up and that same van was rolling toward his car–with the driver running next to it! In the moments that followed, as the van hit his car, Andy recalls having the sensation of flying. “My left hip felt like it was pushed against a wall, and then I was floating. I somewhat landed on my back. I raised my right leg and it was just dangling there, hanging by a little bit of flesh.” He screamed, “I’ve lost my foot, I’ve lost my foot!” Andy’s wife, Jeri, a registered nurse, heard the crash and rushed out of the house but almost wasn’t able to find him in all the confusion. He had been propelled from his driveway all the way to his neighbor’s carport, and the van that had hit his car had come to a rest against the retaining wall. Fortunately he landed on the only patch of dirt in the area, for as the paramedics later explained, if he had landed on the concrete he’d probably be much more severely injured or dead. Andy had sustained extensive damage to his right leg, but he was still alive.
Andy grew up in Newport Beach, playing beach volleyball and bodysurfing. He started running during the early 60s, but did not enter the sport of triathlon until the 1980s. An avid runner, Andy had suffered a nagging injury which left him unable to run great distances and he was looking for another way to maintain his aerobic conditioning. A friend introduced him to cycling. He then connected with a group of tri-athletes who got him into a master’s swim program. Andy’s leg injury healed, but he so enjoyed the training that he decided to take up triathlon.
Because Andy was an athlete, the doctors did their best to save his leg. His ankle was fused and a titanium rod was inserted into his tibia to support it. Two plastic surgeons worked to take a muscle from his left shoulder and transplant it to cover the huge hole from the ankle to calf of his leg. He recovered in the hospital for seven weeks. Unfortunately, during the second week a staph infection set in and never went away, preventing his ankle injury from healing. “They call it a non-union of the fusion,” says Andy. “In July of 2007, the doctors told me then that I should consider amputation.”
As he considered the possibility of amputation during the next few months, Andy did a lot of research on prosthetic limbs and discovered that with the new technology available it was possible for him to return to the sport he loved. Because he had competed in the previous nine, he attended the 10th anniversary of the Pacific Coast Triathlon in September 2007, even though he was still on crutches and battling infection. The event happened to be a fundraiser for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), and he watched above-knee amputee Sarah Reinertson and other amputees running, cycling and swimming. “I tried to get on my bike and my ankle hurt so bad. I couldn’t put any weight on the leg at all,” Andy recalls. “I had given my leg 14 months to heal and the clock was ticking.” Sarah and another amputee known as “One Arm Willie Stewart” – both Ironman finishers – spent some time talking with Andy and both encouraged him to consider amputation.
The following February, Andy had his leg amputated below the knee. He actually felt relieved; the pain and infection were gone, the wound was healing, and he could focus on his rehabilitation and getting back into the sport of triathlon. “Triathlon is a lifestyle,” says Andy. “It is a part of who I am. Competition, for me, is the process of becoming a whole person again.” So, with the support of his lovely wife, Jeri, Andy set out to do just that!
Andy experienced a few “bumps in the road” when he began competing in triathlons as an amputee. He found that his residual limb was not holding up to the rigors of training and competition, and suffered from agonizing nerve pain. Scout Bassett, a fellow CAF athlete, referred him to the staff at SCP where he was fit with a custom NPS elevated vacuum system and he hasn’t stopped since! “It has been a wonderful experience working with a caring and motivated staff,” says Andy. “My dream of running and competing again has come true.”
Almost four years after his accident, Andy competes regularly in triathlons and participates in fundraising events for challenged athletes. Southern California Prosthetics in Irvine, CA has provided him with the technology he needs—custom cycling, running and swimming legs—but Andy’s hard work and perseverance are what enabled him to compete again when the odds were stacked against him. He says the most rewarding part of competing now is that as an athlete he can demonstrate to other disabled persons what is possible, and inspire them to pursue their own goals.
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Functional Amputee Support Team (FAST), in conjunction with Southern California Prosthetics, cordially invites you to attend our next Amputee Education Series program: New Prosthetic Products and Technologies Each year new products come to market, advancing the state of the art for amputees worldwide. We are excited to have several of the top prosthetic manufacturing companies […]