My name is Yvonne Llanes and I am from San Antonio, Texas. I am 48 years old and have been a double above-knee amputee for 12 years. Before my amputations, I was an elementary school principal and taught for 18 years prior to that. I was a busy mother of four and the wife of an active-duty Marine. On September 18, 2005, while at an outdoor shopping mall in Yuma, Arizona, I was loading packages into the back of my vehicle.
Unbeknownst to me, a driver high on methamphetamines hit me from behind, pinning me between my vehicle and his, severing my legs upon impact. Once the responders were able to separate the vehicles, I landed on the hot asphalt. Without legs to support me, I fell on my backside and received second-degree burns from the asphalt and the radiator fluid, which had erupted from the crash.
After being in the hospital and a rehab facility for months, I was finally able to go home. However, I struggled with my limitations for many years, only leaving my wheelchair for transfers and for occasional physical therapy sessions. I had to have several revision surgeries throughout this time, which only left me sinking deeper into a dark hole. I was feeling terrible about myself when my social worker from Hanger Clinic told me about a boot camp offered through them. I had been a Hanger Clinic patient since 2011, so I told myself I would register for the boot camp and give it a chance.
After attending Hanger Clinic's boot camp in Oklahoma City in April of 2015, my life as an amputee changed forever. I decided it was time to make a major mobility change in my life, so I left my wheelchair behind on June 20, 2015, and decided to become a full-time prosthetic user.
After seeing all the fantastic people at boot camp and becoming inspired by their strength and capabilities, I made it a goal of mine to face my challenges and get up and walk! Nine years and seven months in a wheelchair had been enough! I have also made it a goal of mine to return to boot camp every year henceforth. I have had so much support from my Hanger Clinic family, my amputee family, and the general community, and in turn I am eager to help and support others who may be dealing with their own obstacles and challenges.
I'm hoping that by seeing what I'm doing and by seeing how far I've come in my journey, they can see that they can do it as well. It is possible to get up again.
On September 15, 2001, four days after the tragedy of 9/11, 15-year-old Cameron Clapp experienced his own devastating tragedy. After an evening of underage drinking with his twin brother, Cameron was struck by a train and lost both legs and his right arm. He was told by members of the medical community that he would never walk again, but Cameron proved them wrong just five months after the accident by walking independently with two prosthetic legs.
Showing that spirit and determination can conquer even the worst odds, Cameron made a remarkable physical and emotional recovery. His perspective changed; he valued life in a way that only someone who brushed death could. Unfortunately, his identical twin brother, Jesse, continued to experiment with drugs. In January 2008, Cameron lost Jesse, his best friend, to a drug overdose.
Now at 30 years old, Cameron travels the country on two microprocessor-controlled legs, sharing his incredible survival story with fellow amputees, teenagers, and members of the medical community. His message is simple – give your patients hope. Life is about overcoming obstacles, setting goals, never giving up, making the right decisions, and not using drugs and alcohol.
On June 28, 2015, I suddenly collapsed in a gas station in a small northern Wisconsin town, which was thankfully across the street from a hospital. An ambulance came to my rescue in about three minutes, which was amazing timing. Over the course of 36 hours, I flat-lined 78 times, was induced into a coma, and was put on a machine to keep my heart beating. During my nine-day coma, my heart was only pumping at 10 percent and thus my limbs were not getting enough blood perfusion. To prevent septic shock and save my life, the doctors had to amputate both of my legs above the knee. That procedure saved my life and within a day, my heart starting pumping at 40 percent and four days later they woke me from my coma. I was a healthy, active 24-year-old woman with no symptoms of heart failure. Three months later, I found out that I have a genetic mutation in my heart for sudden cardiac death, called CPVT. Thankfully, I now have a defibrillator to act on my heart if I ever go into a bad rhythm again.
After this life-changing trauma, I found Hanger Clinic and their amazing boot camp for bilateral above-knee amputees. On April 6, 2016, I was inspired to leave my wheelchair after hearing other people's amazing testimonies. I have been wheelchair-free ever since, and have become part of a new family – my amputee family.
I graduated in December 2017 from Marquette University with a Master's of Science in nursing. I'll be pursuing my Doctor of Nursing Practice in order to work as a nurse practitioner in the physical medicine and rehab field. I also mentor young amputees and children with limb differences at Camp No Limits. I want to help others in the amputee community through volunteering and my profession.
If someone came up to me today and said "Nicole, I will give you your legs back, but you will not remember the people, nor the experiences you have had after your amputation," my response would be "NO." I would never take my legs back at the expense of the friendships I have made, the love I have received, and my clear calling and purpose in life. I wouldn't trade that for anything.
After overcoming several challenges, including surviving cancer, drug addiction, losing both of his legs above the knee, and learning how to walk again, Matthew Brewer is finally on a path to achieving his goals he never thought were possible. Being featured on "The Doctors" show three times has played a huge factor in Matthew's recovery. He was offered alternative treatments for phantom pain, and the blessing of being able to be pain free without the use of opiate pain killers and receiving Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for depression. Matthew was also provided an opportunity to attend the 2017 Bilateral Above-Knee Amputee Bootcamp in Oklahoma City where he met Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP/D.
Matthew resides in Huntington Beach, California, and graduated from Marina High School in 1993. He attended Golden West College from 1994-1995 and Saddleback College from 2016-present for a Computer Maintenance Technology Certification. Matthew has also had several jobs as a jack-of-all-trades, such as car sales, carpentry, and telephone sales.
Matthew has recently participated in the Challenged Athletes Foundation and competed in the Stroke for Life U.S. Adaptive Surf Competition.
Kevin M. Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP/D
Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP/D, is an accomplished healthcare professional with over 35 years as a practicing prosthetist, visionary researcher, and skilled educator. As Vice President of Prosthetics for Hanger Clinic, he travels nationally and internationally presenting scientific symposiums and managing clinics for difficult prosthetic cases.
Kevin is an American Board Certified Prosthetist and has been named a Fellow with Distinction of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists, one of the highest honors of the profession. He also received the honor of Doctor of Humane Letters from Quinnipiac University for his humanitarian work.
Kevin is the co-developer of the patented the Hanger Clinic ComfortFlex® Socket System and co-developed the first prosthetic tail for Winter the Dolphin with his colleague, Dan Strzempka. Winter's story debuted on Sept. 23, 2011, in a 3D feature film, "Dolphin Tale," starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Harry Connick Jr. He has appeared on news broadcasts such as "Dateline," "20/20," "CBS Early Show," "NBC Nightly News," ABC's "Good Morning America," and the Discovery Channel.
Nancy Havlik, LCPO
Nancy Havlik, LCPO, has been working with bilateral above-knee patients and their rehabilitation since 2009. Over the past 15 years, she has taken a deeper interest in helping female amputees overcome challenges they face in regards to anatomy, physical, social and emotional well-being. This has grown and extended into the realm of female bilateral above-knee amputees by helping them resolve and embrace the road that lies ahead of them.
Nancy earned her orthotics certification at Northwestern University Medical School in 1999 and prosthetic certification in 2000. She has been with the Hanger Clinic family since 1996 and developed the pediatric program in Gainesville, Georgia, and has presented at a variety of leadership and learning classes in her local area.
Mark Ashford, CP, LPO
Mark Ashford, CP, LPO, started his career his senior year in high school as a prosthetic technician in 1978, a year after his sister became an amputee in a motorcycle accident. Mark earned his bachelor's degree at UT Southwestern Prosthetic-Orthotic Program in 1984. He worked nights and weekends in Fort Worth, while working full time during the day at the school for his residency. He received his ABC certification in December of 1985. Mark has been a prosthetic examiner since 1989 and has helped teach the Hanger Clinic ComfortFlex® course for over eight years. Mark has participated as an instructor with the Bilateral Above-Knee Bootcamp for the past five years and has made a huge impact in the lives of bilateral above-knee amputees.
Matthew Luetke, CPO
Matthew Luetke, CPO, is the Area Clinic Manager of Hanger Clinic at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Matt completed orthotic and prosthetic studies at Northwestern University School of Medicine and has practiced for 18 years, specializing in lower and upper limb prostheses. His area of expertise is working with trauma and pediatric amputees as well as bilateral above-knee amputees. Matt frequently lectures to therapists, case managers, and physician residents.
Wendy Glissmeyer, CPO
Wendy Glissmeyer, CPO, realized her desire to be a prosthetist after volunteering at Shriners Hospital for Children in Utah. She attended California State University, Dominguez Hills and completed her prosthetic residency with Shriners Hospital for Children. She began working with Hanger Clinic in 2007 in Salt Lake City. As a pediatric specialist, she enjoys every aspect of care for this uniquely active population. Wendy learned a variety of new skills required to fit, communicate with, and educate adults living with limb loss compared to children. She strives to bring the energy and excitement of working with youth to the adults in her current clinic. She is often found smiling and laughing with patients, or taking a walk around the building to "test things out in the real world." She finds the biggest challenges adults with amputations face are their own fears or preconceived ideas about adapting to life with a prosthesis.
Wendy loves to empower patients and clinical staff at Hanger Clinic through education and recreation. She is an educator at the University of Utah, Hanger Clinic, and organizer of Utah Hanger Clinic Running/Mobility Clinics. She finds great satisfaction in helping clients learn to really thrive in life after their basic recovery from illness or injury.
In December 2017, Pedro accepted a position at Hanger Clinic as the AMPOWER National Coordinator. He now manages the AMPOWER Amputee Peer Support Program, which consists of a nationwide network of trained peer mentors who have successfully recovered and rehabilitated following an amputation. Mentors are available to speak face to face, over the phone, via Skype or FaceTime, through email or through a private, password-protected online web community.
A typical teenager in Brazil, Pedro studied and participated in sports with his friends. He enjoyed an extensive social life and healthy lifestyle until, suddenly, he began to feel sick on Sept. 11, 2009, and was admitted to a hospital to fight for his life.
Pedro had contracted a fatal form of meningitis that soared through his bloodstream. With slim chances that he would survive, nearly 100 of his closest friends and family took turns saying their goodbyes. Miraculously, Pedro left the hospital six months and two comas later, but with all of his limbs amputated above the elbows and knees.
People destined him to a life in the wheelchair, saying that no other amputee in his situation had successfully lived a life with prosthetics. Although frightened by this discouragement, Pedro knew that he did not want to spend the rest of his life with a wheelchair by his side.
He sought advice and guidance wherever it was available, determined to live independently. Just ten months after leaving the hospital, the strength he never knew he had emerged and he gave up the wheelchair never to sit in one again.
Today, Pedro lives independently in Florida using his prosthetics for mobility and practicality. He inspires anyone he comes across, and shows them the strength that exists in us all. Pedro demonstrates that we all have the power to overcome any situation in life.