I spoke with Franklin, recently to find out his story and hear what he thinks of 50Legs. Franklin’s story started several years ago when he was still living in his native home of Jamaica. He was a married construction worker with two children at the time who loved to ride his motorcycle when it was nice out. One afternoon, Franklin got off early and he forgot his helmet in his Boss’s car, but rode home anyway. On his way home a truck, going 70 MPH, came out of the line of traffic and struck him. He was badly beaten up. His head was bleeding, he had multiple contusions and he had a lot of damage to his leg. In Franklin’s words “I should have been dead…”
When Franklin got out of the hospital, his wife tried to help as best she could to get money for the family, but Franklin ultimately still had to work. He put all of his savings into finding a way to cure his leg or get a better leg to work with. He bravely went to Panama to work for a company and get a leg in Panama. Once there he was happy to have a leg so that he could work again, but the prosthesis was never customized correctly and was painful. Still Franklin had a growing family. Now a family of four struggling to make ends-meet he continued doing any side projects he could as well as continuing construction with a painful leg. He had no choice to keep food on the table for his family. Franklin began to lose hope of ever getting a leg that fit him properly and began to think that he would never be able to work the way he used to again.
He and his wife decided to move to America and give it one last shot to find good healthcare and a good place for their family to settle. Franklin went through the immigration process and couldn’t work for several months due to rules within the immigration system. He didn’t have enough money or insurance to help him get the medical care he needed. One night, he was out with his friend talking about how he is in so much pain and can’t do what he used to do anymore. His friend mentioned 50Legs. “Why don’t you try 50Legs,” he said. Franklin, who had lost all hope at this point, said, “There must be a catch. No way someone would help me for free. There’s always a catch with these things.”
His friend told him there is no catch. “Let’s just fill out an application and see what happens.” Franklin’s friend told him as he pulled up the computer. Franklin applied to 50Legs and Tiffany, 50Legs’ director, got back with him right away about getting his leg. Franklin was overjoyed! He was finally going to get fitted properly and would now be able to provide for his family the way he wanted.
I asked Franklin what he thought of 50Legs after being so skeptical about the nonprofit organization. “I love 50legs. That a place like this even exists is amazing to me. It proves to me that there are still good people out there. People willing to help others. It gives me hope.”
I told Franklin that’s a profound statement and asked him why he was so skeptical in the first place. He told me “It’s hard to trust people. Especially after dealing with so many people that just want money or want something in return. It makes you wary of people. I had a hard time trusting people for many years.” I told Franklin that’s very understandable and asked him what he felt when Tiffany contacted him about his application. Franklin replied, “I feel like I have a chance. God gave me a second chance to try and do something. Do something great with my life.” Ultimately Franklin received the best gift of all from 50Legs: Hope. The leg was a nice touch, but hope was the greatest gift.
Franklin has hope that he will be able to start working the way he wants to again and be able to provide for his family and others who need help. Currently, at 42-years-young he does light construction, mechanics, makes jewelry and furniture. The well-rounded Franklin is now able to play with his kids better, provide for his family better and do all of the outdoor activities he has been missing out on. His entire life changed for the better and he is proud to say that 50LEGS is a huge part of that.
“Where to begin…….As you know, Zoe lost her left leg on Easter Sunday 2011 in a jet ski accident and has endured 16 surgeries and over the course of 14 months spent 92 days at Tampa General. Life for us has been challenging to say the least. During the initial hospital stay (8 weeks) my employer of 7 years was unable to keep my job open for me. That was very difficult as I am the primary source of income for our family as my husband, Charles is disabled by Parkinson’s Disease. Since Zoe’s accident we have been very blessed by amazing support from friends, family and our community, both emotionally and financially. I can honestly say that meeting Steve has been our biggest blessing! The financial support of 50 Legs has provided opportunities for Zoe that we would not have been able to do otherwise. Because of 50 Legs, Zoe was able to attend a camp in North Carolina specifically for amputee children. It was an amazing, life-changing adventure for her! But the biggest blessing of all was when 50 Legs provided an Echelon Blade Foot for Zoe that has the spring-action she needed to play her beloved sport of Volleyball again! She has since made the Varsity Volleyball team for her high school! We are so proud of her determination and so very thankful for the support of 50 Legs! We would never have been able to afford this specialized foot for her. God is working mightily through Steve Chamberland and 50 Legs! Words cannot describe how appreciative and thankful we are to all the supporters of this wonderful charity!
OK…..now I am going to go cry again! Hope this is ok……can’t wait to see the new website!”
Susan - Zoe’s mom
My name is Carlos De Luna A 50 LEGS FAMILY MEMBER. I Lost my right leg below the knee in a work accident. On July the 9 of 2014 I finished digging a pool on top of a mountain so I started to haul the dirt out when the Dumptruck I purchased a month prior to the accident the air brakes went out it was a 50/50 chance so I decided to take my own life course so I jumped when i jumped I didnt jump far enough so the dump truck ran over me and took my leg. I seen a commercial with Amy Purdy I seen her dancing with out her true limbs. So I looked on the internet to see who made her legs it turns out POA made her prosthetics. I called POA, I talked to Ronnie I sent him pictures of me still working and he told me that 50 legs could and did help me. Iam not a religious man, I do believe in GOD, I do believe in blessings and 50 legs are blessings might as well be called 50 plus blessings. Gracias Steve, Gracias Tiffany, Gracias 50 legs I truly cant say enough about the 50 legs family all I can say is THANK YOU KEEP UP THE GOOD DEEDS I LOVE YOU GUYS i will bust my ass of so that my actions will speak for the good that 50 legs means to me THANKS AGAIN I AM A PROUD 50 LEGS FAMILY MEMBER ILL DO MY PART TO HELP 50 LEGS SHINE THAT MUCH BRIGHTER THANKS AGAIN.
Hi my name is Carlos L. Morales and I’m from Cleveland TN. On September 7, 2015 I had a lung infection that required the doctors in ICU to put me on a induced coma. I was 33 days in that coma and it cause my blood pressure to be extremely low. In order to get my blood pressure back to normal levels the doctor used a strong medication that help to solve the blood pressure problem but as a side effect it started a dry gangrene on my feet and my hands. On December 5 2015 I got amputated and it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I used to play soccer and do workout regularly and also work standing on my feet all day. I was depressed and hopeless but my wife knew that there was somebody willing to help people like me. She started searching for foundations and asking people if they knew about anywhere or anybody able to help me. After a few weeks of search she found out about 50 legs and I started to gain a little bit of hope. We made contact with Tiffany from 50 legs and in no time she got our flight schedule and a hotel booked. At that moment I realized that I was going to be able to get back to normal. In February 15 2016 we arrived at Orlando Fl and thanks to 50 legs and PAO I went back home to TN walking. After 6 months I had to go back to POA to get my prostetics refitted and one more time 50 legs was willing to help me and again in matter of weeks they had my flight scheduled and hotel booked. August 21 2016 I arrived at Orlando Fl and September 1 2016 I was back in Tennessee with my refitted prostesis. Now I walk and do most of my daily stuff by myself. I’m back at work wich I thought was going to be impossible. But I was wrong, it was possible. And all that plus many other things that are about to happen in my life, new adventures, new opportunities are going to be possible thanks to 50 legs and their kindness.
Oct 2005 mister Morrow you have a mixiod lipoid sarcoma, in your lower rt leg, 35 treatments of radiation later they, cut the tumor out + half of my calf and Achilles tendon, so my foot no longer works. 1-1/2 yrs. Later I still have tremendous pain and a 1 ½ w X 7’ long hole in the bone of my leg and the threat of cancer in bone, 6 total bone biopsies that year, I had to wear Bledsoe brace all the time so my foot won't bend. 2007 Debbie (Angel/wife/friend/life) and I decided to chop my leg off and doctors agreed, up to this time I still worked as a sheet metal project manager. My HMO covered the Cancer items, but after amputation I found out I don't have any coverage for what’s next! 3 days after my leg was removed the insurance company refused rehab and I was forced back to work 13 days after amputation. I worked with 1 leg for 8 months, then got laid off in Oct 2008. Mid-way thru 2008, after amputation, I got my first leg, which insurance only paid $1,000. I had to come up with the rest $15,000…So I sold my 2001 Road King (tears) and boat. The leg that was recommended by (company to be un-named) was hydraulic manual and socket was wet fit suction that never fit right. Insurance sent me to sports rehab, which did not seem to understand amputee challenges. 2011 I get SSDI Medicare, finally I can go to real rehab and can afford to get new socket, But now I am 310 lbs, so I go on diet and go to Y and lose 60 lbs, I get down to 246 lbs and get new socket, that is still not comfortable, they say I will shrink into it, so off I go for 32 visits to rehab. Socket is terrible and leg is hard to use with socket hurting, my cardio is down from no activity, 6 to 8 months and all I can do is walk with 2 arm crutches for 50’ and then die!!
2013 I am about over this!!! Then I see Steve Chamberland and 50 Legs.org on TV, and reach out to say what a great job to help kids, and think I would like to help .We go back and forth with messages and calls and we get to be fiends, He is always pushing me to go to POA and Stan, but my Ins won’t cover,
Jan 10, 2014 a Friday, Steve calls me and says he is tired of me not getting the right needs and he is taking me to POA Monday and NO is not in this conversation. So Monday Jan 13, 8:30, I met Steve at POA and we went thru that LIFE CHANGING DOOR, I was blown away at the facility and then by Stan his team and also the other amputees, Life was back!!!!! That day Stan and his team, casted and fabricated on site, my new socket, 3hrs later I was in a socket that fit like a leather glove and standing on my old leg and walking down parallel bars no problem I thought, but it was not good enough for Stan and Steve, they said I need a C-Leg. I am sitting there in awe and thinking my Insurance won’t cover and I know they cost $60,000 +. I look over and Stan and some guy in a wheel chair are talking and pointing at me, the guy in the wheel chair rolls over and says, Hi! I am John and Stan tells me you need a C-leg, and says He is donating his 3 yr. old hardly used (as in worn twice) to me cause he just got a new one from his insurance, WOW I was floored!!!! So Stan puts the C-leg on my new socket and I instantly fall in LOVE, it was unreal, a socket that was comfortable and a leg that would get me where I should have been 4 or 5 yrs. ago. “I saw GOD that day“, as the saying goes. The next 4 weeks were AWESOME, I have gotten up to 100’ft+ in walking, 6 to 8 hrs. a day of wearing the new leg. I wake up wanting to put leg on and to walk. 50 Legs, Steve, and the POA team, having given me a gift beyond words or money. They have given me my Life, Wife, and the chance to thrive.
Steve Morrow and Family. Wrote a poem in 2007, just before amputation.
About nine years ago, I sat in a small honky-tonk country bar in
Orlando, FL on a Saturday night.
When along came a beautiful angel, that asked me to dance.
We danced the night away and a connection was made,
A start of a relationship was well on its way.
Over the years, I’ve danced with my angel both
Good dances and bad, and usually the bad dances were me
Stepping on my angels toes.
But my angel would not complain and wouldn’t let anybody know.
Right now my angel and I are dancing,
The most difficult dance of our life,
and as always my angel is leading,
being strong and being my wife.
*Dedicated to DEBBIE LOVE STEVE*
My name is Dave and I’m a BMX rider. I’ve been riding BMX for thirteen years. I’m twenty five years old and I ride motorcycles. Taking a step back to my childhood I always dreamed of having a motorcycle, my dad had cool Harleys, and now has the newer models.
I went for my first motorcycle ride when I was seven years old and since then I wanted a bike. One month out of high school I got my first motorcycle, I was nineteen years old. I started as a wanna be biker and some would say why are you wearing skateboarding clothes? In high school I was responsible and didn’t drink, I was afraid of the consequences that may result from drinking and driving. My senior year in high school I went to a reenactment of a alcohol related accident. It was a situation where some drunk high school kids got into an accident and their friends were hurt. I was to go back and warn my classmates what may happen if you drink and drive or are under the influence of drugs while operating a motor vehicle; this was just before Prom.
Fast forward six years and just over a hundred thousand miles, I’ve been to some awesome places on two wheels. My second year of riding motorcycles I rode to Sturgis for one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the world. Man was that amazing, a dream come true riding a Harley almost across the country and I did it by myself. I met up with some family friends that went out there and had the time of my life. I've been to the sunshine in the south, the beautiful crisp mountains of the New England states, the Smokey Mountains, but the west was the best when I went to Yellow Stone National Park. I camped and rode for eleven days straight; no motels.
What is the most important thing in life? Family? Friends? Health? Materialistic things? A good Job? I care about being independent and supporting friends and family. It took me a while to become an electricians apprentice but I didn’t give up on what I truly wanted. On August 17, 2014, I was out for a little ride with my buddy Gabe, a good dude I used to work with. Nice day about - 75 degrees and we cruised along the Lake Erie shores and on into Pennsylvania. Gabe and I debated on which way to go while looking at a map.
Gabe was always a safe rider, always staying back pretty far in case of an emergency. I was cruising along on my bike and thought, oh crap this person is swerving! I’ll just hug the white line and this person will correct himself; probably on the cell phone. Unfortunately the guy driving was three times the legal limit; beyond drunk. This guy hit me pretty much head-on and I flew through the air. When I woke up I was going to tell the person what an idiot they were but I couldn’t get up? Why? Well I checked myself and it was a gory sight. A lot of thoughts on how this would be fixed. I was in pain, denial, and confused. That Sunday on August 17, I nearly lost my life. Then a lady named Amy, who I’ve never met until then, started to pray for me; that's when I knew it was serious. I guess I was in fear for my life; I asked Amy to please hold my hand, and she did. An off duty state trooper and a 15-year United States Marine tied a tourniquet around my right leg.
I was life flighted to the hospital and six hours later and a ton of prayers, I woke up in an ICU. There were hands on my shoulder and hoses coming out of my mouth and they told me, Mr.Klar "We had to amputate your leg above the knee.” What? With tears in my eyes, I thought I'm not going to walk my dog again. My mom was at the door of the ICU and said someone wants to see you. Ughhh……. although it was a beautiful sight it was my caring, camping, lovable friends Matt and Tammy. I'm broken what will come of this?
Through boring somewhat silly hospital stay I was urged to go with a certain prosthetic company whom I’ve heard some crappy stuff about. No doctor, I’m not going with them! They are no good! Besides an amputee told me in physical therapy they heard of 50legs. So I looked up some info and found out 50legs patients get their prosthetic care at POA. WOW! POA, where all the active amputees go! Maybe I'll give it a try! I honestly gave it some serious thought. I talked to Steve at 50legs and he told me his story and explained about POA. Then we had an understanding and a few chuckles. He’s a biker, he’ll make me feel comfortable.
Then came the days at POA. I’m scared, how the hell is this going to work? I talked with some others with limb loss they made me a bit more comfortable. I tried to be tough. I went to the gym with a walker before POA; my twin brother pushed me to be strong and my parents made me work for my own. My dad taught me the value of hard work. I carried on and listened to the great people at POA. Steve is responsible for me arriving at the prosthetic clinic and a comfortable stay in Orlando. This is kinda funny, on my third day of being fitted and walking a little bit in the parallel bars, my prosthetist Ronnie had me walk with crutches for 2 minutes and told me I could leave. "What!? You're not going to hold my hand?", I said jokingly. Ronnie showed me the stairs and I was off; trial and error here we go.
I left POA with crutches, with practice, and determination. I got to walk with a cane but that only lasted two days and I left the cane behind the couch. My twin came on Christmas Day and I walked one mile without assistance. With even more determination I walked two separate 5ks. With the help of everyone at 50legs they made my dreams and goals come true, by giving me the gift of walking again, and my freedom of independence. 50legs also gave me hope to walk with my dog Ruger again. Ruger is kinda afraid of the prosthetic but she stays by my side. This is not the end of my story; so many more accomplishments to come! NO EXCUSES!!
Jack lost his right forefoot in a lawn mower accident when he was just four years old. We were devastated when the accident happened but Jack was a real trooper. There were some really rough times but Jack always found a way to laugh at some point in the day. He was up and going in a walking cast as soon as he was put in one. His first prosthetic foot worked out well and within a year and two months post accident he was winning his first baseball championship trophy! We were thrilled with his progress. Little did we know then, that would be the best prosthetic experience we’d have for years. Problems with fittings were never ending from that point on. We went to four different prosthetics offices in five years and kept being turned over to different prosthetists over and over. Jack was opting out of anything that involved being on his feet and it was leaving him depressed and withdrawn. As a form of therapy, we started trying to raise awareness about lawn mower accidents. Within a few short weeks of he and I just talking about his accident more openly through social media and in our personal lives, we were put in touch with people that would forever change our lives. The Bainters had also been trying to raise awareness about lawn mower accidents after their son was also injured. They put a call out, so to speak, for other families with similar tragedies to gather and film a public service announcement. I was on board right away! Jack needed to know that he wasn’t alone so very badly and this felt like pure divine intervention! Fate had stepped in and created a path and I had to go down it. We went to Orlando for the filming and met so many other families that had gone through the same experience that we had. It was so overwhelming to see all of these kids playing without a care in the world after varying times of us parents not always seeing that! As parents we shared our stories and our experiences and knowledge. It was the first time Jack had met any other amputee kids at all and the first time I really got to speak with parents of kids that had very similar injuries as Jack. Many of the kids that we met there went to POA in Orlando for their prosthetics. The Bainters son, for one, went there and one of the kids even worked there! It was very awesome to meet Rick Schultz, who was injured by a lawn mower as a child and grew up to be an amazing prosthetist. I was very curious about how the other kids were doing with their prosthetics because Jack was having so many problems. I hadn’t lost all hope but I wanted see. Was constant pain just a part of being an amputee? As a non amputee parent of an amputee, these things can be hard to figure out. Ricky was fully confident that he could fit Jack in a prosthetic that was pain free and told me about 50 Legs. In no time at all we were flying to Orlando, once again, to POA courtesy 50 Legs to be fitted for a badly needed foot. At the time Jack couldn’t walk a mile without severe pain. In four days time POA had made him a new foot that he absolutely loved! Another friend that we had met at the filming gave us guest passes to Disney World to test out the new foot and Jack walked over eight miles!! The day after getting a new foot!! He wasn’t in pain the next day and walked more! This was insane! I hadn’t seen him up and going this much in three years! So much has changed for him. He wears his foot all the time now and nearly every teacher at his school has made a point to reach out to me and tell me how big of a difference they see in him all around. The confidence that 50Legs has given him has given him the power to change the world! I will be forever thankful of all that 50 Legs and POA has done for us!
From Jack's Mom
Gabby is a beautiful, vibrant, exciting, silly, fun loving teenager. She is 16 now and recently got her drivers permit! She loves to be social, hang out with her friends and her Mom is definitely always by her side, guiding and supporting her as needed. Our compliments to Shannon, Gabby’s mom for being super pro-active! Gabby lost her leg in a boating accident in early 2011. Matt Bailey, Prosthetist for Florida O&P was called to consult with the family while gabby was still in ICU to explain to them how life would change for Gabby and her family. For the next few months Gabby had to go through many surgeries to both of her legs and has yet to overcome so many obstacles in such a short time. Just a few months after becoming a below the new amputee, Matt made her first leg and soon she was back in high school, and also attended amputee camp where she water skied, climbed trees and walked the rope bridge. Because of her love of the water and her high activity level, she wears out her prosthetic sleeves and liners at lightning speed, this is something that most insurance have yearly specific limitations of coverage. But thanks to the donations from 50 Legs, who supplied Gabby with extra sleeves, liners, socks (for both everyday prosthesis and swim leg) and foot components and Matt Donating his design, time and materials, they made a great tag team. Water activities such as showering or going or going to the beach, swimming, boating and most importantly having fun hanging out with her friends and enjoying life! It touches all of our hearts, (especially Matt and Steve) when we see Gabby with all of her toe nail polish, her leg and ankle all “blinged up” and loving her teenage years with her family and friends.
Thank you 50 Legs for caring enough to go the extra mile and help these young kids out with their extra needs so that they can make the most of their young years!
Matt Bailey, LPO, FAAOP of Florida O&P Services
I had the pleasure of speaking to one of our 50Legs family members, Naudy. Naudy is an amazing person whose amputation is a rarity. He has had an amputation above the knee- taking his whole leg from him. There is a 10% chance in the USA of having a full leg amputation. It is extremely uncommon and what’s more uncommon is that in the USA a cancer amputation is 1% of all amputations per year according to the Amputation Coalition website. Naudy told me he had an Osteosarcoma of the leg. This is a tumor within your bone that can spread to the rest of your body if not handled appropriately.
Naudy’s story started when he was just 19-years-old and a freshman in college. At first he noticed a bump on his knee, but nothing was painful so he chucked it up to being a random bump. The bump grew until his knee was completely swollen like a football. Finally, although still not painful, he thought he should go to a doctor. The doctor told him he had an osteosarcoma and as a result he had to stop his college career to get chemo-treatments. His parents tried everything to save his leg-from conventional medicine to holistic medicine. Finally, against his parents’ wishes, Naudy elected to have an amputation done. It was a defining moment in Naudy’s life. At first the doctors told him that they would only take half of his femur, but when he woke up they had taken everything. Naudy told me,
“It was a weird feeling to wake up and think there was nothing there at all…it felt like my leg was numb…like I could still use my feet and toes, but nothing physically was there. It was a numb feeling for a long time there…almost like your arm falls asleep.” The doctor told him that unfortunately they had to take the whole leg for fear of the cancer spreading and even after the amputation he had to go through more chemo treatments. Naudy originally was given a prosthesis that holds him by the stomach and gives him a leg to walk on. However, Naudy found it very difficult to walk with, because it was too heavy for him. Not only was it heavy, but it hurt. It was physically painful and the few times he did use it, the prosthesis broke. He finally gave up on ever having anything close to a leg again. He consistently used crutches for 15 years.
Naudy was talking to his friend one day and his friend was helping him look for place to help Naudy find a better prosthesis. He had gotten use to crutches, but it was time to learn how to walk again. 50Legs was one of the choices and his friend looked into the organization. They learned about the partnership between 50Legs and POA. Naudy was nervous because he didn’t know what to expect. He got a call back right away from 50Legs, something he would have had to have waited months to years for at other organizations. He was shocked, but happy at the same time. When he went to POA to get his prosthesis and learn to walk he was still a little unsure of what to expect with the process. A POA worker, John, showed him a video of someone just like himself walking with the prosthesis Naudy was there to get. John explained that it’s going to be tough to learn balance again with this, but you will be able to walk like this man in the video.
Naudy told me, “Everyone at POA is so nice and they make you feel like you are family. Everyone there is laughing and having a good time. It’s not like a hospital at all. They even bring in dogs to the physical therapy area. Where else can you get that?” Naudy also explained to me that he is still getting use to his prosthesis, because he was on crutches for so long it’s hard to get used to walking again.
“My balance is off…I realized that I forgot how to walk. I forgot how to synchronize my arms with my legs. I forgot that you even need to move your arms to walk…I’m getting use to this again.” We chatted about this for a while and decided that it’s like when you ride a bike. When you are learning to ride a bike without training wheels it’s hard to balance and get the hang of it. It’s the same thing with getting a new leg. It’s something that takes time and practice to get used to again. Despite all the adversity Naudy is bravely learning to walk again.
Since he had been through so much I asked him if there is one thing he could tell a person going through the same thing he went through and what it would be?
“There’s a lot. There are many things I would tell them, but I guess I would tell them not to be afraid. Do not fear. Sometimes when people get this diagnosis they fear and that’s what holds you up. When I had my second chemo therapy there was a little kid who had the same diagnosis as me. The doctor wanted me to talk to him about the amputation process. I never got a chance to talk to him. I asked the doctor one day what happened to the kid. The Doctor told me he’s dead. His parents were scared of amputation and so was he and so he just died. It’s not a matter of what you are going to lose when you lose an arm or a leg or hand you need to think about how you are going to do what you used to do again. You can adapt to almost anything. You only have to try. It’s not a matter of what you can’t do, but how you can adapt to do things.”
While Naudy is learning to walk again and adapting to his new prosthesis we both want everyone reading this to know it’s better to be here than not to be here at all. Don’t let fear hold you back. Just like trying to ride a bike it can be scary at first, but in the end it’s nothing to be scared about. It’s something to be embraced.
“It was my pleasure to see Ashley for an evaluation today. She is a 23 year old college student with long congenital right below knee amputation. She is very active: walks all over college campus, trains at the hospital chases down her 3 year old son and enjoys everyday normal activities. She likes to run, but is limited because of the fit of her prosthesis. she would like to be able to dance with her friends when they go out. Her prosthesis was made when she was still swollen from her pregnancy, and is just too big for her now. Her present prosthesis is 3 years old and the gel liners are cracked up and shot. Ashley needs a new prosthesis, but has no funding. We are going to seek out help and try to get her a prosthesis any way we can. We will call her back when we have a solution to the funding.”
Matt Bailey, LPO, CPO, FAAOP of Florida O&P Services
Last August I was lying in bed at the station. It was 3:00 A.M. I couldn't sleep. I was worried. I knew I could not change into my gear fast enough. My leg was shrinking and I had a pretty good size blister on the bottom of my limb. I was wearing close to 15 ply’s and I was still lose in my socket. I had already padded the entire socket. I remembered my social worker from my Amputation had told me about an organization called 50 legs. . I didn't know anything about them. I looked them up and saw the application for assistance. I wrote my story and sent some pictures. I spent the night tossing and turning. I never expected that I would get a response but it was worth a shot. Little did I know my life was about to change.
About a month later I got a call from Tiffany the fundraising coordinator from 50 legs stating that I had been selected and Ronnie Dixon my new Prosthetist was going to call me. She said we only use one prosthetic company POA because we know they are the best. Tiffany told me the story of how 50 Legs was started.
In 1997 Steve Chamberland lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in Massachusetts. Fast forward to 2011 Steve Chamberland and Jimmy Hart, aka Mouth of the South, were helping a friend open an Under Armour store in Georgia. Before traveling someone told Steve about a little girl named Anaiah who had recently lost her leg saving her sister from an oncoming car. Anaiah and her family did not have the resources to afford a Prosthetic. Steve made a few phone calls and had a leg donated for her. Upon presenting the little girl with a leg Jimmy looked at Steve and said, "you have found your calling". That day they decided they would donate 50 legs to 50 people in 50 days. Little did they know the amount of money it would take and that giving 50 legs in 50 days was virtually impossible. But Steve stayed committed and didn’t stop at 50 people. In 2015 they were able to help 53 amputees obtain prosthetics. 50 legs is located just outside of Tampa FL and they have 3 board members as well as Steve, the founder, and Tiffany, the fundraising coordinator. Tiffany then stated she was going to have Ronnie Dixon call me. It was a few days later Ronnie called me. I was so excited I just began telling him my story. He listened and said, "this is what we are going to do". He said 50 legs was going to fly me to Florida and build me two brand new legs. He also said we will do some climbing on our wall. Ronnie is a Prosthetist with POA, an above the knee Amputee and world class climber. I was floored. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was so worried it was a prank I had my wife call Tiffany. Tiffany assured my wife that this was legitimate. It took about a month before POA could see me. My prosthetic was causing more issues by the day. The time passed like I was a child again. I could not leave fast enough. In October the day finally arrived.
50 legs flew my wife and me to Florida and put me up in a very nice hotel that works with 50 legs. I was nervous. The next day of course I got lost and was panicked because I was late. I called POA and they gave me directions from my location. When I walked in I was floored by the facility. It was a giant room with a gym and 2 climbing walls. It was filled with Amputees. All of them were exchanging stories and I joined in. It was also great to see the family members mingle. Within minutes Ronnie came over and introduced himself. Ronnie is a prosthetist who is an above the knee Amputee and world class climber. I was casted for a custom liner, Tiffany showed up and Steve Chamberland was in the house. He was a very charismatic outgoing happy go lucky guy. He told me "we are going to take care of you. Don't worry these guys are the best”. Steve invited me to a fundraising event in Tampa Bay. We were not going to miss that. The next day I was casted for a check socket and it was built that day. Ronnie was a pleasure as usual. The next day I went to the event, which was a strong man contest. I spent the day with some of the 50 legs family. My check socket was hurting a little and Steve reassured me not to worry. I had a wonderful day hanging with members of the 50 leg family. Tiffany and Steve made sure we felt like part of the family. The Tampa Bay event was Saturday and POA had advised me to come back Sunday.
I went back to POA Sunday and Stan the owner met me at the door. He had come in on a Sunday just to help me. I was floored. They did some tweaking that I had never seen before. They used technology that was truly state of the art. Long story short I got 2 new legs one for everyday and one for my fire gear. I was in Orlando ten days and every day Ronnie, Stan and the staff worked to make that leg perfect. I left amazed and humbled beyond words.
Once back home I returned to work. My leg felt great. I was able to change into my gear in under a minute and life was grand. I couldn't thank these folks enough. I met some other 50 legs people on line. One caught my eye his name was Dave Klar. I saw he was climbing in a gym and I had an idea. I could give back a little by inviting him to Colorado for a climbing trip. I told him about an adaptive climbing event with Paradox sports and told him I would pick him up at the airport and teach him to climb rock and ice. I called Tiffany and asked if I could put 50 legs on a climbing jacket. Tiffany was very receptive and sent me a logo. I had two coats embroidered, one for my wife and one for myself. The trip could not come soon enough. In February I picked Dave up at the airport. We immediately hit it off. We spent the next ten days rock and ice climbing. We attended the Paradox event in which I was the featured speaker. My presentation was a hit and my 50 Legs experience blended perfectly into my presentation. Dave Klar's prosthetic set up from 50 legs worked great. Dave is an AK who lost his leg when he was hit by a drunk driver on his motorcycle. Dave rocked it on the ice. He was able to climb the entire trip without any leg issues. I climbed proudly in my 50 legs jacket. Dave and I had a blast together. It was a sad day when he left. I had made a great friend and I was going to miss him. I spent the next month working and climbing at the Ouray ice park. My wife and I always wore our 50 legs coats with pride while climbing. Many asked us about the organization and we always took the time to fill them in. I trained non stop. Working and the climbing. Resting was not an option at this time. I never had one leg issue. This was almost unheard of considering I was always in my prosthetic. If I wasn't working I was climbing. I had looked at this amazing climb Ames Ice Hose for years. I spent my off days training at the Ouray ice park in hopes to attempt the climb. Dan Chehayl the ice park manager worked with me and said, “Jeff you can do it.”
Short staffed at work I worked a 72 hour shift. I was exhausted. I had worked back to back codes and sadly lost two patients. I had one day to rest. I told my wife I think I am too tired and my head is just not in the game. I went to bed at noon. I woke up for dinner and my wife said “you are going to do this climb. “I went back to bed skeptical. The next morning my wife woke me up at 3:00 A.M. My gear was packed and my clothes were laid out. I was going. At 7:00 A.M I drove up to Ames and met my partner Dan Chehayl the Ouray ice park manager. I told him it may take me a while to hike in. To my amazement I hiked in quickly with my leg. We arrived at the climb and it was beyond intimidating. The ice was brittle and the conditions difficult. It took us 7 hours to climb the hose. It took us 13 hours car to car. It was the most difficult climb of my life but with an amazing prosthetic and 50 legs help I achieved my goal. As far as we know I am the first Amputee to climb the hose.
Back at work 9 days later I had already worked another 72. I wrote a report and took a break to message Tiffany about the climb. She asked me if I could write about my experience and I humbly accepted. On my third 72 in two weeks I had climbed the hose, worked 136 hours and rode my fastest time at our local mountain biking trail. The trail is a world class biking trail called Phil's world. After a long day I settled in waiting for tones to drop and started writing. The story was simple. 50 legs and POA had not only built my legs, they had given me my life back. They kept me working and I truly had conquered dreams I never expected. Another thing they were right about was POA being the best. Thank you Steve and Tiffany for making my dreams come true. I can't say enough great things about 50 legs. I can say that I never would have accomplished so much without the help of this great nonprofit. This group has helped a lot of people especially kids. Steve is Amazing with kids. You would have to see it to believe it. I am just humbled beyond words to be part of the 50 legs family.
Breezy grew up the youngest of five children, waiting anxiously for her turn to play soccer as all of her older siblings did. Her entry into the world of competitive soccer was short lived when she was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, at the age of nine. Three months after her diagnosis, and shortly after her 10th birthday, Breezy had her left leg amputated above the knee to ensure the best chance of survival.
Returning to soccer would not be in Breezy’s future, but her competitive spirit spurred her strong desire to learn how to walk with a new prosthetic. Breezy quickly adapted to her “new normal”, and her ability to walk with a prosthetic led to her even stronger desire to learn how to run and get back to living a life of athletic activity as she had always known.
While Breezy did receive a wonderful gift of a running leg, her rapid growth over the next couple of years would leave us with two different systems. She had different sockets, liners and locking systems for her walking and running leg, with the transition process making it hard to participate to her ability during school PE (her favorite subject). In addition, she was experiencing difficulty in keeping either of her prosthetics secured, and she always seemed to be battling painful rashes under her prosthetic liners.
During the summer of 2015 before Breezy entered eighth grade, we were blessed to have 50 Legs and POA come into our lives. A close friend, who knew first hand Breezy’s frustrations and daily struggles, recommended Breezy speak with 50 Legs, and from first contact we knew Breezy found salvation! Tiffany at 50 Legs was so helpful in understanding what Breezy needed, and getting approval to help Breezy with everything needed to make this happen, and in Florida!!!
They were able to provide the necessary expertise and prosthetic components needed to provide Breezy with a streamlined systems and the ability to once again change into her running leg during P.E. with ease. We are so thankful that 50 Legs partnered with POA, they are absolute experts that REALLY, REALLY know what they are doing. Breezy legs work AWESOME and she no longer has ANY rashes!
During Thanksgiving dinner this year, Breezy said “I am so thankful for 50 Legs and POA, for everything they have done for me, for how helpful they really are, and for how they are so kind and good in treating people”.
Breezy is alive, so Life is Good, but now Breezy’s Quality of Life is Good too. We absolutely LOVE 50 Legs! THANK YOU!
Matthew Hicks was involved in a serious motorcycle accident the afternoon of September 28th 2013. He was out enjoying a beautiful afternoon when he was struck by a motor vehicle that turned in front of him. He was airlifted by Aircare to UC with a severe leg injury. He sustained multiple traumatic injuries to his left leg, multiple open compound fractures of the lower leg and femur fractured in 4 places. The surgeons at UC worked close to 5 hours to save the leg but unfortunately, Matt had to undergo a below knee amputation has a long road ahead of him. As his Mom I will never forget his words the few moments I got to spend with him before he went into surgery, he said "Mom I didn't do anything wrong, my dream and life as a firefighter is gone". Matt's passion in life is his work as a fire fighter. Matt's commitment to himself, his fellow fire fighters and the community is to return to full duty as a fire fighter. Despite Matt's devastating injury, in keeping with the phenomenal person he is, Matt has adopted the attitude that he will take his experience and be an inspiration to others. His positive attitude through out this ordeal has touched so many hearts already and so many more to come. Not only is he a miracle but he is my world, my rock, my hero. Matt has always had a desire since he was a little boy to help people and wanted to become a firefighter. He joined the Glendale fire dept as a volunteer 3 years ago and Franklin fire department as a part time paid firefighter a year ago. He has always aspired to become a full-time FF and a paramedic with Cincinnati Fire Dept and days after he lost his leg and under heavy pain meds he still kept that goal alive and said he "will become a full time firefighter/fire medic still". As his Mom it has been my goal to see my son achieve his dream at becoming just that. In order for Matt to return to his full capacity as a firefighter he needs a 2nd specially designed prosthetic leg that will remain at the firehouse with his fire-boot permanently attached. Insurance is not willing to pay for this.
Matt has made a remarkable recovery and through all the obstacles thrown his way he continues to drive forward and not look back. So after he was fitted with a standard prosthetic leg he not only surprised me but surprised the therapist at getting up and walking around on his own! Shortly after this he enrolled into UC's paramedic program and was accepted. Matt has been in the program now and is finishing up his first semester and hopefully going into his second. I might add that during his first semester Matt had a setback when all of the plates; rods and screws that are in his femur began to show rejection. Matt during his first semester of classes had a pic line placed and has undergone home I.V. antibiotics administered by himself around the clock to heal his femur in his residual leg. He endured a short hell with the pain and trying to not self medicate for the pain because he knew it could interfere with his classes.
So why I'm sure you're asking yourself why am I pleading with you? Matt had a bright future at becoming a firefighter/Medic someday and this was almost taken away from him. He started his future in Franklin with a career and now he's a little behind at achieving his goal. Matt has no money. The man that struck him has no income either and only enough insurance to cover some of Matt's medical expenses. So he basically has to start all over with his future. He needs the 2nd prosthetic leg to help him achieve this.
Matt begins his second semester with UC's paramedic program but he doesn't have the funds to cover it at this time. No one can really comprehend the magnitude of Matt's injuries through this website. So I'm reaching out to people like you that might be willing to offer some compassion and help this ambitious young man and be a part of his future drive to continue to be a firefighter and become a paramedic.
In closing I love this young man! He's a talented fire fighter and as I have said before he has the "gift" and it would be a shame if we can't work around this financial obstacle. Any other person would simply walk away from the fact they lost a leg and couldn't return to duties as a firefighter. But with today's technology he can and will do just that with the generous help of family, friends and others.
Ursula aka The B.R.O.A.D. (Babe Riding Out A Dream), set out in February 2013 to live off her motorcycle, work from the road, and see the country; a gypsy - a nomad. In her first six months on the road she had a great many adventures and was really just getting in the groove of living life from the back of a Harley. Her small business was growing, her dream flourishing, and her love of meeting people expanding. In July 2013, while in Minnesota, heading towards Sturgis, Ursula was hit head-on by a motorist trying to pass a semi in a curve. As a result she endured some near fatal injuries and yet managed to bounce back to life albeit missing part of her left leg. Her tragedy, recovery, and unwillingness to quit has brought The B.R.O.A.D. back to the motorcycle community with a vengeance.
Being a small business owner and essentially a gypsy, Ursula had no extended medical coverage and via a mutual motorcycle friend, Steve Chamberland of 50legs.org was contacted. Ursula says, "My accident has taught me a great deal about patience, determination, sacrifice, and understanding. I thought I was doing okay with those things until this happened and BAM - the true test began! There are not enough words to describe what 50Legs and POA has given back to me. The way I used to live will be altered for now, but they have given me back my dream and I look forward to living on the road again." Which she promptly did in the Spring of 2014, less than month after learning to walk again. She purchased a used pickup truck, converted a 7'x12' cargo trailer to live in, and bought a used Harley Davidson. Why would she choose to ride again, let alone travel the country by herself doing it? Ursula will tell you, "I was not built for walls, I can't sit still, adventure and motor oil run through my veins. I will not let somebody else's negligence take away my dream and my passion."
While her adventures still abound and her business continues to grow, she has taken on many new roles; often this includes counseling amputees and their loved ones, fundraising for amputees, sending 50Legs more recipients, and finding new roads she's never seen before. Follow Along!
Kylie Smith, 9 years old - Clearwater, FL. Kylie’s leg was affected by amniotic band syndrome. She and her parents met Steve Chamberland at a 50 Legs fundraiser and have been inseparable ever since! Kylie now has a beautiful new walking leg and a swim leg. As soon as summer vacation begins she is scheduled to be fit with a running leg. “Uncle Steve” will really have to stay in shape to keep up with Kylie after she gets that!
On behalf of my family, I would like to thank you for the donation of my new prosthetic leg that I received from the 50legs organizaion. Your support has helped me to continue in my mission and also put smiles on my families face. The generous support of individuals like you, and other members of the 50legs make it possible to walk on my 2 legs and to make the United States of America a great place to live. Thank you again for your support, I will forever be indebted. God bless 50legs, State of Florida, and the USA. Sincerely, Abdulfatai
Turning 50 is a milestone. But to be given back the ability to run or jog as a surprise birthday gift — whose daughter China contacted 50 LEGS for a new leg prosthetic for her father’s birthday, Jan. 24.
Panion had to have the area under his right knee removed due to complications from diabetes in 2012. Now down about 50 pounds since his 2004 diabetes diagnosis and declared diabetes-free, the Chicago resident is able to move about with his donated prosthetic as an Evanston McGaw YMCA youth basketball referee. He and his family of four traveled to Walt Disney World earlier this March with help from POA of Florida, where Panion received the surprise prosthetic. In addition to China, 30, Panion has two other children — Leonard, 22, and Tyra, 13, and two grandchildren. He is an Evanston youth baseball umpire and has started his second season as football offensive coordinator at Chicago Public Schools Tilden Career Community Academy High School.
We visited POA for the first time in November 2015. Katie was scheduled for amputation the following month. We decided to visit the facility to make sure this was where Katie would receive the best care. We live in KY, so flying to Orlando every time she needed a leg was a scary concept considering everything that we had already gone though medically and financially for the 2 years prior. We loved POA immediately. From the staff to the therapy dogs, everything was a perfect fit for our family. We were prepared to do whatever it took to bring Katie to Orlando for her leg. We had no idea how we would cover all the expenses that would come along with this, stacked on top of all the debt we already had from Katie's accident. As we were leaving POA that day, Stan mentioned 50 legs. It never crossed my mind that someone would help with any of these expenses. Our community had had some fundraisers to help, but we knew this was going to be a life-long expense. So I applied for 50 legs on a Monday morning. Monday afternoon I received a call from Tiffany that we had been approved. I honestly had no idea what this meant and it seemed too good to be true. But it wasn't too good to be true. When it came time to bring Katie back to POA following her amputation, I called Tiffany. Within 3 days, she had booked our flights and a hotel for a week. For nearly 2 years we had suffered in ways that parents only have nightmares about. 50 legs continues to help us when we reach out. We can never thank this organization and the POA family enough for giving us our lives back.
Samantha, age 1 of Florida, was born with a congenital limb condition called PFFD, which affects the hip and bones of the leg. When she was 8 months old her parents attended a 50 Legs fundraising event where they met Steve Chamberland. After meeting the family, Steve committed to help them navigate the prosthetic process to ensure that Samantha will get the kind of prosthetic care that will allow her to be the very best she can be! On April 29, 2013, one day before her 1st birthday, Samantha took her first steps! Steve, Kylie (50 Legs recipient and Steve’s little buddy) joined the Vacha’s to witness that special moment. High fives, hugs--and lots of happy tears--all around! “We are so thankful for 50 Legs and all they have done for us!”
Raekwon, 18 years old of South Carolina lost his leg in a tragic accident which began with a case of mistaken identity. Deaf since birth, Raekwon didn’t hear a policeman, who mistakenly thought he had committed a crime. Not hearing the officer when ordered to stop, he suffered a gunshot wound to his leg, which was later amputated. 50 Legs covered the cost of a running leg which allowed Raekwon to be more active. The smile on this shy teenager’s face tells it all!
Ireland Nugent, a 2-year-old from Palm Harbor, was accidentally backed over her in the family's driveway. After screams and disbelief, 911 calls and panicked help from neighbors, she was flown by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital, one hand sliced open, both of her legs severed at mid-calf. • Seven surgeries followed in three weeks. Doctors mended the stumps of the girl's legs below the knee joint. There were three skin grafts for Ireland, and countless late-night bouts of guilt and fear for her parents.