My story is relatively unremarkable, at least the beginning is. I was T-boned on my motorcycle and my leg was pretty well destroyed. After a year of salvage attempts, I finally started my new life as an amputee. I was fearful, as many of us are in the beginning. I was scared that my life was irreparably altered for the worse. I was scared that my life in the fields, streams, and forests was over. I was scared that all my hobbies, all my loves, my entire way of life was over. In a way, I was right and wrong at the same time. My life had definitely changed, and although it was difficult to recognize at the beginning, it had changed for the better! Every pain, every misstep, every trial, drove me to becoming stronger.
I forced myself back into the woods very quickly after my amputation; within a week actually, and that one step set the bar for an overall makeover of my life. Even at the beginning, I pushed myself hard. Through poorly designed sockets, dealing with weight-gain from my time layed up, prosthetic components not working, and trialing multiple suspension systems, I pressed on. I worked very hard at achieving a smooth, even gait, then I worked at getting my strength up, then my endurance, and finally, adapting back into my way of life. I gave up my vertical bow for a crossbow, I updated hunting areas to allow easier access with crutches, I practiced shooting rifle from awkward seated positions, and I researched shallow draft river catamarans for fly fishing. That was all within the first 6 months. Before the following spring came around, I actually donned my first definitive socket, wiggled myself into my waders, and stepped back into one of my beloved rivers. Since that time, I have retaken all of my old loves. I climb trees for archery season, I wade rivers for trout, I stalk-hunt whitetail deer through the forests and swamps, and I walk the trails all year long.
I can honestly say that since my amputation, I have done more with my life than ever before. Not only did I reclaim my old hobbies, but I’ve pushed myself further and have taken on new challenges whenever I’ve gotten the opportunity. I have since become a competitive shooter, and actually took first in my division at the WI State IDPA Championship. My wife and I traveled all over Italy where I walked through the pages of history. I got rid of the crossbow and began shooting competitively with my vertical bow. I actually stayed upright on a snowboard for an entire run (not much past that point though). I walked across the stage and received my degree. I have downhill skied in my very first race. I have taken up Hapkido, which is a very different way of moving. I have found that there are so many things that present challenges, I feel the need to face them all…or at least most.
Make no mistake, while I have been active and have immersed myself in new experiences, I still face the “normal” issues that we as amps face. I have had to tell my kids that I couldn’t do things, because my leg hurt. I have had to leave work several times for everything from open wounds to revision surgery. My wife and I have had to shuffle calendars around to allow for healing times, doctor visits, or just bad leg days. I have battled my way through rough work weeks as I am a Journeyman Millwright and am constantly on my feet and moving. By the end of most days I’m in pain or worn out; regardless of the quality of my prosthesis, simply because of the workload. I have experienced the stares, and the random questions from people in public, and I have dealt with the misunderstanding about this disability.
All that said, I am better for it. I am a better husband, a better father, and a better human. I feel a deeper connection to my fellow humans, and feel that I have become infinitely more empathetic to those around me. I can see my place in this world, and can feel the impact that I have on it. My eyes have been opened.
My goal, if I could put it into words, is to change how society views disability. Not just with amputees, but all disabilities. I want to smash barriers, and destroy stigmas. I want people to see me, to see us, to see everyone, for who they are, not for what they can or cannot do. I also want to help people with disabilities #RUSHIntoTheWild, to get out into the fields and streams. Whether they have become disabled and feel that they cannot return to the outdoors, or whether they were born disabled, and never knew that it was an option. I will continue to thrive, I will continue to reach out, and I will continue to move.
The RUSH Foot® really has changed my life. I started out with a RUSH HiPro® many years ago and unlocked potential I never knew I had. After I recently upgraded to the RUSH ROGUE®, I’m pushing my boundaries even further. Check out my video review of the RUSH ROGUE® and how it’s Vertical Loading Pylon performs for a bigger, active guy like myself. You can find that video here.
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