My name is Fred Hernandez and in 1985, I was involved in an auto accident that changed my life forever.I was seventeen years old and fell asleep behind the wheelof my car.It was about 1am and I was traveling east on Interstate 10 in Southern California. I recallfighting the urge to sleep, soI exitedthe freewayandpulled into aparking lot.After a short time I felt revived and decided to get back on the road. All I recall is pulling out of the parking lot and then things go blank. I might have traveled a total of six miles before I ended up under a semi truck. After the collision I was trapped in a burning car,crushed under the weight of the semi truck I ran into. I have absolutely no memory of the accident or what ultimately led to the collision. Only pieces of information gleaned from pictures and the police report.After emergency crews extracted me from the vehicle, I was transported to Loma Linda University Hospital; where I ended up spending ten weeks. My legs were burnt, my pelvis broken, my lungs had collapsed,my spleen was ruptured and had numerous internal injuries. They even had to split me open on my left side in order to get to a blood clot near my heart. When I woke up I saw wires, tubes and machines everywhere! A respirator was doing my breathing, a colostomy bag was hanging off my side,drainage tubes were piercing through my ribs and into my lungs,long screws were buried deep in my hips that were being held together by some sort of metal tripod, my legs were hoisted in the air by pulleys held in place by steel pins in my heels and my body had swelled to such a size, that it completely confused me.I was a mess and recall trying to signal hospital staff with my fingers the numbers 135 over and over. I thought how could I be so big, I only weigh 135lbs?! Doctors later told me I was dead on arrival and had been revived a few times while en-route. Emergency room personnel had to administer blood and by the time it was done,my body had gone through a total of 100 units.All draining straight through the injuries I sustained to my legs.Once stabilized, I was assigned a room. Every morning doctors would come in and peel away layers of dead burnt skin from my legs; then pack them in pig skin until the next morning. After about a week of these procedures, it was discovered that my right leg had developed a Gangrene infection in the knee, so I was taken in for anamputation. Funny thing is, my right leg had actually sustained less trauma than my left. I vaguely remember being wheeled down a corridor while someone manually pumped some sort of breathing apparatus. It wasn’t until I regained consciousness did I learn they had amputated my leg. My remaining leg was burnt to the point that a large amount of muscle mass had been removed. So much that my shin bone was actually visible. Sometime later large areas of skin were harvested from my thigh and sides for skin graph materiel.The single mistake of a seventeen year old boy is what introduced me to the world of Amputees and the Disabled.Once released from Loma Linda, I was transferred to St.Jude Medical Center in Fullerton for rehabilitation. It took about a year of hard work but eventually I regained my ability to walk.Something doctors told me probably wouldn’t happen. After being bedridden for months, I moved into a wheelchair, then on to parallel bars where I stood for the first time. A walker came next,thencrutches andfinally a cane. Eventually I was walking unassisted, utilizing an above knee prosthetic leg and an ankle brace. Pain is definitely an issue but by utilizing a wheelchair part of the time and crutches when necessary, it’s manageable.Prosthetic legs are a big issue as one can imagine.In 1986 I received my first leg and even though there have been advancements over the years, some things haven’t really changed.For instance,an amputee has to insert their stump intoa socket in order to attachthe prosthetic device.There are several options for keeping the device in place but in the end, they are all pretty much the same and their use really depends on an individuals needs and/or comfort level.I have seen amputees run, jump and do all kinds of sports activities.It’s truly amazing what some of these people can do. If an amputee is in good enough shape (and skinny enough), they canactually hop around on one leg pretty easily. Thereare pictures and videos profiling amputees engaging in numerous activities but what you never see is what their stump looks like afterwards. Even moderate activity can tear up the skin andcause all kinds of problems. My injuries limit my activities to simply being able to walkin a slow, painful, uneven gait. I can still do quite a bit and have but running and jumping just isn’t some of them. Which is why the correct prosthetic device is so important to me.I have struggled for years utilizing the current technology and even though they havecome up with some really cool stuff, making life a little easier; its still archaic to a point and has not come too far from the concept of the old Pirate Peg Leg. No matter how much care you take, sores to the stump are common and infectiondoes occur. Any fluctuation in weight causes the prosthetic device to fit improperly, which only compounds the problem. Most prosthetists have no idea what it’s like to actually wear one of these things.How could they?I have had prosthetists actually say that they have done everything they can and insinuate the problem must be with me.Simply having tobear the pain andget used to the fit, is the typical solution.Even if you do find a prosthetist who is an amputee, their abilities are simply limited by available technology.www.gimpman.comI encourage you to spend some time exploring my site where you will find additional information on this advanced technology. I’m confident it will peak your interest.
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