Cycle accident doesn't curb amputee's need to feel the wind
"You either love cycles or you don't like them at all," emphatically stated Mary F. of Mechanicville. And for sure, Mary loves her newest Harley, a hot pink three-wheeler. "I can't drive a two-wheeler because I can't hold it up with my leg, so that's why I had to go with a trike," she said.
A trike is a new style of riding for Mary, who became an amputee after a horrific accident in August 2013. She was headed to her sister's house on her 2012 Harley Davidson Custom 1200 Sportster, when an inattentive driver sailed through a stop sign. It was a direct hit and Mary flew into the air, across two lanes of road, landed on the pavement and rolled into a culvert. Her leg was nearly severed and she was bleeding heavily.
"I looked up and saw the man who hit me was standing there and I kept asking him, please call 911, but he just stood there. I threw my helmet up to the street hoping somebody else would see it." Two good Samaritans, who Mary calls her angels, called 911 and followed instructions to apply a tourniquet, and stayed with her until help arrived.
As for the other driver, Mary thought he didn't react at first because he was in shock. "But as soon as police came he started talking to them, so we don't really know. He never contacted me to see how I was or anything else. But that's OK, I'm here. They didn't think I would live."
At Albany Med, she was amputated below the knee, and endured several surgeries to save the knee, but due to extensive tissue damage, doctors had to amputate further. She also was in recovery from a chipped hip bone, broken shoulder, broken ribs, torn spleen and tendons sticking out of her fingers. Through it all, Mary remained determined to work as hard as possible to resume her independent lifestyle she had before the accident. "I was bound and determined to do everything I could myself," she said. "I'm just one of those people who is not going to sit in a wheelchair.
"I worked hard at it and I've got it down pretty good," she said about learning how to walk in a prosthesis. "They were surprised at Sunnyview Rehabilitation that when they got me up and moving, I took right off."
To suit her active lifestyle, Bill Sampson, CP, fit her with the Harmony Elevated Vacuum System to manage volume loss and a C-Leg, a computerized knee which allows her to make adjustments depending on the type of activity she is engaged in.
Like many amputees, Mary experienced a lot of changes in her residual limb her first year, especially as she became more active and as her weight fluctuated during and after her hospital stays.
The Harmony System addresses the issue of volume changes causing the residual limb to be a different size and shape and therefore affecting the fit of the prosthesis. It reduces variations in limb volume through a total surface weight-bearing socket; a mechanical pump that draws air out of the system during normal walking; a sealing sleeve that makes an air-tight seal with the user's liner and body; an adjustable shock absorber; and a torsion adapter to increase walking comfort and relieve the strain on joints and the spine.
The components work together to create an elevated vacuum environment. The result for Mary is that the liner is drawn completely into the socket for a more intimate fit, allowing fluids to be more easily drawn back into the leg during each swing phase. This increases healthy fluid flow and maintains consistent limb volume to reduce forces on the limb.
"This vacuum socket is so much lighter and I have a much better gait," Mary said. "People tell me they couldn't tell I have an artificial limb. I wear jeans so I'm pretty proud of myself."
The C-leg also allows Mary to bicycle with her grandsons on trails around their homes. Getting back to dirt biking with them is another activity she hopes to do in the near future. "But I am back to swimming and driving," she said. "I go everywhere, to church, to the mall and I went camping with my sister. The only time I use the chair is first thing in the morning, late at night, and for going out to the pool."
Mary has nothing but praise for the care at Sampson's. "Bill is the best and if anybody has to get some type of prosthetic device, I recommend they go to him. The whole staff is just phenomenal. They know you by name, they call to check up on you, they are friendly and take such good care of you," she said.
Despite a remarkable recovery, after such a serious accident many people might give up the motorcycle for good, but not Mary.
Anyone who knows Mary knows that when she puts her mind to something she will do it. A black belt in Tai Kwon Do, she earned the nickname Thumper (like the Disney rabbit) because when she competed, she won all her matches. She took her moniker, Thumper, one step further with a tattoo as well as emblazoned on her Harley.
"I've been back on the motorcycle as a passenger and it just drives me crazy. I've never been one to ride on the back because I've always had my own. I don't like the feeling of having not having control," she said.
Indeed, Mary worked hard this past year to control her own destiny and is back to solo riding on her customized Harley trike. "It was a struggle, she said, "but that's OK, I'm still in the wind."
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