Howard Returns to Work as Garbage Truck Driver with Below-Knee Prostheses
Howard was hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia and placed into a medically induced coma. After two and a half months, he woke up to learn he would need both of his legs amputated below the knee to help save his life. A garbage truck driver, husband, and father of two, Howard was determined to walk, return to work, and show his family and friends the importance of never giving up.
Howard was recovering from a fracture in his left leg when he contracted Covid. He became very ill and was having trouble breathing, so his wife took him to the hospital. At first, he was sent home with an inhaler. After his conditioned worsened, Howard returned to the hospital.
“When I arrived at the hospital the second time, I was told I had a pneumonia along with Covid. They checked me into the hospital. My oxygen levels proceeded to drop under 40 multiple times. I am a type II diabetic, and my body wasn’t strong enough to fight of the pneumonia. I needed to be placed into a medically induced coma to help me survive. I called my family, my wife, and my mom, told them ‘I love you’ and that everything would be fine.”
Two and a half months later, Howard woke up from the coma.
“I saw my wife and a nurse when I first woke up. I couldn’t move my body, only my eyes. But I was thankful to still be alive.”
Path to Recovery
Howard spent the next three weeks on dialysis for 12 hours a day to help prevent his vital organs from shutting down, but his extremities did not fare so well. A surgeon came to examine Howard and told him he would need to amputate his legs below the knee.
“While I was in the hospital, I received a visit from Sam, a peer mentor with Hanger Clinic. She talked me through what life would be like after the amputation, how I could eventually be evaluated for below-knee prostheses. She gave me and my wife hope that I could get my life back again.”
After the amputation surgery, Howard spent months doing physical therapy to relearn everything again – how to swallow, chew, sit up, and eventually move himself around. Gradually, his body got stronger and stronger, until he was able to go home and continue his therapy from there.
“Rehabilitation and therapy were painful and hard, but I didn’t give up. I wore my shrinkers to help with the swelling after amputation surgery. When I was strong enough, I went to the Hanger Clinic in Sarasota, Florida to be evaluated for below-knee prostheses. That is when I met my prosthetist Tanith Forrester, CPO. She was so encouraging and told me I could have the life I wanted to live. All the staff at the Hanger Clinic were so nice, positive, and outgoing. Tanith fit me with my prostheses and encouraged me to attend EmpowerFest, where I met other people with limb loss and found my confidence once again.”
Howard’s family and friends were also by his side, supporting him through his recovery.
“My wife, children, and mom were by my side through it all. My trainer, Ty, came to visit me after I lost my limb and told me he was going to help me get out of my wheelchair. I tried to remain strong, but it was hard. I went from being the provider for my family to being dependent on them. Ty helped me find my inner strength and become physically stronger.”
Howard gradually regained his balance, learned to walk with walking crutches, and then began walking on his own.
Returning to Work
Prior to his illness and limb loss, Howard supported his family working as a residential garbage truck driver.
“After hearing about my gradual recovery, my boss came by to check on me. I asked if there was any opportunity for me to return to work, even if it was in a different capacity. I wanted to provide for my family again and regain my independence. I started working in the office, filing, and catching up on paperwork. After a couple of weeks, I moved to the dispatch office for about three to four months. Then, I told them I was ready to get back on the garbage truck. I am now riding in the truck and learning front-end commercial trash service, which has been a lot different than residential trash service. I am just weeks away from driving the truck with my prosthetic legs. My journey to get to this point has been incredible.”
Prostheses and Employment
In the study “Gender, Geography, and EMployment Differences Based on Mobility Levels Among Lower Limb Prosthesis Users Living in the United States”, researchers with the Hanger Institute found that being employed can have a positive impact on mobility levels.
National Employment Disability Month
National Employment Disability Month is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of workers with disabilities and importance of including them in the workplace.
“I am fortunate to have a village of people who stand by me and an employer who supports my contributions. I just take it one day at a time. I feel so fortunate to have my job and all the positive people I am around. I am thankful to be alive, and that I’m able to work hard and enjoy life.”
Request a Free Evaluation
If you or someone you love is looking for personalized care following amputation, get in touch with a board-certified prosthetist at a Hanger Clinic near you.
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