AJ Montgomery: Below-Knee Amputee Soars to New Heights in Las Vegas Acrobatic Show
Le Rêve, the name of the long-running aquatic/acrobatic show at the Las Vegas Wynn Hotel, means “The Dream.” And it certainly was a long-held dream of Andrew (AJ) Montgomery.
AJ aspired to be a member of the Le Rêve cast since first seeing the show. “I knew I had to be a part of it,” he said. Already very athletic, he focused on honing gymnastics, swimming, and acrobatics. In April 2015, he auditioned along with several hundred others undergoing tests of strength, endurance, and choreography. At the end of the day, he was among the handful still remaining and confident he would get the part.
But AJ’s dream soon turned into a nightmare. Four days after the audition while riding his motorcycle, he was hit by a reckless driver. He spent 2.5 weeks in the hospital and underwent three surgeries to save his badly injured leg. His doctor advised him that future surgeries would be necessary and the outcome less than positive. AJ was facing life with his foot completely fused together with zero articulation as well as the likelihood he would be in lifelong pain.
The second option offered to him was amputation, and it didn’t take long for AJ to agree to it.
“When I made the decision, I didn’t know what it would be like to be an amputee, and I didn’t know anyone who was an amputee. But I did know that people could do incredible things with a prosthesis. I knew they ran marathons, and I knew about the Paralympic Games where amputees show outstanding athletic ability. So even though I might not get to Le Rêve, I knew I could possibly run a marathon,” he said.
About a week after AJ was home from the hospital, Le Rêve’s casting director emailed him, offering condolences and tickets to the show. AJ accepted and what awaited him after the performance was a surprise he never expected. He was told that he could re-audition, and if he performed as he had the first time, he could be in the show.
“That re-lit my fire,” he said. He immediately began contacting prosthetists and explaining his goals. He essentially got the same message from all of them – that life was different now and he would have to adjust to it.
“I felt hopeless,” AJ said. “I had this amazing opportunity, but I had no way of getting there.” That was until he met the prosthetics team from Hanger Clinic.
Living, Dancing, Thriving
During the early stages of AJ’s care, Hanger Clinic’s VP of Lower Extremity Prosthetics Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP(D) and other clinical team members met with the CEO of Le Rêve, the visual director, dance coordinator, the show’s health department, costume department, and others, to get a good feel for AJ’s specific needs.
“Eight months after I took my first step in my prosthesis from Hanger Clinic and after much training and rehabilitation, I’m in the show, doing 10 shows a week, 500 shows a year and it’s great. I don’t get any special treatment. I do everything everybody else does,” AJ said.
Since the summer of 2015, Hanger Clinic has built AJ several custom prosthetic devices for use in different activities and makes modifications as needed to accommodate AJ’s needs for the show as his role evolves. Currently, AJ has several different feet components. One is a swim foot that allows AJ to perform activities in the water, and another has a hydraulic ankle with a large range of motion and planter flexion, enabling AJ to perform in the same manner and at the same level as his show counterparts.
Today, AJ is still in the show and is thriving as a prosthetic user. He travels the country speaking with limb loss patients and inspiring them with his story of hope and perseverance. As of 2019, he is also participating in a proof of concept for a new network-connected device designed to collect data on prosthetic usage and provide insights into patients’ mobility beyond the clinical setting.
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If you or someone you love are looking for personalized care following amputation, get in touch with a board-certified prosthetist at a Hanger Clinic near you.