Billy Parker: After Losing His Arms in an Accident, Former Welder Finds His Purpose by Promoting Workplace Safety
When a workplace accident resulted in the loss of both of his hands and arms above the elbow, former welder Billy Parker didn’t know what he would do. Thanks to custom hybrid prosthetics from Hanger Clinic, Billy began to relearn simple tasks and reclaim his independence. Now, Billy shares his story with others, demonstrating how he uses his body-powered and myoelectric prostheses to perform daily tasks–from opening a can of soda to putting gas in his truck. Through his videos, he wants to bring hope and motivation to others with upper limb loss.
In January 2007, Billy Parker’s life changed forever when he lost his hands and arms above the elbow in a welding accident at work. In the following days, Billy underwent numerous surgeries and soon realized he couldn’t do some of the simplest things in life, like pulling the blankets up, wiping the sleep from his eyes, or even hugging his son. He knew he had to do something.
Gaining Independence with Hybrid Prosthetic Arms
Billy decided to meet with upper limb prosthetic experts Aaron Royster, Bill Limehouse, and Carlos Garcia at the Hanger Clinic in Louisville, KY. “These guys came into my room and started talking to me about what I was going through, what my options were, and how to proceed from there,” he said. To make sure Billy could relearn as many tasks as possible and meet his goals as an active person, his prosthetists chose hybrid prosthetic arms, which incorporate body-powered elements, myoelectric technology, and Motion Control Electric Terminal Devices (ETD)–myoelectric hooks and electronic wrist rotators.
Moving Forward After Limb Loss
Although the customized combination of technologies helped him perform many of the same tasks he did before the accident, some things were different.
“I bought myself a welder a few years after the accident to prove to myself I still had the skill, but my passion for it had diminished,” he said. “I spent most of the next few years just learning about myself but felt like I wanted to do something more.”
Billy said his brother invited him to speak at his company about the accident that took his arms. Billy didn’t rehearse and wasn’t familiar with public speaking, but audience members came up to him afterward encouraging him to share his story.
“I started getting positive feedback and saw how much it was helping others. I knew it was where I was supposed to be, and that this was my new purpose I had been looking for.”
Billy eventually pursued public speaking full time, and even started his own company, Lending A Hand. He also teamed up with Moving Forward, a support group for people with limb loss, and has attended several national Hanger Clinic patient events, including EmpowerFest.
Billy said he remembers how lost he felt in the initial days and weeks after the accident, and he hopes he can ease the minds of others who may be facing limb loss, so he shares his story and advice on social media, too. “It’s helpful to talk to other amputees to get some insight on how to do things,” he said. “You won’t always do things the same as them, but you can start with help from them.” He regularly shares how-to videos on his YouTube channel.
“My best advice is what my mom always told me as a kid: where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you want to get to the point where you’re doing things on your own, you have to keep doing things, even if you need to take a break, whether for a few minutes or a few days, just keep coming back to it. Stay positive. Stay determined.”
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