Thanks to all that have helped!!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Adapt or Die

Day 2 at home has been rough. I'm outside the clinical comfort of doctors and nurses, no call buttons, and only the help of my family. Luckily my family includes an EMT and an RN. The difficulties of the day have been finding my limits. How long can I walk, well hope with the assistance of a walker? How long can I stand? Where the heck is my new center of gravity!?!? Some of these questions have had answers, I can go about 30 yards, before I feel like I need to sit down. I can only stand for a minute or two before my center of balance moves to some unknown plane of existence that I am unable to locate. Otherwise, I was able to survive a car ride for about an hour and half. This means that this Friday, I can hopefully go pick up my son. I hope. This will be his first experience seeing his father with out his leg. I have a feeling this may get rough. In his eyes, I am super man. I am that unmovable rock of Dad. Some of us are lucky enough to have this vision of our fathers, or someone in our lives we saw as bigger than life. Sadly, I think this may rob my son of that vision. I know that many of you see what I am trying to do as inspiring and I am very thankful for that. It is great motivation to know that you are motivating a number of people with every milestone I make. Yet, to a 7 year old boy to see your father hopping around on a walker and missing a leg is a spirit breaker. So, in the case that this blog makes it through posterity and Bryson finds himself reading this I hope he can better appreciate what I am attempting to accomplish. My goal is to instill in my son that "Can't never could do nothing" attitude I have been lucky enough to have instilled in me. Life is hard, you have to be harder and open to adaptation. Isn't that really the story of evolution "Adapt or Die." This applies in any situation. If you are in the back of an ambulance and are unable to adapt to any situation then the death might not be your own.

I am learning to adapt now. I have found out how to shower on one leg...which is a good thing for Kate. Like I said, I am learning my new limitations. My favorite thing about limitations is that they are always breakable. I know that I can get through this and prove to my son that in life limitations are nothing more than that double dog dare you attempted as a kid. If you didn't break it the first time then adapt and try again. There is no reason to let people put limits on you, adapt or die son, adapt or die. With that. This day of adaptation and limitations has led to a very tired unipedal man. I am going to end with if you are able to donate please do, we could use your help. Thank you all for what you have done and continue to do. Until tomorrow remember history has a lofty list of animals that refused to adapt...the reason they are in history is because they couldn't handle the present. Adapt or Die.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Homeward Bound!!!

Finally the first steps of my journey to getting my life back to normal has begun. It started on January 26th with the first incision of a scalpel and now has finally moved to my home. The plan now is physical therapy at home 3 times a week and learning to get around without my leg. It'll be at least a month before I can get the prosthetic. I am currently wearing the lovely device known as a "stump shrinker" it's actually much more comfortable than it sounds. It's only painful when it is put on, after that it actually feels quite nice, the gentle compression helps with the phantom pains.

A word about phantom pains, they are the most horrible experience I have ever had and now I have much more respect for my patients that have dealt with them. The first night in the hospital was horrible, my foot was burning, well, my theoretical foot was burning. Kate, having the same sense of humor as most in the healthcare field states that "Well honey, it is burning. It's in the incinerator downstairs." I love that woman. Tonight I am finally home and can begin to try to get back to some normalcy. The phantom pains are still present, but they have decided to show themselves as itching. My foot will itch for 5 or 10 minutes, and it is the most annoying feeling I have ever dealt with. I am very happy to be finally taking a step out of the limbo I was trapped in. My brother stated that while I was in the hospital he was finally able to see that glint of hope in my eyes again. I finally got out of that purgatory, I can not express well enough with the words I have available to me to describe the feeling of being stuck. The feeling of not moving forward or backward, just stuck in the place where you are. So, I know I have said it a few times before, I am finally able to make a step toward my future. I am finally stepping out into the world again, I am going to deal with people staring and making fun of me, because face it, some people can be evil...but I'm ready for this. I have already shocked the doctors and nurses taking care of me by progressing so quickly from amputation to home, I think I'm going to shock a lot more people by becoming the 54th paramedic in the United States to return to work on an ambulance as Louisville's own Prosthetic Medic. Look out....I'm Back!!!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Ok second post for the night. I just did something I have been avoiding. I looked in the mirror. You know the look I'm talking about, the look where you not only see your reflection, but you see all the imperfections you think everyone else is focusing in on. As I stood there looking at the place where my left knee should have been, I kept thinking that I look like a sideshow. I feel like a freak of nature. I wasn't ready for that. I'm sure that this feeling will pass. That this is a normal reaction when transitioning from  bipedal to "unipedal," but that doesn't make the feeling any less true. I wasn't really ready for that. Looking at the stump alone, seeing pictures, none of these are as piercing as a mirror and an empty room. I am crushed. Emotionally drained and physically tired. Luckily, I have my family and my beautiful fiance'. Tonight, Kate has had the difficult job of trying to refill my broken self-esteem. She's amazing like that. Yet, with all her kind words and assurances that I am the same person. Something is missing, other than my leg, (for those with the same dark sense of humor as I), something inside of me feels gone. Tonight, for the first time I have started to question my lofty aspirations. Is this possible? Am I really strong enough to do this? I'm not sure I am...I know I'm going to give it one Hell of a fight. I'm accustomed to these doubts creeping in. I've fought these for awhile now. Doubt, is a powerful enemy to self-esteem and motivation. If I give in to my doubts, then I just sit back and quit. No need to try, because there is no way it'll work. That way I don't have to face disappointment. Trust me, I've known these feelings for awhile. I'm not giving in to them, but it's difficult to keep them from creeping into my head, especially on nights alone in a hospital room. Oh well. I will fight these demons when I wake up. For now, I will try to keep these thoughts out of my head and rest. Tomorrow the fight starts again. I was reminded from a friend that I forgot some definitions, she reminded me that I am a friend. So I'll end with this tonight...I'm Joe Riffe, I am an above knee amputee, a paramedic, a fiance, a father, a friend, a self-professed redneck, a brother, a fighter, unsure about what tomorrow brings, but willing to face it head on. Goodnight everyone

Check Please...

Hopefully going home tomorrow. I really hope so, when not needed hospitals can quickly become prisons. I very appreciative of everyone and all they have done for me while I've been in here and now I'm ready to move this show to my house and start my new life. The plan now is to start fitting me with compression stockings, shaping my stump for the prosthetic when it gets here. Gotta love the fight with insurance companies. Otherwise my recovery has been quick and I'm extremely happy about that. For the first time in months I have something to hope for. I can finally start making forward progress towards my goal and I feel like I have some control over this whole situation. I'm excited to get moving on, and still quite apprehensive about the entire thing, It's still odd to look down and not have a leg. Walking, using the walker of course, is quite odd. I'm still trying to find my center of balance and how to manipulate my body to compensate for my lack of a leg. Pain is still up, but controllable. So here we go. Things are on the way now. I finally have some forward momentum and plan to keep this up. Now, aside from getting the prosthetic, things are up to  me. I have to have the drive to push myself to this goal. I still have this fire inside me telling me that this is not only possible, but I will accomplish this and so much more because I went  through with this. Agreeing to have my leg cut off is the hardest thing I have ever done. Lying there in preop was terrifying, but I knew that I have a great support system both on here and in my life to see me through. I hope I can help others facing this situation one day the way others in the AKA community have helped me through this. It's greatly appreciated and will never be forgotten. Let the journey begin...

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Today I got my first glimpse of my stump. This was a defining moment for me. This was the moment I will remember from this hospitalization, the first view of what's left of my leg. It was at this moment that I realized I have a new definition in life. We have many definitions that we go by; father, finace, son, paramedic, and now amputee. The question now becomes what do I do with this definition. Do I let it become who I am, take this definition and let it be the thing that defines me totally, or do I integrate it into the growing list of who I am. The titles that have made me the man I have become. I choose the second. We all know those people who isolate themselves to a single definition. They are identified by one defining moment in their lives. I think this is a sad way to live your life. I refuse to let this be my defining moment. Yes, this will be a huge part of who I am, how could it not be. Yet, if I focus in on the fact that I'm an amputee and ignore the many other titles I have then I have done a disservice to all the things I have been through in my life. I am going to proudly wear this new badge. I will stand on one leg and say that I am an amputee, but I am also a father to Bryson, a  fiance' to Kate, a son to Cathy, a brother to Bryan, a Paramedic in Louisville, an optimist, and a humorist. These are all things that define the man that stands before you today.

Today, another definition was brought to my attention. I am dedicated. I am working hard to fight the odds and return to EMS. This is something that has been missing from EMS for a while. Don't get me wrong. We have many dedicated professionals working on our ambulances today. Yet all over the country we have a new crop of EMT's and Paramedics who have joined our profession because there are jobs here and the country is in a economic downturn. So, we have people who are viewing this as a jumping off point and instead of asking what can I do for those around me, the question has become what can you do for me? I find this disturbing, for a fledgling profession who is trying to find it's place between the world of modern medicine and the sometimes brutal world of public safety. These people who have the unique opportunity to take our careers to higher levels by applying the skills from many other careers and applying them to EMS. I have chosen to apply my dedication to EMS to proving that if you want it nothing can hold you back. I am Joe Riffe, the fiance, the son, the father, the brother, amputee and soon the Prosthetic Medic. Who are you?

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Beginnings

The surgery is complete. I am now 6 feet tall and one foot off. This first day has been much harder than I expected. The physical pain has been unrelenting and the emotional pain has been more than I expected. I knew when I laid down on the table yesterday morning that my life was changing forever. So, here I am. I look down and my leg is gone. With it though, so is the handicap that was holding me back. Yes, currently I am trapped in this hospital bed, unable to get up and take care of myself, grimacing in immense pain with the simplest of movements, but I know that pain is temporary. This was the first step, and as Bugs Bunny always said in my Saturday morning cartoons, "Watch that first step...It's a doozy!" Now, I can focus on rehabilitation and turning this impossible situation into an improbable success story.

Through out this battle I have finally understood what Gandhi meant when he said "You must be the change you want to see in the world." I have decided to embody the thought that even in losing a limb I am not handicapped. I just have to work harder and therefore I will appreciate simple things more than most. Already, I have learned how much I took for vantage getting up and moving around. This morning my occupational therapist came in and helped me sit on the side of the bed. That was her goal for the day. Just to sit and put my remaining leg on the ground. I decided once I achieved that goal I wanted to know what it felt like to stand without my leg. This is where I was humbled quickly. Not only dealing with the pain involved of having blood circulate at the bottom of that stump, but finding that I have an entirely new center of gravity. I could not gain balance on my own. It was not happening. That was terrifying. I know that I will learn how to do this, but gaining that experience today was necessary for me. I had to know what this feels like. My physician wants me to get into the recliner today, and when PT gets here I suppose that's what I'll do. I hope they bring me a walker and I can see what that feels like.

So, I have to be honest with you, I've been completely open throughout this process, so I can't stop that now. When I woke up, after the pain was controlled somewhat and I was capable of rational thought I was terrified. I decided that I had made a horrible mistake. What had I done!!! I just willingly let them take away my leg, my leg that worked somewhat, not to a point that I could work, but I could walk. Now I have nothing there. I still feel it there, and that is the cruelest part of this entire process. Waking up in the middle of the night, sweating, hurting scared to death, and feeling my foot itch, or my calf cramp, only to look down and realize that this isn't a nightmare. My leg is gone. I have made this permanent decision. Today I feel much  better about this decision. My initial panic has subsided. Sadly, the phantom pains have not, and I am relying on a dilaudid pain pump to be able to sit up and write this to you. As promised. I will be continuing my blog throughout this process. I know that I am going to endure immense pain in these coming days, but I will translate that into words to share with you. Until later...The journey to becoming the prosthetic medic has officially begun...I think I heard a starters gun when I got up this morning.

I made it.

Surgery is over. I'm in a lot of pain, so once I get to feeling a little better I will write some more. Let the journey begin and I'm still here!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This is it!!! Bravery...

Well in 12 short hours I will be checking into Norton Hospital Downtown. I have 12 more hours to reflect on this journey before I lose this anchor that has been holding me back and begin another long uphill climb. This is a battle of my choosing. I had the chance to choose the opponent, do I continue to battle the foe I know, fight to hold on to a leg that doesn't work and try to learn to live with it, fixed as best they can? No. I chose to fight an entirely new battle. I am cutting the problem off, I have chose to deal with this in a drastic manner. I will begin this battle in 12 hours. I have one thing my opponent does not. I have determination to not just return to my previous glory, but to go way past it, and become a new man. I will be losing a leg, but I have gained an experience that many will never have. As I walk into the hospital tomorrow, I have many great people in my corner. Many who will be there with me, many who will not. I know that I have the support group behind me to turn this into an amazing victory, instead of mourning the loss of an appendage, we will celebrate the fact that I am getting my life back.

Now, I decided to write tonight about bravery. What makes a person brave or courageous? Is it bravery that makes a soldier walk into battle? That draws the firefighter towards the flames? That brings the medic inside the car full of uncertainty and death? I would say no...all these people have one thing in common. They are different than the average person. They have the coding inside them that draws them to danger instead of away from it. If you ask any of these people if they are brave, they would more than likely answer no. If you asked the general public if these people are brave there is a resounding what is bravery. To me, bravery resides in walking into an impossible situation and fighting to change the outcome. In a sense, isn't that what all the men described above are attempting to do? In this same vein, I walk into surgery tomorrow and know that I am losing a part of my physical being, in an attempt to bypass the limitations placed on me by a leg that no longer works for me. I am losing a part of myself to regain who I am. That's quite a conflicting statement. Up to this point I have faced fear, passion, and now bravery in these writings. Do I feel I actually have any of these things, well yes and no. I am racked with fear, I have faced this paralyzing fact from the beginning of this journey. It would have much simpler if the surgeons had taken my leg on the night of May 8, but instead, they have said "This is a decision you have to make yourself." There is power in making such a decision, and with that power an overwhelming fear that you made the wrong choice. I am certain that I have made the correct one, but that little demon will reside in the back of my mind for the rest of my life...whispering that I can't do this, that I should have kept the leg, that I have willingly crippled myself. This is another battle I am sure I will be fighting all my life...I'm ready. Next was passion...I have this in spades. I have the fire burning inside me to not only return to my ambulance, but to get back to being the father and fiance' I know I am. Being able to return to paramedicine is a wonderful side effect of this passion. Mostly, I am doing this for my sons, both biological and inherited. In doing so I will be able to fulfill my dream of becoming the "Prosthetic Medic." Now...bravery. While many of you would argue that I am brave for going through this. I argue that the bravery resides in those closest to me. Kate, my fiance', is brave for being willing to not only support me through all this, but she will be taking on the role of bread winner while I am incapacitated. Cathy, my mother, who will be driving back and forth from eastern Kentucky to pick up the slack and take care of me until I am able to do this on my own, and also help us financially until I am able to do that as well. My brother Bryan and his wife Krystal, not only will Bryan also be having surgery on his hand this weekend, he has committed to helping Kate and I as much as he and Krystal can. They are brave for taking this journey with us. Saying that they will be here at a moments notice. The promise of "just say the word and we will be there." This is bravery to me. Having the guts to say I am going to step outside my comfort zone to help you get back into yours. That is bravery. They are all attempting to change my world. Lastly, those who are donating to this cause, your bravery sustains me. You're donations are an investment in me. Saying, I know that you will take this seed and use it to become the person you are striving to be. Thank you all for giving to us, please, if you can donate, trust me. It is an investment in my future, I will use it to keep us above water until I am able to do this on my own. I believe in the tenant of "Pay it forward," I fully plan on doing the same for those who will be traveling this road after I have. I have seen that in the community of amputees, they are quick to help out those who are going through this ordeal. To share words of encouragement and hope. They are courageous in my eyes. So now, I leave you, knowing that by the time I write you tomorrow, or when I have the strength, I will be a changed man. No, longer will I be held back by this damaged shell. I will be able to start this battle, strengthened and encouraged by all of you, who continually support and stand not ahead or behind, but beside me all the way.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A little more Passion

There is one key point I forgot to mention earlier in my "Passion Post." That's the biggest passions in my life. Through-out this blog I have referred to her as "the fiance," truth is, she has a real name and is the reason I made it through this ordeal. Her name is Kate, she is a former combat medic who served in Iraq, and currently works for a private service EMS service here in Louisville. Kate is my strength. She is the reason I have made the progress that I have during this time period. She is the one who has been there when I thought I couldn't do this, the one who has had blind faith in me no matter what. She takes care of my son, her son, and me. I literally couldn't do this without her. She is going to be working and searching for a second job while I'm trying to recover and heal and become this mythical "Prosthetic Paramedic." She is my rock and I am asking that you, my readers and supporters, please remember her.

One part of the story of any traumatic injury that is rarely mentioned is the impact it has on the families of the person injured. When I look back I realize that on May 1st I asked Kate to be my wife. Literally 1 week later I fell and put her through nearly losing me. That is a lot to ask a person to put up with. We have went from a normal relationship and dating to being engaged to her being not only my fiance' but my caretaker, my best friend, my whole world. It's rough on the caretakers. Luckily, I have a fiance' who has seen war. She doesn't see peoples abnormalities and judge them on that. She has treated amputees, she has treated burn victims, and I love her because to her, they are just people. That's all. So this post is dedicated to you honey. Thank you for being there, not ahead or behind, but beside me all the way. There is no way this blog or this dream of being the "Prosthetic Medic" would be possible without you. I Love You, and I promise I will fight for my life not only during the surgery, but throughout the entire rehab process. When this is over we are going to need a nice vacation. I love you!!!

2 Days to go...Passion

OK 2 days to go and tonight's topic is Passion. In my meetings today I realized one thing, from both of them. In this line of work (EMS) passion is a must. You have to have passion to be willing to take the risks we take. To leave your family on holidays, birthdays, day or night and take care of strangers. Homer Simpson said it rather simply "I'm risking my life to save people I don't like for reasons I don't quite understand." Many times this applies in EMS, how many times have you taken care of the drunk driver and the victim he/she hit. You might not like them, but you have the passion to save them. I had to explain to two very different audiences today why I am removing a leg, and that passion is the number one reason. My first meeting was with the command staff of the agency I work for. I know that I am going to be terminated soon. I have one year from the date I left work to return, or I will be fired. The question I was posing to them was is this a year from the date of injury or the date I started light duty? I spent that meeting explaining that I AM a paramedic. It's who I am, it's a part of me, so if I can remove a leg and return to work then that's what I am going to do. I have passion for making my service the best in the nation. It needs a lot of work, but I am still confident that it can and will happen. Next, was more of an interview, where I just had to explain what happened to me and how I can fathom removing a leg in order to return to a normal life.

It's a strange fact, the only way I will be able to return to a normal way of life is to have this amputation. If I had chosen to have the knee repair, then I would always be in pain and my knee would never be stable enough to run after my kids or do my job. So...normalcy comes with drastic action. I'm going to have to endure months of rehab and pain to gain this, and a lifetime of stares, but it's worth it. Who knows, maybe this will turn into a chance to be a motivational speaker...look out Matt Foley! I live in a van down by the river...with my prosthetic leg!!!! Sorry, side track. Anyway. I know that there are many of you out there that read my blog that are not in the EMS community. Just know that many of the people you rely on when you dial 911 are some of the most dedicated and passionate people imaginable, they have to be. Why else would you risk your life to work in rain, snow, and heat to get paid less than a high school janitor and to be talked down to by doctors and nurses? Now not all Dr's and Nurses talk down to EMS but there are those out there that view us as the dreaded "Ambulance Driver." Another side track...sorry my ADD is acting up tonight.

So, back on topic. Overall, the meetings went better than expected today. I have hope for the future. My second meeting made me feel like we may be OK financially, if we can get the donations he thinks we can. Until then, of course I'm going to be worried. I have to be, until I know that my family is ok without me making any income. I know that if we can pull this off, meaning, I can get the leg I need and we don't lose everything we own in the process, we are going to turn this into greatness. I am going to be the Prosthetic Medic, and I have 2 days till this process begins. Please if you are spiritual, keep me in your prayers, if you're not then just think about me as D-Day gets closer. Until next time...

Monday, January 23, 2012

3 days to go and looking back at Dr Office Lamentations

3 days to go. Meeting for today was rescheduled for tomorrow. So now I have to have both meetings back to back. Which means in the span of a few hours I could possibly get life changing information on two different fronts, my job and fundraising. I also got some uplifting news from a relative stranger today. One of my co-workers wives has put my story in to her church to possibly receive some financial assistance to help get through this rough time. I'm praying they understand my need and we get it; it would mean that I wouldn't have to worry about taking care of my family, it would be enough to ensure rent and bills are paid for several months. As D-Day gets closer I'm getting more and more nervous. I have to say. Looking back I still have the firing burning inside to turn this terrible accident into something positive. To become the 54th above knee amputee to work on the streets. I was reading through notes I had typed to keep up about my injury and thought I'd share this one with you. This was from when I was first trying to deal with the realization that I had to have the amputation. I titled it "Dr Office Lamentations." There have been many changes since I typed this note, but I still am getting closer to facing that bone saw and still unsure about how exactly my life will change due to this surgery...anyway enjoy.

Something about being stuck in the pergatory that is the Dr Office waiting room that gives a person time to think. Not sure if it's being surrounded by strangers who are just doing mindless tasks to pass the time till their name is called or seeing the number of people whom have it better or worse than you do. Anyway, I'm currently reading through notes I had typed during the first weeks after my initial injury. A lot has changed and then again more is the same. I'm still waiting on surgery, I still have foot drop, I still have a fire burning inside me to get back on my ambulance. Yet there is one major change. I am now looking down the barrel of a bone saw. Dr Caborn gave me a decision, keep the leg as is, no knee repair is possible due to immense damage, or have a "trans femoral amputation" big word for above knee. After much thought and long drawn out conversations with my fiance' we have decided to go with the amputation. His words knocked the wind outta me. I had been told for months that my knee was repairable, that once we get a second opinion we'll get the surgery done; now I'm being told that after reconsideration my knee will not work ever again. He can attempt a repair but it will never be stable and it will never be without pain. So, like the redneck technophile I am, I started researching AKA. I found that the US military has given microprocessor knees to soldiers and sent them back to the front that should get me back in the jump seat. Next hurdle, Humana only pays for "basic needed to achieve activities of basic daily living" and although microprocessor controlled prosthesis have been out since the 90's they are considered "experimental". So I'll be fighting on that front...more to come I promise. Next issue is I'm not entirely sure how my fiance' and I are going to afford me having the surgery and going months without work. We will be forced to rely on the kindness of family, friends, and maybe a few strangers. All this just for the small percentage chance that I can defy the odds and become louisvilles own "Prosthetic Medic". I'll close these musings with this, life changes with the blink of an eye, you never know when you might be faced with the choice to give up or turn the impossible into a chance to prove them all wrong!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Getting it off my chest...2 posts today, I had more to say I guess

I have to get a few things off my chest. First and foremost. As the surgery gets closer and closer I have to say I am terrified. I find myself looking down at my leg and find it hard to imagine it being gone. I know that it is broken and is causing more damage with each step, but at the same time i'm terrified. What will people say about me, what will I look like, will my fiance find me sexy (I know it's hard to think that she finds the fat, balding redneck sexy in the first place), can I really do this? Am I strong enough to be "the Prosthetic Medic" like I have promised so many people? Then we get yet another kick to the groin, those of you who are close to my fiance and I know what I'm speaking of...

So here we are. This past month my fiance and I suffered a horrible loss. We had something to look forward too, but alas that has since been taken away. God decided with the amount of things we have going on now was not the time. So, a week later,  the final piece of that puzzle was removed in a surgical procedure. After that was done we started the lead up to my surgery. I had an appointment with Dr Ross to schedule the removal of my left leg. Ironically, Dr Ross is the surgeon who spent hours on the night of May 8th trying to save the tattered mess that was my left leg. He will be instrumental in giving me back my life, he was back then and it seems he will be now. God, please bless his hands, because he is the only surgeon I trust to give me a functional stump and life back. I am literally placing my life in his hands, for the second time in less than a year.

In a direct attack on my own pride I have swallowed every bit of it and began asking people for help financially to pay for our bills and my insurance out of pocket. I have no paid time off left after the initial round of surgery, so I am left begging for help from  friends and family. I have to find a way to keep my insurance so I can get the leg I need to return to work. My fiance is busy dealing with our tragedy and still searching for a second job, all while being amazingly supportive of me during my PTSD flashbacks and emotional breakdowns. I really don't see how she does it. She is my anchor, my rock, and I pray that one day I'll be able to make her a mother again. She really is the best thing that ever happened to me, aside from my beautiful son.

I want to take the time to apologize for the constant fundraiser reminders I post. I know most of you have to be sick of them, but I just need Humana Insurance to get that leg and don't want to make my family and myself homeless while I'm off for the surgery. I do make this promise to each and everyone of you. I look at every dollar given as a promise made that I will work my ass off to get back on the truck. I am going to be the prosthetic medic. I am going to run after my sons again. This has been the longest, hardest, most difficult climb I have ever attempted to make. I find it appropriate that I correlate this challenge to a mountain, considering a mountain got me here.

So I want to thank all of you have taken the time and given to my cause. I promise you, I will use every penny towards paying insurance or bills. You are financing my future. You are helping me keep a roof over my families head. i just had to get these things out and off my chest. I'm sorry. I will try to cut the fundraising effort down a little, if you can give please do and If you can't thank you just keep praying for us.

As always, I love each and everyone of you,

And to my loving fiance. You are the strongest most amazing woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. You are my best friend. I cannot breathe without you. I promise to fight, to stay with you this Thursday.  I can't take a breath without knowing you are there by my side. I know I've told you, but you saved my life. As I lay at the bottom of the waterfall back in May I begged God to let me live, to give me a chance at a life with you and he did.  I love you and this will bring us closer together. I am your man. I will be your husband, and together we will get through this.

I love you,

Your soon to be Bionic Redneck

4 days to go...Dead leg walkin...

Today has been somewhat productive. Finally had the time to take the Christmas tree down, yeah, I'm that guy who has his tree up for way longer that what it ever should be. Really, contemplated just leaving it up and calling it a various holiday tree (i.e. valentines tree, St Patrick's tree, etc) I think it could catch on. Instead, we took it down and arranged the living room so when I get home from the hospital I can get around a little easier. Getting even more nervous now, thoughts of yesterday's conversation are still lingering, and I realize that I have to fill out an advance directive and sign over medical power of attorney to my fiance' just in case something does go wrong. Once again, I'm confident in the ability of Dr Ross, he's assured me that his priority is tying off the femoral-popliteal bypass safely and combining the muscle groups so I have a functional stump. Also, had the weird realization that I may have trouble getting into my own home, so my loving brother, who is a contractor and kitchen designer, is going to build some ramps onto the porch and into the house. This is becoming quite the ordeal.

Mostly, I'm scared that I won't be able to live up to the expectations placed upon me, or the expectations I have placed upon myself. I want to be able to return to who I was prior to this catastrophe. Going through this has made me want to become a better paramedic, father, husband (soon hopefully), and overall person. I've realized that I can use this experience to change the world around me. Who know, maybe I'll become a motivational speaker. Coming soon to a classroom near you Joe Riffe the Prosthetic Medic...hey kinda has a ring to it. Guess we will see. Anyway, I want to thank everyone for reading my therapy. This has been and continues to be very therapeutic for me. I hope you keep reading and enjoy!

And one quick word, I am still well short of where I need to be in terms of my finances, if you can please click the donate button and give a little, every little bit counts. I'm sorry I keep asking, but if you place yourself in my position, you would do whatever it takes to make sure your family is taken care of. Thank you all again, Please keep reading. 4 days to go and my leg will be put to death...dead leg walkin...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

T-Minus 5 days and counting

So today was a rough day at the homestead. We had the "What do you want if this goes bad" talk. That's a discussion the average 30 year old doesn't really contemplate all that often. Even though I'm in a profession that deals with life and death, thinking about ones on mortality is difficult at best. Trying to decide who does what, burial or cremation, where does the pension go, etc...? Makes one think and brings on the finality of the next few days. I know that theses procedures are done on a daily basis nearly, but how many of them include a femoral popliteal bypass to deal with. Luckily, the surgeon who initially saved my leg will be the one to remove it. Kinda poetic and fitting I think. Yet at the same time. It adds the terrifying prospect that no matter the outcome the lives of my family are changing forever as well. Most of the time I have focused on how this affects me and what outcomes I want from this. I know that I want to walk again, I want to work again, I want to be able to go out and take photos with my wonderful fiance' again, to play ball with my sons...but what do they want. Yesterday, I was informed that my sons want me to be able to take them to the zoo. That's their standard for when I am "better." My fiance' wants me to be happy and have the man she knows and loves back, to be able to be spontaneous again and not tied to a cane. I'm happy to say that I think most of these things can come to fruition. I just hope that when all is said and done, I can make them all happy. If the worse does come to pass, I hope people will be able to say that I made a difference. I changed the world, even if it was only in my little corner of it. Don't get me wrong. I have a great feeling about this surgery. I think that this surgery will change my world and the world of those around me. I know that post-op I have a big decision to make. Will I let this take over who I am or just let it be a part of who I am. Will I choose happiness with the hand I've been dealt or will I choose to wallow in my misery and ask "Why Me?" Honestly, I've been through the "why me" stage and it didn't change a thing. I got no answers and only more questions. So, I choose happiness, I know that this will be hard, not only on me and my body, but on my family and those closest to me. I know we are all going to get through this just fine. It will become normal life again and my shiny new bionic leg will be nothing special, just daddy's leg. Can't wait for that...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Feel like Europe...It's the Final Countdown!!!

6 days to go...Got a busy week next week planned out. Monday I'm meeting with the heads of my department to discuss my future with the service. I'm hoping for a positive outcome on this one, I've asked them to give me the chance to prove that I can still do this job after the surgery and rehab, as well as to give me the time to get back up to 100%. Which would mean continuing my position on light (modified) duty. I'm hoping to return to work in a wheelchair or walker until my prosthetic gets here. Tuesday, I meet with a very influential person in Kentucky EMS, to speak about getting the word out on the blog and doing some fund raising while I'm hospitalized. Gotta pay the bills somehow ya know. Wednesday I'm planning on going out on a date with the fiance' and get prepared for the surgery. Gotta pack my hospital bag with all the in-patient necessities: Laptop, charging cable, XXX Vitamin Water, Clothing, Toiletries, and Grizzly. Yeah Grizzly Wintergreen Longcut...definitely a necessity for any hospital stay over 2 hours. If any of you are in Louisville while I'm cooped up in Norton's Downtown feel free to stop by with a can.

Tonight my son was breaking my heart. He lives a few hours away with his mother, and has come down with a bad case of Strep throat. We're talking, scared that it's epiglotitis kinda strep throat. He tries not to swallow his secretions because it hurts him so bad, and he asked for me, but right after he said he knows that I can't be there because if I get sick then I couldn't have my surgery, and he wants his daddy back more than anything. He's 7, and officially broke his daddy's heart. That's a smart boy, who only wants me to be able to play with him again. Honestly, getting back to work is secondary to living up to his expectations. He couldn't care if I'm ever on an ambulance again, although he does love saying that his daddy saves lives, all he wants is for me to be able to get out and play with him soon. My soon to be step-son and him have decided they know that I'm all better when I can take them to the Louisville Zoo again. That is their benchmark. While the rest of us are looking at residual function and will I be able to function in an ambulance or on scene, all they care about is can I walk the zoo or can I play baseball or football with them this summer. I plan on not letting them down. My step-son today also informed me that he will not throw rocks at my new leg because then it could malfunction. That's a cute boy right there. That's all I have tonight. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

1 week to go...7 short days

7 days till surgery. I got an email from a person whom I have utmost respect in; he told me to remember. We don't get to choose our path in life, but we do get to choose how we respond to it. To take this and run with it so I can be an inspiration to the next person who has to go through this. This has been my goal all along. The reason I'm writing this blog. To keep a record of the emotions I have while in the midst of the chaos. It's easy to look back and say that wasn't so bad or that was harder than I thought, but to have an actual record of what I was thinking in the moment could be helpful to many others. To have that assurance that you're not the only one to have these thoughts. I can honestly say I've been on a rollersoaster of emotions. Sometimes daily. I have been low enough to think of self-assassination to the highest highs thinking that everything will be amazing post op and i could be a one-legged celebrity. Currently I am on a downturn. I just hope we can make it through this and return to doing what I Love. I suppose I am going through the stages of grief and am making my way to acceptance, with a few steps backward from here to there. I'll be completely honest with you. I am terrified. I know this has to be done. I know it's for the best and I'll be in less pain when it's over than I'm in now. But still. It's my leg, I'll wake up and no longer posess the ability to walk freely until I get my prosthetic. That is a terrifying thought. I just want this to be over. I'm ready to start my life anew but first I have been chosen to walk through this Hell. Let me be blunt. This is Hell. The pain, the fear, the unknowing of what lies ahead, this is Hell for a medic. In the back of the truck I thrive on the ability to think ahead of the curve. To anticipate what lies ahead and treat accordingly. Now I'm faced with the unknown. Who knows if I'm even still on the right road much less what happens next. I do know I will make it. I will emerge on the other side stronger than before, it takes fire to make a Phoenix I guess. those who find this in the future. Who are facing the same decision I have made or had this decision made for you, stay strong. We have too. If we quit, we continue to let the process win. We can do more than our broken bodies show. Your mind still works so use it. The credo of the medic is to improvise, adapt, and overcome. I plan on doing just that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Artwork, Advertising, and Adversity

And the countdown continues 8 days to go...I've been looking at different artwork that I can get on the socket of my prosthetic. A lesson I'm learning is the prosthetic language, the socket is the part that I slip onto my residual limb (PC term for stump). Apparently I can have it airbrushed and desgins put on it to fit my personality. I'm thinking of getting a visual interpretation of the Prosthetic Medic put on there...Just a redneck with missing limb hanging from the back of an ambulance. Then, I got to thinking. I could go the route of many sports arenas and NASCAR...sell advertisement space on it. "Prosthetic Medic brought to you by [Your Company Here]" People are selling advertising space on their bodies already, getting different tattoos for significant amounts of money. Why not take advantage of this blank canvas I have to walk around with already. Heck, for the right amount I'll tattoo my stump, er I mean, residual limb. I can see it now. Zoll, LifePak, Medtronic, Phillips, all fighting for the advertisement space. I know that this is a long shot. It's never going to happen, but it brings a bit of humor to a dark subject, doesn't it. I know you can picture it. I suppose I'd have to send my socket to the company to have thier advertising teams work out the designs. That might be a hiccup in my plan, I have to have those to walk. Guess I'll need a back up too, hey just more advertising space.

Anyway, that's just the thought I had this morning. I've been questioning why we pay insurance companies so much money for them to decide what we need in terms of healthcare equipment. Why wouldn't you want to give a person the best peice of equipment so they can return to be functioning members of society? Instead, they take the stance of giving you just enough to qualify as a prosthetic. Some of these companies are only giving people a few steps above a peg leg. This bothers me to no end, I want to return to work, so in order to do this, my prosthesist has to literally be denied 3 times by my insurance company before they will take it to the city of Louisville, which has the final say in this matter, who will say OK give him the leg. Do I have to prove I really want it? Is this a Jesus/Peter issue and we have to be denied 3 times before the rooster crows in the morning? This is a major flaw in the system. How many others would/could be able to return to do their jobs if they were given the oppourtunity with the right prosthetic? This falls in the same insane category as a few one legged firefighters I've read about. (you know I hate the word amputee) They are denied the right to return to work as an active firefighters because they don't have an ankle that will flex. No matter that they have the right prosthetic equipment that is rated for them to return to work and even go in to fully involved blazes, their companies say NO, just because their prosthetic ankle doesn't flex with nervous control. The leg works, the ankle adjusts to adverse terrain, but they can't think to move their foot and it move so they are incapable of doing their jobs. The reason I bring this up, is I'm afraid of the same fate befalling me. After going through all this drama, removing a limb because I love my career and want to continue serving the public, to just be told no because I can't rotate my ankle with conscious thought. We send men and women back to the front lines of war with these prosthetics, but not back to a housefire or an ambulance. Something doesn't add up. We have to get past this antiquated thought process that unipedal = handicapped. Not all of us are. Life dealt me a raw deal. I could quit, sit back and draw my check. Just give up and say OK, I'm going to let the taxpayers of America pay me for the rest of my life because I had a terrible accident. I refuse to stop there. I can't imagine sitting at home all the time. I proudly say I'm a redneck. I was raised to work for what I have. Yes, I've asked that people donate to help me pay my bills and insurance while I'm off work, but that's because I'm a father and soon to be husband. I have to swallow my self-pride and do what I can to provide for my family. Asking for help is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Oddly, it was harder to start asking for donations than it was to decide I'm going to have my leg removed and return to work.

Tomorrow is a big day. One week away. 7 short days till I say goodbye to this hunk of dead meat I've been lugging around for the past 8 months and start the uphill battle to getting back on my ambulance. Please keep following along and spread the word. And hey, if you want to buy some advertising space let me know...just sayin.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pics from the original accident

By request here are some pictures from my original injury. I'll try to get the original x-rays. These pics are post op.

They are my bilateral fasciotomys, my external fixator, open ankle, ankle before debridement, and me when I first woke up in the ICU.

Monday, January 16, 2012


10 days till surgery. Tonight's topic is fear. Fear has two major components, there is the fear that paralyzes you. You are unable to function at all, you can't move, you can't breathe. Then there is the fear that motivates you. It forces you to adapt and overcome. I am currently in a mixture of both. I am determined to overcome. I am determined to prove that I can be just as good as I was before my fall. Then I am paralyzed thinking about if I am going to have a home to come home to. I have so many financial obligations that have to be met and I know that my wonderful fiance' is going to try her best to meet these obstacles, but it has placed so much stress and fear in us that I am at a loss. I'm honestly scared. We are facing the hardest obstacle of our lives and are meeting it head on. I have no option anymore. The surgery is scheduled. My daily pain and continued damage being done to the remnants of my knee tell me that I have to go through with this as planned. I have no way of describing the fear that I am experiencing. I am at a lost of words. I look down and look at my leg for the last time. I have so many goals ahead of me, all of which begin in 10 days. I want to marry this beautiful woman who has seen me through, I want to become the 54th paramedic in the United States to work with an above knee amputation, I want to resume being the father I was prior to the fall. Be active in my children's lives, not only my own flesh and blood, but my soon to be step son as well. I watched the surgery today. It's going to be a hospital stay of 5 days to 2 weeks. I hope to beat this fear, and just when I feel like I have it beat...

Then the fear creeps back in. I sometimes we still lived in the days when companies had a heart and understood personal tragedy and struggles and would give you the time to get back on track. Instead, we have to not only find a way to keep our home, our cars, and keep the utilities turned on, we have to also find a way to pay my insurance out of pocket. I used up all my sick time with the initial fall, and now have to find a way to make ends meet. We can't do this alone. My family and my fiance's family are going to help all they can, I am hoping that the fund raiser takes off and we raise the money to take this stress away. So, despite the fear in doing this, I am going to just ask. If you are reading this, can you help? There is a donate button at the top of the page. If you can give, please give. It doesn't have to be much, every little bit counts. Please help end this fear. Spread the word, imagine yourself in my shoes. This is a fear I pray none of you have to deal with. I will end this with saying I am going to overcome my fears. I am going to be the Prosthetic Medic, and the husband and father I want to be. Keep following along. Spread the word. You are going to watch a miraculous feet, a man overcome his obstacles to prove all his doubters wrong.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Just a friendly reminder from your crippled leg...I don't work!!!! But she does

My body decided to give me a reminder why I am having this amputation today. This day has been full of falls and pain. I had the distinct pleasure of scaring the bejeezus out of my fiance today. For those who only know me through this blog, currently I get around on a cane, very slowly, but I manage to get by. The destructed joint that barely holds my leg together decides to give out on me almost daily. Today it decided to surprise me by going out while carrying my son's birthday cake into the house. It was one of the those times when I'm walking extra carefully, then all of the sudden, "DOWN GOES FRAIZER!!!" Some how, either luck of the Irish or heavenly intervention, I managed not to ruin my son's cake. At this point, I'm guessing some of you are asking why I was carrying the cake and not my fiance'. The reason being that she is still in immense pain and fatigued after having her surgery as well. We are currently one broke down household, but ever the trooper she is returning to work tomorrow. She works on the ambulance as well, we are a full truck everywhere we go. She's an EMT and I'm the Medic...

She has been amazing throughout all of this. She was there when I fell, she was at the hospital everyday, she has seen me through the trials and troubles this injury has caused. When I came home with the external fixator she was there to clean the pins jabbing out of my skin, 8 of them to be exact. She has been at nearly every doctor's appointment, seen me at the highest highs (walking on a cane for the first time since I fell),  to the lowest lows (the deep depression associated with coming to terms that you have to give up an appendage in order to get your life back).  I have no clue what I would do without her. She is my driving force to get back on the truck. A former combat medic, she has experience working with amputees, so the thought of marrying a one legged man doesn't bother her. Living proof that there is someone for everyone. She is currently looking for a second job in order to help us make ends meet while I'm off work, in return I've promised to walk down the isle after the surgery. I think I'm getting the better end of this deal.

Just hope things work out. I mean put yourself in my shoes, one minute things are going great, you're newly engaged and spending a day out with your newly expanded family. 8 months later, you're looking at losing a leg, your job, your way of life, your home, and the only sure things you have are your family and the love of you life. I've put a lot on her, but I know that even after all I've put her through she loves me more every day. Just food for thought, tonight think about it, what would you do if you were in my shoes? I'm curious to see the responses, please leave some comments. I'll talk to you guys later...11 days till the Prosthetic Medic transformation begins!!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Teaching a Child about Amputations

So I got my son today. This is the last time I'll get to see him before the surgery. I've tried my best to be a good influence for him. To teach him right from wrong, to show him what a man is supposed to be. For the most part I think that I've done a good job, but today I have a new challenge. How do you explain to a 7 year old why daddy has to get his leg cut off. I've told him that after the surgery I'll be like I used to be but I'll have a "robot leg" and I'll be able to play with him again. This is when I started getting the hard to answer questions..."Daddy, why would God let this happen?" I had to think really hard on this one. The answer I came up with wasn't eloquent, but it seemed to get the job done. I told him that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and the most important thing is how good people handle bad things. For instance, I am  choosing to look at this as a chance to change peoples minds about what 1 legged people can do (I would have said amputees but he's 7 and figured this would get the point across better). And really, that is my goal. I'm trying to prove that just because I'm losing my leg it doesn't mean that my intelligence is handicapped as well. I know that I can do my job. As long as I get the right prosthetic then I'll be able to pass my companies physical agility test at which point they will have to give me the chance to prove what a Prosthetic Medic can do. In the end this is the most important thing to me. To show my son, and soon to be step son, that if you are determined there is nothing that is impossible, or as I was told by a gruff stepdad growing up "Can't never could do nothing!!!" Growing up I hated that saying, but as an adult it's a lesson I want to teach my boys. If you think you Can't you never will. I like it...well...I live it.

So now I have 12 days till the surgery, my fiancee' and I have a busy few weeks ahead of us. On top of planning for my surgery, we recently lost a pregnancy. So we have her follow up appointment from her D&C, trying to get her employer to give her a few days off for my surgery, and trying to find a way to boost our income so we can keep my insurance, get my leg, and hopefully not become homeless in the process.

Keep following along and I'll keep updating you on how things are going. I plan on writing while in the hospital as well.

Prosthetic Medic

Friday, January 13, 2012

Amputate on 3...ready 1, 2, ....

Ok guys and gals, as promised today was the big day. I have made two major decisions; 1.) Dr Charles Ross will be performing my amputation. I feel that this is apropos since he was the surgeon who saved my leg in the first place. This surgeon was amazing. He took this tattered, tangled, mess of a leg and returned it to me whole. We gave it a good run, but after months we know that although the blood flow he fought so hard to return is working beautifully, but muscularly and neurologically not so much. 2.) He set the date for the surgery January 26, 2012,

At that exact moment, when he said "OK, well I'm out of the office next week, we will schedule you for the surgery on the 26th" I had an entire flood of emotions. You have to understand. I have been waiting for these words for months now. I have been waiting for the key to exit this Limbo I have been trapped in, and in a matter of seconds, he handed me that key. He basically said, ok here we go, on to the next step of this journey, since you know...One cannot simply walk into Mordor. Since he is not only the Chief of Vascular surgery at several hospitals, he's also an instructor he was informing me that he had spoken about me in class today. I explained that for a time I was very angry at him for saving the leg at all. It would have been so much easier to deal with had he just taken the leg back in May. Now looking back he did me one favor. I can look at this surgery that is coming up and say this is my choice. I have made this decision. I am losing a leg, but I get to decide that this is in my best interest. Instead of if he had taken my leg, back then, I had no choice in the matter. I would have just woken up without a leg and even more pissed off.

Today the emotions have been quite the rollercoaster. Although the majority of them, regarding the surgery at least, are peaceful and relief. I get to move on, I get to start my 30th year of life with a new leg and the chance to prove a large group of people wrong. I joke and tell people that on January 27th I will be 6 feet tall and 1 foot off. The second wave of emotion is that of fear. I am faced with the fact that the economic world could care less that I am losing a leg and losing my income. My fiance' works, but her income alone, will not be enough to keep up our household bills and pay my insurance out of pocket. So, that is why I have the donation button at the top of the screen. I am relying on the kindness of friends, family, and at this point some absolute strangers, to help me get through this. I hoping that years of good karma pay off and we don't have to make those decisions of electricity or groceries or insurance...which is a tough thing to explain to 2 small kids. Anyway. I plan on keeping this blog going while I'm in the hospital and throughout the rehab process. I'll keep updates as the days build up to surgery. So once again, spread the word about this blog. I want people to see that you can keep a positive attitude and prove that the loss of a leg isn't the loss of life or what you want to do. It just means you have to try. I really have to thank my mom's first boyfriend who was like a father to me. He used to say "Can't never could do nothing" and "Can't isn't a word" while I know that my grammatical nazi friends are having strokes right now, it instilled in me that if you just say you can't do something because it's hard then you are going to miss out on a lot in life.

Ok. Till next time....The Prosthetic Medic will be born in 13 days

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Kinda nervous about the doctor's appointment tomorrow. It seems that I've been waiting for this date forever. At 10am I find out, hopefully, when my surgery will be. I get the date that I lose my useless appendage and start the long hard battle towards becoming the "Prosthetic Medic." It will be nice to just know that date, to have a end date/start date, to know when this Limbo I am stuck in will be over. Some days I feel a lot like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Everyday is exactly the same. I know that everyday I am going to get up, take my handful of medicines that make my pain dull enough to function, notice here I didn't say takes away my pain, I am never not in pain, the medicines just dull the edges and makes it so I can walk and function. I strap on both of my braces, I have what's called an AFO that I wear on my foot that goes up the back of my calf and allows me to hold my foot at a 90 degree angle and allows me to walk with the normal heel-to-toe stride that most people do without thinking about it. Then I put on my knee brace that tries to hold my knee together. It does what it's supposed to do for the most part, but I know that at some point during the day I am going to fall. I've been lucky thus far and only done minor damage to myself in these falls, for instance. Last night I fell and now my knee is swollen and painful, the tear in my meniscus has folded under and now each time I bend my knee it feels as if I am rubbing a glass shard between my femur and tib/fib. This is my day. I try my best to be a good fiance, a good friend, and not let these things stop me from leading as normal as a life as I can.

Anyway, as promised in my last update, the reason I am asking people for donations. When I fell back in May I was on the last day of Vacation from work. I had decided that for the first time in 5 years I was going to take off a whole month, just to see what that was like. On the last day of vacation was when we decided to go hiking...we know how that story ends. So, with that I have been off work from the beginning of April until October. 5 months without working. Thankfully I had the sick time and some vacation time built up to pay my bills while I was off work trying to navigate the maze that is the modern healthcare system. By the end of August I was nearly out of time and started petitioning my employer for light duty or modified duty, basically, let me work at a desk punching in data for a paycheck. Which after a few weeks of trying they relented and here I am.

The issue is that when I go off for the surgery, I have no paid time off left. The money I have been able to bring in has been just enough for my fiance' and myself to get by on. We are living literally paycheck to paycheck and once I go off I will be inheriting the added expense of paying my health insurance out of pocket. So the money that is normally taken out of my check before taxes will now be billed to me once a month by the city of Louisville in order for me to keep my health insurance and get the prosthetic I so desperately. So, I have had to swallow what little pride I had left and start asking others for the money that I don't have and have no way of obtaining on my own.

Asking for donations really opens your eyes to a lot of things. It shows you the number of people you have had an effect on and had no idea, or it also has the chance to show you peoples true colors. I do not judge anyone, give if you can and if you cannot that's fine too. I'm not going to get pushy. I know how hard economic times are and know that asking people to spare some money in these times is a truely large order, but I have been accused of turning my facebook into the side of a free way (In effect accusing me of being a begger with a sign) which in a sense I guess I have. I've been called dozens of names that I will not post on here, and I've been accused of lying to get people just to give me money. I assure those of you who have taken the time to donate anything to us, be it money or just the webspace to share the word for my fundraiser, that all money will be used for the basics of life. It will either go to utilities, groceries, or insurance. That is all. I will not use any funds donated to us for frivilous means.

OK...that's all for tonight. Big Big Day tomorrow. I'll keep you posted. Oh and if it's not too much to ask please spread the word about this blog and my fundraisers. We have a long way to go before I go off for the surgeries. Sadly I can't push the surgery off any further than I have. My knee is literally disintergrating and causing me more and more pain so the surgical date will be set and I have to go off. Please say a prayer for me and spread the word

Talk to you soon....The Prosthetic Medic

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Above and Below

Amputation...transitive verb : to remove by or as if by cutting; especially : to cut (as a limb) from the body. This is how the fine folks at Merrium-Webster define it. This is the decision that I am facing. It's not even really a decision of if, it's more a decision of when. The reason I am facing this is that after the fall and subsequent surgeries I was left with Peronal Nerve Palsy aka Foot Drop. As I described previously this means that I cannot dorsiflex my foot, I have no nerve control or feeling below my knee. This is the result of compartment syndrome. I had so much blood drain into my leg that it compressed the muscles, veins, arteries, and most importantly the nerve fibers until they were no longer functional. I had resigned to the fact that I would have to have an amputation. We (my fiance' and I) had decided that we would go for the below knee amputation since my orthopedic doctors had decided that my knee was repairable.

My first orthopedic surgeon, decided to leave his practice without informing us. We recieved a call from the surgeons group who wanted to pile me in with a new surgeon. We decided to leave the practice and find another surgeon on our own. This lead us to a well respected surgeon at Jewish hospital. After evaluating my knee he decided he needed yet another MRI...wasn't too excited at this since I had a major panic attack last time. I made it through the MRI fine and after having it examined by several other surgeons it was determined that my knee is "beyond surgical repair." One of the surgeons actually asked my Dr if I had been involved in an IED explosion, since he hadn't seen a knee that destroyed since Iraq. This is what has lead to the decision that I will be having an above knee amputation. Originally he had told me that he could fix my knee, that it would take multiple surgeries, but he can fix it. Now he has decided that, yes he could do the surgery, but my knee would never be stable, and I would always be in pain.

So, that's where I am. I should find out soon when the surgery will be. I've decided that I want the vascular surgeon who saved my leg to be the one who removes it...kinda ironic and poetic at the same time. I figure he knows the ins and outs of the work he did on me and should be able to provide me with the best "residual limb" possible. I am trying very hard to remain positive through out all of this. I know that I am losing a body part, but when I really look at it, I'm losing a diseased part of me. No different than a person having a malignant tumor removed. My leg doesn't work, I fall several times a day because my knee can't support me anymore. I can't feel anything below the knee, my foot literally hangs  there. So why not have it removed. I could look at this and decide that "Ok, this is it. I quit. I have no reason to try anymore, give me my disability check and I'll just sit here and wallow in my self pity" or I can take this hand I've been dealt and decide that I'm going to prove to everyone that just because I'm losing a leg doesn't make me handicapped, it just means I have to work harder.

OK...big appointment coming up this Friday (1/13/2012). I should get a surgical date, I'll let those of you who are following me on here know what is said. Also, I want to thank everyone who has donated money to help me keep my insurance and pay my bills while I'm off. Next entry I'll explain why I need the donations and where the money is going.

Until next time....Prosthetic Medic

Monday, January 9, 2012

First off...A Little History...An Introduction If You Will

Mother's day was just like any other day really. I had snuck out to Target to get my fiance' her mother's day present, yes I know I'm that guy...last minute shopper till the end, but anyway. I bought her a night shirt she had wanted and some flowers. Just a nice gesture to say I love you. Her and her son came up and we decided to go to a friend's daughter's baseball game. It was a beautiful day, her team won, and we decided to go hiking for a fun ending to the evening.

While waiting for everyone to get their stuff together for the hike we played a little game of catch in the front yard. It was wonderful. I got to teach my fiance's son to catch and throw a baseball, he was getting it, told him we would have plenty more time to play catch and I would teach him to get good at it and actually throw the ball where he wants it to go, he has that random I'm throwing it to you, but it lands far right or left of where he was actually aiming. Everybody got their shoes and water and loaded up the backpacks and we were on our way. my friend informed us of where we were going, Tioga Falls.

The hike was fun, we followed the path up the mountain, it was a paved road, more like walking on an incline than hiking as this country boy knows it. We were about 2 miles in when we realized that maybe this wasn't the path we were supposed to be on. After a few phone calls were made we realized that we were supposed to take that left turn Albuquerque about a mile and a half back. Luckily we could hear the falls from where we were and Behold a fire road. Let's take that, that seems like a good idea....WRONG!!!!

As we were walking along the fire road the sound of the falls got louder, until we came to an open spot and you could see the top of falls from where we were. My friend and I decided to walk down hill to find a safe path down the edge of the waterfall for everybody. Here's where things went wrong. We were at the head waters, where the cliff starts and the water begins to fall. As I was walking down towards the water's edge I slipped. The mud carried me into the water and that's when everything slowed down. I was able to look at his face, which turned instantly from "Haha fat boy fell in the mud" to "OH MY GOD!!!!" Realizing what was about to happen I quickly looked over my right shoulder, I saw a rocky edge that I thought I could grab onto. I stretched my arm out and grabbed onto the ledge, which just gave way. Looking over my left shoulder I saw a tree branch. I was able to grab onto this branch for a few seconds, enough to slow me down and let my brain resign to the fate that was about to befall me. As my hand slipped down that branch I realized that I am going to die. The feeling that you're going to die is an odd feeling. There was no "life flashing before my eyes moment" I had no sudden epiphany of the meaning of life, All I could think was who is going to take care of my fiance, my son, my family....who was going to tell my family that doesn't live here...Then I closed my eyes and  the free fall began.

THUD!!!!Water rushing around me....THUD!!!! That's all I can remember of the fall now. The actual fall itself that is. After the second thud, I realized that I am no longer moving. I quickly sat up and did a systems check. Vision...blurry but check....Respirations....deep and non painful....pulse....well that's an obvious one. Right leg...seems to be ok...but why is my ankle burning? OH...thats why. As I looked down on the mangled twisted mess that was my left leg I realized that I'm in a bad spot. The water was still rushing over me and it was very, very cold. I made a split decision that I had to move myself out from under the water before I added hypothermia to my list of problems. I realized that I could not move my leg on my own so i took the lace out of my shoe and found a suitable branch to splint my leg. I quickly tied that tree branch to my leg and began the painstakingly slow crawl out from under the waterfall. Once out I did my secondary survey. My knee was broken or dislocated, my ankle was an obvious open fracture and was bleeding. I positioned myself to where my leg was slightly above my heart level to slow down the bleeding.

Once I got settled out of the water, I quickly searched my pockets for my phone. I dug into my pockets and found my fiance's cigarettes and both our phones. Of course neither of them were working at that point, so I decided to use the redneck telephone system. I began screaming for anyone that could hear me. I just wanted them to know 1. I'm still alive, 2. I'm hurt very badly. While I was screaming for them, another hiker came along and started to render first aid. He brought to my attention that I am also bleeding from my head. At this point things get fuzzy on the memories of what happened after that. I remember Fort Knox Fire and Rescue showing up. I can remember stating that I am a medic for Louisville Metro EMS and ordering them on how to splint my leg. They immobilized me and placed me into the stokes basket and began the slow arduous climb out of the ravine. Once inside the ambulance the medic started a line and gave me a dose of morphine...which while the gesture was appreciated, I was really behind the 8 ball on pain at this point. They tell me that Air Methods are waiting for me at Ireland hospital to fly me to University Hospital. I still have no idea if my fiance knows if I'm dead or alive at this point and keep asking the medic if he knows if she's ok...he has no idea.

Well, I've always wanted to be a flight medic. Instead I'm a medic being flown. The guys in the helicopter were awesome. They splinted my leg as best they could for the flight. They're very honest and tell me it doesn't look good. They give me a dose of Fentnyl and I hear the rotor's fire up. Things get kinda blank here again....

I feel the helicopter land kinda rough at University. They hot load me out of the chopper and get me into room 9. Finally I start hearing familiar voices. Dr Orthober was one of the most comforting voices I have ever heard at this point. I trust him, I know he's an amazing Dr and he will not let me die. Things during this period are kinda hit and miss in the old memory bank. I know Mary Taylor was there, she called my mom and told her about the situation. I remember Ray telling me that he was going to take good care of me, and then I woke up in my room in the ER. As I come around I am surrounded by coworkers and thankfully there is my beautiful woman...I can finally stop worrying that she's not ok. I remember asking everyone to step out so I can have a private moment with her, when the next gaggle of Doc's came in and told me they were taking me to the OR...

Here I have no memory for a few days. I finally come around and I am in the ICU. I'm told that there was an 8 hour surgery to restore blood flow to my leg. I had torn my popliteal artery, had compression syndrome, had an anterior dislocation of my knee, open dislocation of my ankle, talonavicular fracture in my foot, and have to have surgery again to fix my foot. At this point, my leg is still questionable, I may not be keeping it for long...which I thought was a shame, I'd kinda grown accustomed to it. I've had it for 29 years, It's been good to me. Now...being on a drip of various narcotics as well as having narcotics given to you around the clock leaves your memory kinda loopy so once again. I have lost a long period of this time.

The external fixator has finally been removed, and physical therapy began. The biggest problems I'm facing now are rehabbing the knee enough to get it strong for surgery. Which really makes no sense to me. "I want you to get this knee strong again, be able to walk on it, so I can go in and replace all your ligaments and you can do it all again, for real this time" anyway...I'm most concerned with the phrase "Sciatic Nerve Palsy" or "Foot Drop" these are medical terms for your foot no longer works, but the nerve that used to be there is going to make your foot feel like it's in a vice, on fire, and being stabbed. This is my current battle. I am due to be fitted for a custom orthotic on wednesday that will allow me to hold my foot at a 90 degree angle. Currently, my foot is stuck at about a 45 degree angle and I am unable to flex the toes toward my head. I can flex the achilles tendon to make the foot go down, but can't bring the foot up...which I guess could be fun to scare a new emt doing a stroke scale...but anyway. That's where I am now. I thought I should finally write down everything I can remember.

So that was what I wrote soon after I got home. I'll continue the story later on and explain how I made the decision to have my leg amputated and the choice to use this to prove that I can lose a leg and still be a street medic.