Always a little rebellious, I dropped out of college and thought about trading my motorcycle for a Harley and touring the country before Army bootcamp. Six days before being sworn in, I lost my left leg (AK) in a motorcycle accident in 1969, age 20; pronounced dead on arrival. I woke up in hospital with a tent over my legs, arms strapped to rails with IV in each arm. The doctor came in saying he had good news and bad news. Bad news, I lost my leg. Good news, they had good prosthetics. The first prosthesis was wooden with a Salesian belt – not conducive to my love for sports and other activities.
The doctor asked if I wanted to talk to a psychologist to deal with it. I simply said that I made the decision to ride, knew the risks, and accepted the situation. The doctors and nurses were shocked. I knew who I was and that I would not accept any limitations. I always find ways to live my life to the fullest.
I went back to college for my BS in business; started a job and a family; and pursued an IT and business process improvement consulting career. Two of my employers paid for my MBA; and have had a very successful consulting career working in all kinds of interesting organizations (large and small) and projects across the globe. I was frequently asked to do the (almost) impossible jobs, while raising four children.
As prosthetics improved, I wanted to help other people; volunteered at hospitals; taught at colleges and universities; and donated my time and money to various charities. I am often asked to participate in University of Miami and Florida International University physical therapy and prosthetics classes or studies as a “guinea pig” for students and professors.
My activities include snow skiing, swimming/snorkeling, water skiing, ping pong, weightlifting, racquetball, ski diving, riding motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and even considered running in the Boston Marathon. In 2009, I competed in ballroom dancing, the Eastern US Dance Sport Competition, finishing 2nd in my beginner division (there are no handicap divisions).
I always loved ice hockey and played on ponds from 7 years old. That was the sport that I missed the most. In 2014, when I moved to Florida, I found sled hockey. I played in the 2015 NHL Sled Hockey Classic (29 teams from US and Canada); became a USA Hockey Certified Coach and loved teaching newcomers and especially little kids. One of my favorites was Aleksander, age 8, who I nicknamed, Big Al. He was big in heart, especially competing with his two older able-bodied big brothers. I played, coached, and competed until I hurt my shoulder again, in 2019. Doctors said I had no cartilage left in the joint from years of injuries from skiing, hockey, and other sports. Reverse shoulder replacement would mean that I could never compete again. I’m still thinking about getting back into sled hockey to help and coach little kids. Also getting back into ballroom dancing, once I have a good, painless prosthesis because posture is everything in dance; and at least ride or race a hand cycle.
I am finding many older amputees (40+) who want to be or remain active. With 53 years of prosthetics experience, I tend to fix my own prostheses, and now considering getting my CPO. I want to help amputees and disabled people of all ages do the things they love or dream about and stay as active as they want.