Thanks to all that have helped!!!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Great Weekend

Well it's been a great weekend so far. Bryson loves the prosthetic. He's fascinated with the piston in the back of it. He's been very open to it and very happy to see me back up on 2 legs, even if it's with a cane right now. Also, Kentucky is playing for the national championship so that makes for a great weekend.

I have to say both boys have been wonderful. They are great helpers, they are ready to help me get off of my cane and get to the zoo or aquarium. I'm hoping in another month or so I can make that a reality for them. Right now I can only walk constantly for about 20-30 minutes before it starts to hurt and get uncomfortable. It's getting to be time to have some changes made to the socket again, the leg is shrinking down and I'm going to start losing suction again. Same steps as last time I suppose, they'll add the diaphragm to help keep suction, then once I've got to the point where that doesn't hold anymore I'll get another new socket made. Hopefully it'll last longer, the hope is that I can go a month or 2 on this one, then 3 or 4 on the next and so on. I feel like I'm making progress, it's just a very steep uphill climb, and one that is slower than I'd like to go. I just want to start exercising and getting this weight off of me. Sure, I can do a few exercises as home without the leg on, but I'm ready to go for long walks and get to where the leg feels like an extension of myself. Currently, it still feels like I'm a toddler learning the ropes again. Oh well. Till next time. GO CATS!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting the Boys

Excited for tomorrow. Tomorrow I get my sons. For the first time in nearly a month we get to have Logan and Bryson both, and we get to keep them till Monday!!! I'm not sure if I can do it, but I'm very tempted to try to take them to the zoo and just see how long I can walk. I want them to see that nothing can stop them. That no matter what the obstacle you can plow through and use that obstacle to be more than you ever thought you could be in the first place.

During this journey from cocky paramedic to invalid (hell it's how I have felt for the past year) to working my way back to getting to be that cocky paramedic again. I have learned that while there are good days and bad days on the average I can wake up and say I am alive. I am more alive today than I was 2 years ago. I have been through a deep valley, I should be dead. How many people fall 11 stories and live to tell the tell. Yes, I lost a leg. I didn't lose my life or my mind or my ability. I feel like I can still get on the truck and function in the back just the same as I did before. The hurdle now is the transition from scene to truck that will be the issue. I'm trying to decide on my next design for the leg, soon I will be moving to a soft socket with a carbon fiber cage. I'm thinking about phrases to wrap the cage in. I want something in either celtic or english. I was looking at something either funny or motivational or a mixture of both. You guys help me come up with some phrases. I'm ready to be back to who I was. I want to be that cocky medic again, I want to walk into a scene and prove that I am the conductor. During my time as a Preceptor I tried to teach my preceptees that as a medic you are the conductor of the scene, just the same as an orchastra, if you are disjointed and out of control, your scene will be the same. If you are cool, calm, and collected then your scene will be the same. I can think of dozens of runs where I was cool as a cucumber but inside I was a cyclone of thoughts and worries. I want that feeling again, It's that feeling that I miss more than anything.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Angels Among Us

It's odd what dreams may I am trying to sleep and all I can think of is the person who helped me while I was alone at the bottom of that waterfall. I don't know if he was really there, or if he was a figment of my mind, or if he was what my faith would call an angel. All I know is while lying there he helped me. I frantically begged him to tell me if Kate was ok, then had a vision of Kate walking back down the mountain with her son in hand and our friends girls in tow. He calmed me, gave me a peace that I by no means should have had. The medical/rational side of my brain tells me it was either a real person or a hallucination from the trauma and the massive endorphin release from my injuries. While my spiritual side tells me I was met by something supernatural. How else could I see Kate walking down that hill, feel her fear and anguish of not knowing how I was. The first responders I have spoken to have made no mention of anyone being with me. I was alone when they got there. This isn't the end of the oddities or blessings, depending on your belief structure. I had said ever since I met the man that a certain physician is the only person I would trust to save my life. This doctor received a call prior to ever knowing I was coming. The caller did not identify himself, only told my doc that "Joe Riffe is being flown in from Fort Knox, he's hurt very bad and needs you." Moments later the bat phone rang at University and Air Methods advised them I was in the air and on the way. I haven't remembered these things since my first hospitalization. I can feel the burning in my ankle, the last feeling I would ever have in that part of my leg. Even before the amputation I couldn't really feel anything from my knee down. The last sensation I remember is the searing pain I was in while this mysterious stranger tried his best to comfort me. As I have said before, I crawled out from under the spray of the falls with my home made splint. Once I made it to my final position this person cradled me in his arms, showed me Kate and was gone when Fort Knox fire and rescue arrived.

In my life I have experienced many things in which I can't explain. I've been blessed enough to watch life return and leave. I've been that person holding onto someone as life left them. I've seen the blessing of life return and that person walk out of the hospital to his family. Never have I had this favor returned to me by a stranger until that day. I can't explain who or what this person was, I can say he had an integral part in my survival. I begged God to let me live. To give me the chance to have a life with Kate and our sons. He gave me that, and part of that came from the comfort of a total stranger.

I try to relate this blog to EMS when I can. There is no more pure representation of who we should be as a profession than this person. Take away all the medical technology and medical theology and we are all strangers welcomed into the lives of others at the worst moment of their life. It amazed me the comfort of a simple touch, just knowing I wasn't dying alone. I'm not saying we shouldn't treat our patients and use all the fun gadgets we get to play with, just remember, sometimes the best thing you can do for your patient is assure them that they aren't alone and a simple touch can take away so much anxiety. I know. I experienced it first hand. There are Angels among us, sometimes you get the blessing of being that Angel.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I was Raised That way

Growing up in rural West Virginia I had no plans to be in Louisville, Ky. I had no plans to be a paramedic, or even to work in healthcare. I was going to grow up to play either in the NFL or NBA. There were many days spent on a concrete basketball court honing the craft, learning to dribble the ball through my legs, perfecting my crossover, my turn around jumper. Then, as often happens, I grew up. Of course, there's a large story between shooting 3 pointers and starting 14 gauges, but needless to say, I never saw this path coming. It just sort of happened. I had plans made. I was going to do so much, then I went hiking. Once again...plans change. I've learned a valuable lesson here, being able to bend. If you notice no matter how strong the winds, the trees that can bend are always left standing. I'm learning to bend.

My family grew up in the coal fields of West Virginia, we had really 2 options for future job prospects. There was deep mine coal mining or strip mine coal mining. That's about it. Sadly, things have gotten worse back home. Don't get me wrong, there are wonderful hard working people there who would do anything they can to help a total stranger. It's this upbringing that has lead me into the healthcare field, well that and my mom being a nurse and my dad being a truck driver Paramedicine is the natural choice. If those two professions had a child a paramedic would be born. If anything has to be said, my country upbringing has taught me to be flexible. Country folk are some of the most flexible around, we make our own food if we have to either grow it or kill it, either way there will be food on the table and always enough to feed a neighbor.

So, how does this tie in to me now? I've been asked on numerous occasions if I feel like I made the wrong decision? Would I keep the leg if I could go back? With that in mind, even a flexible tree loses a limb, it's still a tree, it still bears fruit. Just seems that I may have to change the scenery behind me. Even if I have to change the lights and sirens for whatever may come...I'll be ready. I was raised to be ready. I say yes ma'am, howdy, I have a twang, I'm country and I will survive. It's what we do. So, I have learned the long way that life will through many obstacles my way, there will always be multiple paths, but in the end I'll get to where I'm supposed to be, Yes Ma'am, Yes Sir, I was raised that way.

Knee adjustments

More adjustments to the knee tomorrow. Time to take away the safety net. We are going to lessen the amount of resistance the leg takes to bend the joint. This means it will be easier and smoother to walk, but at the same time it's going to be easier for me to buckle the knee. I'll be using it on the treadmill to start so I can get a better feel for the knee and let it become more of a part of who I am. I'm really thinking of letting the boys name the leg, make it part of the family. I mean it's really going to be a part of my life forever. I'm nervous about giving up control but tired of the extra effort it takes to walk. Hopefully this will make it less tiresome. Today I spent a few more hours using the cane to walk around and it's starting to hurt less and that's promising. I don't know when I'm going to feel like me again but I'm finally getting there. I'm ready to move on. I'll let you know how tomorrow least I've lost the fear of falling and now I'm ready to push myself harder than before. Gotta get this leg into shape

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I need a Vacation

I'm contemplating a vacation for Kate and I. I know that times are rough around the old "palatial prosthetic promenade" but we need this. Obviously we have the monetary issue and I know the second that we do there will be those who say that we are spending money we don't have, albeit somewhat true. In the past year, Kate and I have been through Hell and back, and I just want a few days outside of the flames. Kate and I have never been away together, the only time we have spent outside of home together is spending nights in the hospital room. I'm learning to walk now, I've been able walk a few hundred yards using nothing but a cane. I am moving forward. The treadmill has and will continue to help me fine tune my skills, I've already started to notice when the socket is not feeling correct, the adjustments that need to be made to the resistance that the knee so I can find that fine balance between falling and walking. After all, walking is nothing more than controlled falling. A constant fight against the cosmos. That devil that is centrifugal force.

So, now, onto vacation prospects. Yes, I need cheap and only for a few days. Just 2 days where Kate and I can get outside of Louisville, away from these every day stressors of doctor's visits, childcare, work, house cleaning, just everything that has piled up over the last year. I thank God for all the blessings we have. I got the leg I so desperately needed, I have the right prosthesist team, the right physical therapist, what I don't have is the time to get back on Louisville Metro's schedule. My year is coming up quickly and it would not be safe for me or my partner to attempt to get back on an ambulance in this shape. So, I want the chance to go out with the woman I love and just celebrate being us, not being "the prosthetic medic" or Kate being "Joe's fiancee" just being the collective "Us." I'm so if I can just find a coupon for a free weekend somewhere within 120 miles of here.

As an addendum...I decided to take down the post concerning my past and my abuses. While, I am not ashamed or wanting to hide my history of abuse, I felt that given the nature of this blog I would remove it for the time being. This is my history, it's a part of who I am, and I don't want to put that on you.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Country boy can survive

Walked on a treadmill today for the first time. That's the advantage of my physical therapist being an instructor at Bellermine. It was good to feel the knee really work and I'm getting to the point where I can identify the changes I need made to let the knee be optimal for me. I'm coming to terms with the changes that are quickly approaching. Part of that was a chance encounter with an amputee that lost his leg over 40 years ago. He saw me on the news and as I was leaving pt he stopped to speak with me. He was amazed thatvi was wearing shorts and wasn't wearing some sort of cosmetic cover over the prosthesis. I guess I just have the attitude that you're either going to take me as I am or you can get over it. This is me now. I'm finally ok with that. I can look at myself in the mirror with and without the leg and realize that a leg didn't make me who I am. The great part is he said maybe he'd try shorts again. I miss my former life but I see the potential to change the world since the surgery. How many people can really say they feel that way?

Now I just have to regain the feeling of being useful. I fight self doubt and depression constantly. I am your classic country boy, I take my emotions and bury them until they either force their way out or I find

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Near death experiences and 5 year olds

There's nothing more liberating or frightening than nearly dying. It's that moment that adrenaline junkies search for but rarely achieve, healthcare professionals and trained to spot but rarely see, yet, here I am having traversed that divide and nearly a year later it still wakes me up at night terrified.

When I was young I lived in a small town named Hanover, West Virginia. I have precious few memories from this time but one sticks out. Fear, it seems, had that effect on the mind, it forces memories upon you. I remember riding my bike across a bridge that by my standards today would rate unsafe at best. While going across, one of the training wheels on my bike went over the edge and I went with it. It was an incredibly hot summer, so the creek bed that the bridge traversed was dry. Nothing at the bottom to greet me but stone and wood. From what I remember I was nearly knocked out and to my good fortune somebody witnessed my fall and carried me home; broken bicycle and all.

Flash forward nearly 25 years later and I experience another fall. Only this time I gained a new insight into my life. I am one of the few "adrenaline junkies" who has taken the pursuit of death too far and managed to return with, not only my life, but a story to go with it. I didn't get to experience my life flash before my eyes, I saw no bright light at the end if a tunnel. No. I saw my life keep going without me. I saw the devastation on the faces if those who loved me. This made me realize that the hollywood version of impending death I grew up with was all a lie. The only thing that troubles me is why. Does it sell better to think that when you die you get to have a countdown of your greatest hits?

It has been nearly a year since I had that fall. Since I had that feeling of "impending doom" we call it in the healthcare world. That brief moment between falling and impacting where I knew I was going to die. Yet, here I am, at 0532 talking to you. I relive this moment more than I would like to comment on. I have this desire to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and take something from it. A piece of the wood I landed on, maybe several pieces. I want to take that symbol that lives in my subconscious and either burn it or transform it to something beautiful, I just can't decide which. I can tell you that nearly dying, for real, not the skydiving/bungee jumping version, the who will take care of Kate, Bryson, Logan, mom...etc version is nothing like the movies tells us it will be. No, it seems to me that if you do see a light at the end of that tunnel make sure it's not a train. If you're blessed enough to have the family support I have then you're going to make it work somehow, at least I know I'm going to; but that doesn't change the dreams. That new connection formed between 5 year old me and 29 year old me, where we are falling and just hoping life continues at the bottom, not only life, but one that can change the world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You say you want a revolution!

After watching this video I'm working on a design of my own to make this leg not only functional to me and my life but a piece of art. That way when people are staring at my leg they can admire the art instead of the disability. I agree that the form should match the form of my sound leg in order to give me that sense of completeness that is missing. It's a sensation that I am not verbose enough to describe. I have only had this new appendage for a few weeks, yet already I hate dinning this alien object and trying to pass it off ad a part of me. Let's face it, despite the amazing technology and years of development that have went into designing this marvel of modern bionics, it is exactly the same as any other persons that has one. I want to stand out. I'm placed in a situation where I am going to be different for life so why not accentuate that. I don't have a degree in design or biomechanics but I am going to find a way to make this work and effectively design tattoos for my prosthetic that mimic the shape of my sound leg. I want it to look like a normal leg with pants on, but a cyborg modern art masterpiece when I have shorts on. I want people not to stare in shock but in admiration. Taking a difference that I have to live with and giving it my personality. I don't know how I'm going to accomplish this, but that's never stopped me before. It starts with a design. Here we go. I'm going to make this my might take years to figure out but I will find a way...but if any of my readers have any ideas on how to accomplish this please let me know. I am very interested in changing function into art. Who knows maybe I can help start a revolution. I've been inspired to change the world and Gandhi wants us to be the change we wish to see in the world. Help me change the world!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

3 steps

So tonight Logan asked me "Where do you work?" of course I answered him that currently I don't work, but before I fell I was a paramedic at Louisville Metro EMS, "Do you still work there?" Well, yes and no, I'm still employed there but I can't go back to work till I'm able to use my leg the right way. "When are they going to fire you?" I don't know buddy....That was the lie...I do know. Well, I have an idea of when, from HR I am going to be terminated in May, I'm being forced to fill out the "American's with Disabilities Act paperwork" which will either result in them saying they can't find a spot for me within Metro Government or getting transferred out of EMS to another department within the Government system at a much lower pay grade. I'm going to get this paperwork turned in as soon as my physician has it filled out and roll the dice I suppose. Part of me wants to just walk away from the whole ordeal, but Momma didn't raise a quitter. I'll see where this goes, just because they offer a new position doesn't mean that I'm going to take it. I want to stay with the agency I have spent the last 6 years with. I don't think that's too much to ask. If/When they do "release me," isn't that a nice way of saying you're fired, I will move on. Kate and I are already planning on a way for me to lose some weight to get down to flight weight. Even if I never fly I need to lose the weight anyway. The less I way they easier it will be on my body and my organic leg.

On a positive note...I got my socket fixed. It fits comfortably once I get it on and get settled down into it. I'll have to put the gel cap back on starting tomorrow since I started to bottom out today at the end of the day. Now for the exciting part. Today I took 3 steps without any assistance...not a cane or crutch to help me, just me. It was ugly, awkward, and terrifying...but if a journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step I got the first 3 steps out of the way. I have to learn to trust my prosthetic and learn when to fire my leg muscles to support myself better and allow for a smoother gait. That's the hard part, on crutches, my gait is smoother, but I'm not allowing myself to put all my weight on my stump. Tomorrow I hope to take 4 steps or if I only take 2 they will be better than they were before. PT comes tomorrow and I get to work some more on learning to live life as a uniped.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fat Guy in a Little Socket

Got the new socket today. My leg has shrank enough that my new socket can nearly fit into my old socket, it's amazing that my leg has gotten down that small and it's expected to get smaller than that. Now that I can start walking a little better, it's amazing the difference in the feeling of a properly fitted socket to a socket that is too big. One of my friends has likened it to the equestrian world and ill fitting tack on a horse. If it doesn't fit right then everything is wrong. I have one area that is pinching and is painful that they will fix tomorrow. The next step is to start losing some weight and getting into fighting shape again. I'm ready to start exercising, strengthening the leg and getting ready for the next step. I'm trying to come to terms with my impending termination from my current employer and get ready for where I'm going next. I'm thinking about attempting to become a flight medic. I have the experience and skill, now just have to get down to flight weight and get to the point where proving myself is second nature.

I want to become an advocate for the unipedal peoples. I want to prove that being an amputee means nothing. That just because I have one leg has no bearing on my skill as a medic or a person for that matter. I have taken to wearing my prosthetic with shorts on and instead of being frustrated at the stares of strangers just keep my head held high and owning my new look. I'm thinking with the fit of the prosthetic, current issue notwithstanding, I will be walking without crutches or a cane in the next few weeks. Now I have to learn to trust my equipment. As a medic we learn this from the beginning. I trust my equipment because I'm the one who checked it out, I know it inside and out, I know every in and out of my equipment and have learned to adapt to any hiccup that may come. Now I have to apply this philosophy to my new prosthesis. If it didn't think that Matt and Sienna (my prosthesist) would kill me, I'd have this leg taken apart and learning the guts of it so I can know how it works and therefore how to adapt if something messes up. Don't worry guys, if you are reading this I promise not to take apart the leg...yet...OK I won't. I have come to the conclusion that leaving my current employer, although terrifying and not what I want to happen, I will move on. Kate is behind me on this one, she's not too excited about be being an airborne prosthetic medic, but she knows that even before I fell I have always wanted to be a flight medic and have always planned on moving on to this in my career. I just wonder if they will let me wear a flight suit with the leg rolled up...I wouldn't mind showing off the leg.

Why I Ask Why

I can't wait to get my new socket. There is no way to describe the frustrations of an ill fitting socket to someone who has no frame of reference for the sensation. It should be ready tomorrow and I'll be able to get up and start back to working on healing and getting ready to get back to where ever I belong.

Now, on to why I'm posting tonight even though I planned on taking a break this weekend. I have tried to maintain a balance between my personal beliefs on a religious front and this blog. Recently, I was told that my notion that God chose me to endure this path in life is "silly." I'm not attacking the person who made the comment, in fact I commend them. I just felt that I would explain my position. To me there are certain points in life where your god given free will goes out the window and his plan for you will be enforced. Yes, I could have chosen to not go hiking. I believe that no matter what I had done that day the result would have been the same. This lifestyle was where I was headed. Wether it's from a dramatic fall or some other freak accident I was going to endure this trial. That being said, it's a natural reaction when faced with duress to want to know "why is this happening to me?" Now, some people choose to ask this question then wallow in self pity until the heavens open and an answer is revealed. I chose to accept it and own my new life. I still get frustrated and sometimes still want to know why, but I choose to move forward and try to get on with life. There is a quote in the movie "Van Wilder" that I have really latched onto " Don't take life so seriously, you'll never get out alive."

So I may question things but even though I question I attempt to change my destiny at the same time. I know that I will continue to ask why and sometimes I may even get an answe. As for my amputation I like the answer that came from my mom, this happened to prepare me for something amazing in the future. And to me if this blog reaches one person and inspires them to move past what normal society says is impossible then I feel like this has paid off more than I can describe. I'm blessed because I have a supportive family both here with me and those of you who write to me about how I've inspired you. This only makes me want to succeed more than ever. So my silly question is very serious to me. I ask why because my free will allows me too. And remember if you ever want to make God laugh just tell him what your plans are...chances are he has something better in mind.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fighting a Losing Battle

More stress today. Honestly. I would love a day where I can just go through it without bordering on the edge of a mental breakdown. It's days like today that make me start to question God as to why He chose me to go down this path. I suppose he sees something inside of me that I don't because as of how I feel right now I just want to lock myself inside my home and wait for the walls to fall down. I can't really go into all the details here, simply because I don't want all my personal issues on the internet. Just suffice to say I need a break. One thing I am willing to go into details about is my current employer advising me that if I don't turn in my American's With Disabilities Act paperwork by next week I will be terminated. Past practice says that I have one year either from the date of injury or the last day worked to return to duty. I have our union researching the rules on this for me, but this is stress that I don't need right now. I have to try to force my body to be ready to get back on an ambulance by May of this year, if they don't fire me before then. I know that I am ahead of where I am expected to be, but to expect me to have a mastery of this prosthetic as well as my leg to be ready to work a 16 hour shift in two months is a feat worthy of a superhero....of which I am not. I fear that I am losing this battle and now must realize that I have set a goal that was too lofty. I'm not saying that I will never return to an ambulance, I am just realizing that I may not return to "my" ambulance. I have called this service my home for 6 years. I have given blood, sweat, and tears to this service. I know a year is a long time, but considering the lofty aspirations I have, I don't think a year is all that long. Let's look back, in a years time I have nearly died, spent a month in a hospital, 2 months with an external fixator, fought to save a leg that was destroyed, had said leg amputated, fought to get the prosthetic I need to return to work, now I'm working on getting proficient enough on the prosthetic as well as toughen my leg up enough to walk. Considering right now I can only bear about 50% of my body weight on the stump and I'm being forced to not only bear all my weight but be able to use it well enough to go the varied places a paramedic has to go is a nearly impossible task. I will continue to work hard everyday. I will keep this leg on as long as I can without doing enough damage that it sets me back. I have to find a way through this, I have been told that "oh if we have to fire you then just reapply, we'll take you back in a heartbeat," I'm just not sure I can do that. I'm not sure I can bring myself to return to a service that wouldn't recognize the effort I am placing forth to get back to them, just to have them fire me. I am paying my insurance out of pocket. I know that if I turn in this ADA paperwork then they will find another place within Metro Government for me to work. This means they can shove me behind a desk at a very reduced pay rate. Honestly, I know that this system is in place for a reason and that it is a wonderful system for those who need it. I guess I'm just bull headed and want my chance to be on an ambulance. I have made it clear that when I am ready to come back if I cannot do it I will walk away with my head held high because I have done my best. This paperwork is not my best. It's equivalent to giving up in my mind. I suppose though, I have to turn in their paperwork. When they offer to move me I can politely decline and look for another service that will give a prosthetic medic a chance. Just praying that this works out in the best interest of my family. Oh, and an update from yesterday the new socket wasn't finished cooking today, hopefully it will be tomorrow. Tomorrow has to be a better day than today...the fight continues. I may feel like I've lost a battle today but the war carries on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Socket #2

Socket #2 is being made as we speak. My stump has shrank to a point where the one I have is basically useless. This morning when I woke up I put the prosthetic on and after a few steps I was already bottoming out on the socket and then it started slipping off of my leg. This is a very annoying feeling. I can't wait till these changes are finished. This is just a part of the process and I know that, but going back to my impatience it makes it a little more difficult. I've decided that this time I'm going to make the skull and cross crutches orange so the design stands out more than it did before. My officer friend told me that he went through around 8 sockets in the first year before things started to slow down and he got to a point where things became more comfortable. He said he still hates putting on the prosthetic in the morning, but after that it's just an extension of himself. He told me to get used to falling. A major part of learning to succeed in being an amputee is to lean to fail and learn to fall. I've started practicing falling down, his major advice is that once you take the fear away then you are no longer are scared to do anything. If you fall, so know what to do. It's just like the training I received to become a paramedic, repetition makes things second nature. Just like starting an IV or intubating a patient, the more you do it, the easier it gets. So, I plan on learning to fall down, get up, and start over again. Tomorrow my new socket should be ready and with that I get to continue on my progress towards getting back. I can't wait till I no longer have to use crutches or canes to get around. I told Bryson today that when I am able to walk without assistance I'm going to take him and Logan to the aquarium. They have changed the plan on me, now instead of the zoo they want to go to Newport or Gatlinburg to the aquarium then I'll be back to being myself. I'll post pictures of the new socket when it's finished so you guys can see whats going on. Also, there may be an article in the Courier Journal in the coming future. I was contacted by a reporter and may be doing an interview. I'll let you know when and if this occurs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Here's a look at me on the Otto Bock Genium with the Otto Bock Triton Harmony Foot

EMS Conference 2013 and new Sockets

Getting my next socket fabricated as we speak. I've had trouble keeping a fit now so that means that my stump has shrunk to a point that my current socket just isn't work like it should anymore. This is very exciting. This means I am making great progress, my stump is maturing and I'm getting closer to getting to a point where i should be able to start taking some steps with just one crutch or a cane, the new socket keep me from bottoming out. I am so thankful that my body is agreeing with my impatient attitude, much to the chagrin of my prosthetic company. Sienna, has stated that she is amazed that my body is agreeing with me. I'm so excited at the prospect of being able to take a few steps, each step I can take with fewer appliances is a step closer to my freedom. To the dream I have of being able to walk and hold hands with my love. We haven't been able to just take a walk and hold each others hand in months. We are both wore down and stressed, each step forward helps take that stress away some. Another exciting moment is that Dennis, my physical therapist, has started working with me on some skills I'll have to learn in order to treat patients. The first lesson is like doing a lunge with the prosthetic leg, rotating down to both knees and walking myself back up onto 2 legs. This will be a change from my normal way of operating, which I can imagine that I am going to have to learn to do a majority of my normal patient care motions over again. Finally, learning skills that I will be using in the field helps me get a feeling for my new goal in life. My favorite thing Dennis said to me was that his goal was for me to get in and out of a scene and only those who know me be aware that I am a one-legged paramedic. That is a wonderful thought.

Another option that my brother amongst others seem to think that I need to look into is writing a book about this experience. They feel that I have a lot to give in way of inspiration and motivation. Who knows, maybe I can be a speaker at the next EMS conference. I'm thinking about starting typing in a more organized fashion, not for here, but to see if I can even begin to write a book. Anybody out there have any tips for writing a book? Anyway, tomorrow is a new day with new challenges, I should get my new revamped socket Thursday. I cannot wait.

I WANT YOU---> to give me an idea or 2

Occasionally I ask for your feedback. I know the feedback mechanism is frustrating but please let me know if/how this blog had helped you or if you feel I should keep going. I'm facing a major life decisions and am trying to streamline my life. If this blog is causing any damage that is I completely unintended and I'm looking for ways to improve. Let me know what you think.

Joe aka The Prosthetic Medic (hopefully)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

I've decided to take down the donate button off of the blog. Your support has been amazing and I cannot express how helpful it has been throughout these past months. I realize that during these trying times that there are better organizations and people that could use your heartfelt gifts. I want to say from the bottom of my heart that your generosity has been a constant motivation to keep fighting to accomplish all my goals. I will continue to blog and keep you updated on my progress as I go forward in learning to walk again and building up my strength to return back to work as a paramedic.

Today I was able to keep the prosthetic leg on for about 4 hours. I'm still relying heavily on the crutches to take weight off of the stump while walking, but I am able to knock it down to one crutch for short periods of time. I don't know how long it will take for me to learn to walk without assistance but I can't wait for that day. I'm so ready to just be able to go again. My prosthesist has assured me that becoming an amputee will teach me patience. I have a feeling that this will be a hard lesson to learn. I've never been good with having patience, that's why I work on an ambulance, I get the patient for 15-30 minutes then it's on to something else. It makes my ADD happy. Today I started learning how to kneel down onto my good knee then get up off the ground. I'm not very graceful at all at this point, I'm sure it will come with practice and time. There's more of that patience that I have learn. I'm going to keep going...for those with kids, kinda like Dori from Finding Nemo...Just keep swimming. I'm still feeling that jones deep inside everytime I see an ambulance go by. I got my medic kit out and just sat and looked at it. I've used that kit to save countless lives. I'm just so ready to get it stocked and put back to work.

As I've said, Thank you all for all the donations. I may bring it back one day. For now, Kate and I are going to make it work. Thank you all again.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Promise of Normalcy

Took a few days off from the blog. Just needed some time away from everything. This weekend I've had a few things going on. I was interviewed for a radio show and went to a symposium for physical therapists. It was good to see others who have been on prosthetics for years, to see that there is a promise of a normal life once I get used to wearing this and my stump has gotten to its normal size. I'm hoping that in the coming months I'll be able to start walking without any assisstance.

The reason I needed the break from everything is that I'm realizing that there is no way for me to be ready to be back by May. Not to say I'm not going to try, but physically I doubt I'll be ready to go. I want to get there, I'm just realizing that getting there will probably be with another service. That's ok. Just moving forward in life.
It was great to hear that this is some of the roughest times as an amputee. This period where you have to let your stump mature and get the right fit for the socket. Once things even out I should be able to start living again. Right now I'm living life a few hours at a time. Once the leg is tired or painful that's all I can do. I can't wait till I've adapted to this. I think things will get much better for us once I've moved in to this. For now I'll continue to try to move forward inch by inch.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learning to Walk

Been walking a lot today. Had the chance to walk a little using just a cane. I am not able to stay on it for long periods of time yet, the more the pain increases my gait gets sloppy and I don't want to form bad habits. I'm going in to the prosthetic office tomorrow to have some more changes made. My leg is hurting and I'm not able to keep the socket attached in the back. This has made walking more painful since the prosthetic pulls down and grabs the skin. I was not prepared for the weight of the leg itself. It weighs about 35-40 pounds, so as you can imagine, when the leg gets tired it feels like I'm lugging around a ton of bricks. I know I have to build up my stamina with the leg and with this will come the strength to start walking without assistance. Patience has never been a virtue of mine, but thankfully persistence is. My goal is to just keep building on each day, if I can take 4 steps today, I want to take 8 tomorrow. I'm ready to keep fighting through this and I will keep you updated on my progress as I battle towards getting back on the ambulance.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Prosthetic

Moving Quickly

Had another appointment at Kentucky Prosthetics today. I had been having pain when walking because my stump was impacting the bottom of the socket. They made some minor adjustments to the socket and gave me a latex liner with  some padding at the bottom to help with the pain. After they had gave me this liner I was making great progress. I have been given the clear to use the cane as long as it doesn't hurt when I walk. According to them, I am months ahead of where a normal new amputee is. I am able to walk with pretty equal strides and use the knee as it's supposed to be used. I'm very happy with the prosthetic that they got for me. I'm such an impatient person when it comes to my health. Blame it on my ADHD tendencies, I get distracted easily and want whatever I want now. It does feel good to know that I am ahead of schedule. If I remember I'll post a better picture of me standing in the prosthetic. At this rate they are going to have to make me a new socket in a month. I'm sure the volume loss with plateau off and make it easier to get a more secure fit.

On a funnier note as we were leaving dinner with Kate's dad tonight I lost suction on the socket. The vacuum suction is what holds the socket to my leg and make the prosthetic an extension of me, anyway, I lost suction and every time I took a step it sounded like I was farting...loudly. Logan got quite a kick out of that. He, in fact, enjoyed it immensely. It was a very welcome moment of levity for all of us. It's easy to get lost in the seriousness of the subject matter, so it's very nice to have a moment to remind us that you can't take lifer'll never get out alive.

Tomorrow I try again. Another day of trying to walk, strengthening my leg and one day closer to living life again. I can't wait till all this is behind us and we can enjoy our lives as normal as possible again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I have to admit. I am very happy and excited to have my prosthetic. Don't get me wrong, I am blessed to have this technology on my side. I am a little frustrated. I wanted to put this thing on and take off without any limitations. For now, I am still tethered to crutches. Whenever I take a step I am hitting the bottom of the socket and needless to say, that hurts. My physical therapist said that the stump has shrunk down enough that I'm impacting the bottom and now I'll have to go in and get a liner so that doesn't happen. So those are my current frustrations. I know this is only a temporary set back, I know that in the grand scheme of things this is only a speed bump, but sometimes speed bumps can look like mountains until you get over them. The physical therapist has assured me that my no means should I be walking without assistance yet, nobody does that apparently. I want to be the exception to the rule. I am an impatient person. It's a flaw I guess. So here we go. Tomorrow I'm hoping that I'll get this liner and the pain will go away. I'm ready to get up and walking. I'm ready to take my boys to the zoo. Let them know that they finally have me back.

Hurts so good

First off, I want to thank everyone for your support. Every time I have had a period of doubt or some self-loathing, you have all been there with some encouraging words. So thank you all. I also want to thank Humana and Louisville Metro Government for making this possible. Humana is taking a chance by approving me and I will prove that this technology is wonderful for many of us. If they see I'm progressing well maybe they will change the policy to allow many others to benefit from this technology.

Today I ran errands on the new leg. I'm still using the crutches to help bear some of the weight and a safety net of sorts. I've noticed that I have some pain after wearing it for a couple of hours. The thing that is most discouraging to me right now is that I am unable to put all my weight on my stump. I'm not strong enough to hold all my weight on it and that makes it feel weak. I don't know how long it will take to get that feeling to go away or how to build the strength required to do so, I guess that's why I'll be having PT. On a funnier note, my feet are so big they had to special order another foot for the prosthetic. It seems not many amps have a size 14/15 foot. So, now I'm waiting on my new foot, but I can still use the one provided currently. It felt great to stand in a crowded elevator and not have anyone staring or whispering about my lack of a leg. The boost of self confidence that has come with this leg is amazing. For the first time in a long time I feel like I can be normal again. Well, my dark and twisty version of normal. Later this evening I begin my physical therapy and I'm ready. I'm looking forward to the pain, because for the first time in months, pain is going to equal progress. Finally I can look at the pain I'm in and know that because of this pain I will be able to return to who I am. I get to return to being that cocky self confident person I know is still inside of me. I just have to find a way to get him back out to the surface. I'll update later about how physical therapy went.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Walking on the Genium

 Here's the video of me walking on the Genium. Hoping this works right. I'm having trouble getting it to upload correctly. Let me know if this doesn't work

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Near Death Experience

I forgot to mention yesterday. Friday, Kentucky Prosthetics called me and let me know my knee has arrived at the office. Monday I should be going in to get fitted for my new leg. I am so excited, I doubt I'll sleep tonight. Tomorrow, the fate of my future is finally back in my hand. My progress is up to me. I can succeed or fail depending on the work I am willing to put into this. I'm looking forward to getting out and exercising, I've put back on some of the weight I had lost with the initial injury, I'm looking forward to losing this weight and getting back into shape. I gotta get all ampusexy for Kate...It's hard to be a 2 constantly fighting to keep everyone from hitting on my 10. I'm really looking at this as a chance at a new beginning at life. I have learned to not get upset over trivial things, to not take this life for granted. I can honestly say, there is no reason that I should have survived that fall. I shouldn't be here typing this blog right now, by the laws of physics and modern medicine I should be dead. I can literally say that I have been an inch from death. When I landed at the bottom, my ear was folded over by a branch of drift wood that I had landed on. Think about that, one inch to the right and I would have impaled my head on that branch and that would've been my legacy. I would be remembered as "that guy who fell off the water fall and died." Sure, Kate and our sons would remember me for who I am, as father and husband (I'm pretty much her husband, we're just lacking that legal document). My co-workers would remember me as a medic, not sure if good or bad, I've had a few say I'm a great medic, and I think I'm good at it. I was inches from death, but for some reason God chose to let me stay. I am thankful.

That being said, 24 more hours to donate to Louisville Metro EMS EMT Ben White. Ben is a wonderful man and father. His legacy. He's a great tech who has a young child and beautiful wife. Think about it, while you are warm and dry sitting in your home, Ben is thinking about how to rebuild his shattered life. Please give what you can to help this brother in need. We are all family, you have proven this to me time and time again. Everything helps so let's do what we can to help Ben and his family get back up and running.

I'll be posting video tomorrow of my first steps on my new leg...I can't wait.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Please Help...Another of Our Own Needs You

Tonight's post has nothing to do with me or my goal. Tonight's post is all about helping others. Yesterday, A coworker of mine lost nearly everything in the tornado in Henryville, Indiana. He is a wonderful EMT, has a wife and child. I'm asking those of you who read my blog to consider donating some money via my PayPal button at the top of this post. All proceeds from the next 48 hours will be given directly to EMT Ben White to help pay for the expenses he has incurred. This money will go to buying clothing for his child, wife, and himself. To pay for food and any other expenses in which he needs help with at this time. I cannot imagine losing my home and belongings in an instant. Please, consider giving to this wonderful cause. I will make sure that all the money donated over the next 48 hours goes directly to Ben and his family. Thank you all for the support you have shown me, please let's support one of our other brothers as well.

Thank you all,

Joe Riffe aka The Prosthetic Medic

Friday, March 2, 2012

We Risk Our Lives to Save Yours

A day like today can really put things into perspective. Yes, what happened to me was a tragic accident. Today, an entire town has faced losing everything they have. This is beyond a tragedy. For those who are reading for outside the Louisville area, those who read me from across the pond, today an estimated EF4 tornado destroyed a town just 20 min north of Louisville, Ky. I had no decision in what happened to me the day I fell, luckily I had more of a choice on having my leg amputated. I had a chance to prepare. I hope the people of Henryville, In took their cues and tried to prepare as well. I have learned that you can take a tragedy and turn it into a chance to grow and become more than you were before. As I am typing this, Kate is is up in Henryville assisting with the rescue and recovery efforts. She makes me so proud. It also, makes me realize the importance to me that I return to EMS. When she got that call that they needed her to come in and go up to the site of the tornado, I had a stream of emotions. I was jealous, plain and simple, I wanted that call to come to me. I want to go. I want to be there helping, putting my skills to use. Secondly, I am scared to death. I have never been the person left behind, I have always been the one to rush into the danger, not the family member left behind to wait. I am so proud of that woman, she has been to war, so I know that she will be fine, but she is also the entire world for our sons and myself.

On a completely different note...My knee arrived at Kentucky Prosthetics today. This means that as soon as Monday there is a chance that I will rejoin the world of the bipedal. Soon, I will be enjoying the  fruits of years of military research that will ensure that I can come back to nearly 100% of where I was before. The foot is there, I've already given them one of my skis aka size 14 New Balance tennis shoes. I will try to post a video of me walking in my new leg. I get to leave the office with my new leg. I hate that Kate has to work, I may see if she can get the day off. I really want her to be there. She is my entire world and I really want her to be there for my first steps in the leg that will give us our lives back. Starting Tuesday I will begin my real physical therapy. I plan on hitting the gym, fire towers, escalators, running after lost puppies, what ever I have to do to get my redneck self back on the ambulance. I haven't felt a yearning this strong to get back in awhile. Knowing that their is an entire community of people who are hurt and I could be there helping to save the most important thing...the lives of the ones they love. Homes and Cars can and will be replaced. Your loved ones.  The EMS creed...We risk our lives to save yours....That doesn't become more evident than when a natural disaster strikes. May God be with our brothers and sisters in public safety tonight as they walk into Hell to pull another from the flames.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Have you seen me?

Today has just not been my day. I think I have the ebb and flow of the ocean. I had a great day yesterday and today has been as bad as it was good. Just have had one of those days dealing with personal insecurities, my son was in his first fight, to make that worse he was jumped by 4 other 1st graders. I told him I will teach him to fight, but if he ever starts a fight I'll set his butt on fire. Same warning I was given as a child, I just hate I'm giving it to him about 6 years before it was given to me. I want to try to teach him that violence isn't the answer, but he needs to be able to protect himself.

Aside from that, I'm dealing with some major depression, PTSD, and self-image issues today. I don't feel comfortable in my own skin today. All I want is to be that cocky medic I was before this accident. It seems when I get on the path to being me again I get slapped back down. I never had issues with self-esteem. Despite being overweight and having a nose that in more than one occasion got me likened to Gonzo, I was me, deal with it. I'm having more trouble dealing with this one. I'm hoping being back on two legs will help me get that confidence back. After nearly a year of relying on others to do for me, when I did it mostly alone before, wears on a man. It has permiated every part of my life now. Although it did a patient assessment on crutches today, a wreck happened in front of me whole driving. That was welcomed. Just like the trauma junkie prayer, don't let anyone have to get hurt, but if they do, let me be there.

I'm just fighting the same old demons everyday, and sadly to say, today they are winning. Well, that's all for now, tomorrow is another day on the battlefield. Hopefully I'll be ready