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Mark - Greater Vancouver and Lower Mainland - Below Knee

My name is Mark and last September 2005 after what was a relaxing afternoon ride on my motorcycle, I encountered a person who thought he was driving in England. As a result of the head on collision I found myself lying upside down on the sidewalk minus my left leg below the knee, and with numerous broken bones. Luckily close by was a soccer game going on with a couple of St. Johns Ambulance attendants in attendance; without them I don’t think I would be here telling you my story. Within minutes of their arrival I was stripped of all my clothes and riding to Royal Columbian Hospital.

The next few days I was in and out of a world of drug induced dreams and bits of reality – due to the fact that I had lost my helmet and hit my head. My behavior was quite aggressive so they sedated me so well that for days the only person I recognized was my wife Valerie.

When the good drugs stopped flowing 5 days later I woke up to see lots of flowers around me. After reading most of the cards, this guy who thought of himself as a big burly biker cried. Not for the fact of my leg being amputated and bust up, but from the outpouring of care that came from so many people who praised me as a strong willed person who could get through this mess. So from that day on, I knew I had a lot of people I was not going to let down.

To get the ball rolling, I got on my cell and called all the people telling them I wouldn’t let them down. More people were upset about my condition than I was. I wondered if these people were weak, like they didn’t really know me. I sat back and prioritized my problems.

The #1 problem was where the hell is my bike? Can it be fixed? I found it was a write-off!!!!! Who is paying for it? Where is my check? Hmmm, what law firm do I hire? Who is at fault? To my relief, Valerie had my money and hired a lawyer.

Problem #2 was my physical condition. I was never one of those guys that spent all day in front of my mirror and I knew that I wasn’t any uglier than I was a week ago, so that was OK. As far as losing my leg, well I can’t grow a new one, but with a background in engineering I knew that the technology existed to build one. Plus it will look pretty neat using it as an ice bucket in the bar. Now lets just get on with it.

The really upsetting thing for me was waiting 3 months for everything to heal enough to get to my next part of my recovery – physiotherapy, and getting fitted for my prosthesis. When it started it was my full time job. I think for me this was the hardest part for a few reasons. Due to my multiple fractures everything I did was in slow motion relative to other amputees around me and my physio had to be gentle and break me in slowly. This was hard mentally, because some people with the same amputation level but less trauma, were up and walking in 6 weeks – man am I ever going to get going? A little voice told me that I was in the right place with the right person and eventually everything would be OK. Valerie on the home front, who looked after me, conveyed the same. Patience was the theme word for the year.

Being a recovered drug addict gives you the strength to deal with a lot of adverse situations and this was just another one. The words of one recovery situation work for the other just fine. Those words are ‘take it one day at a time’ and ‘slow and easy’. From this background I have realized that there is no easy fix and to every action there is an equal reaction. In learning how to walk again I had developed many bad habits and they are very hard and time consuming to correct. So when your physiotherapist is giving you a hard time about something you are doing, don’t fight them but listen to them. Some times they don’t give you the whole picture because they want you to figure it out for yourself.

As for the prosthetist who makes your leg, listen to what they have to say when you first meet them. Ask yourself ‘can I deal with this person for a long time because this will be someone you will be dealing with for a long time. If not, move on and find someone else, or change part way through. Your stump will be changing in shape for quite some time. After the initial meeting you are going to have to take over in the communication department because they can only observe how you move but not how it feels when you move. To make the necessary adjustments to your prosthesis they need to know from you how it feels. One thing I realized was when something new is done to your prosthesis, don’t assume new sensations are good sensations. Many times in the beginning I walked away feeling good only to realize 2 hours later that it’s not good. Keep a journal about different things that happen to you so at your next meeting you don’t forget important ideas or sensations that affect you.

The last and moMark - Greater Vancouver and Lower Mainland - Below Kneest important thing that has influenced me the most is all the other wonderful people that I have met in the rehab center. Having never been around people with disabilities before, I was never exposed to a better class of resilient tough, funny, caring individuals. In life we strive to belong to a clique to draw strength from and to have a sense of belonging too. For that, it almost makes coming to rehab worth it.

Mark
Marvel_van@shaw.ca

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