Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Limb Loss Doesn’t Limit Active Life


By Dave Tompkins

Despite losing the lower portion of his left leg, Kyle May has discovered his life has become more active than before. The Peoria native was always involved in weight training and bicycling, but now has added running and scuba diving to his interests—thanks to the staff at Comprehensive Prosthetics and Orthotics.

“CPO puts a lot of time and effort into my prosthetic,” said Kyle. “When I decided I wanted to try scuba diving, they worked hard to put a flipper on it. I’m an avid bicyclist, so they attached a cleat to the pedal so I’m able to ride year round. Now I have a running leg, so I’m able to run again.”

None of this seemed possible ten years ago when he lost his leg in a work related accident. The Peoria native was working at American Allied Railway Equipment, a railway equipment yard which assembled and repaired railroad parts, such as brake systems, wheel sets, and axles. He operated an axle inspection booth when an axle fell late one night.

“I was in motion when it started to fall so I was pretty much out of the way,” explained Kyle. “It didn’t even break the skin, but it was an 1800 pound steel cylinder, so it crushed my leg just below my left knee.”

Kyle credits the Washington emergency medical services for helping him to deal with the pain and initial shock while getting him to St. Francis. There, doctors confirmed that there was little chance to save the leg, but Kyle was unable to give permission to amputate and neither his mother or brother were willing to, so they worked through the night to save what they could. Kyle awoke the following morning to medical specialists who gave him the cold facts: if he kept the leg there would be limited functionality, he would likely have to use a crutch or other assistive device, and cautioned possible risks of infection, or in a worse case, they may still have to amputate.

“I was dealing with post morphine and post anesthesia, so I was kind of joking when I told them ‘Don’t worry about it guys. I don’t need it anymore, ’” laughs Kyle. “Looking back, I think it was the best decision.”

From there, Kyle began learning as much as he could about his prosthetic options, and went to several area providers but felt most were more interested in getting another client than meeting his personal needs and getting to know him. When he went to CPO, he found they took a more personal approach.

“I met with Don (Goertzen) and he didn’t start off with selling himself as an amputee to get me to work with him,” said Kyle. “He wanted to know my expectations and he would make effective changes based on what I said.”

Kyle admits adjusting to life with a prosthesis is very trying—between getting sores and adjustments to correcting problems which caused hip and back pain. The results can easily lead to depression, but Don also encouraged Kyle to attend the American Coalition of Amputees’ national meeting in Georgia. The group provides amputees and their loved ones with advice and a listening ear in addition to connecting them to agencies to provide other assistance. The group helped him adjust to his new life and gave him the inspiration to accept the challenges with a new hope.

Kyle now credits the accident for giving him a different perspective on life and says it may actually be the best thing that happened to him. He is more grateful, no longer takes things for granted, and renewed his interest in staying active. Prior to the accident, he frequently lifted at Fitness America and he wanted to return. He credits his fitness with helping him recover from the accident, and he knew that with his new prosthetics, he could return to the gym to get back in shape.

“I went to the gym twice a day to lift because I wanted to feel ‘normal’ again,” said Kyle. “I began to talk to the staff and manager frequently about how to get fit and eventually they asked me if I would like to work for them. I began as a clean-up guy, then I managed the desk, and then I became a personal trainer. Now I am the operations manager for both the East Peoria, IL and Bartonville, IL branches.”
Supervising the two sites has given him a new direction in life as has caring for his two daughters and partner Danielle Hosick. For Kyle, CPO has made much of this possible.

“The CPO difference is the communication,” said Kyle. “They develop a relationship with you so you can understand how the prosthetic works and how it will work for you. They are very accommodating. A lot of time, they would have to work from scratch—that’s why their prosthetics as so effective for me.” 

CPO has more than 20 locations including offices in the Quad Cities, as well as the cities where the support groups meet. CPO offers innovation in prosthetics, orthotics, and pedorthics, with compassionate care and attentive customer service. You can learn more about Comprehensive Prosthetics and Orthotics, as well as find a directory of all of their locations, at www.cpousa.com.Call 309-283-0880 for more information.

Photo credit: Horsche /iStock