Jonathan Bik never got down. He never found himself depressed. Instead of lament, Bik felt energized.
For many people, having a leg amputated brings on depression, anxiety or a severe readjustment period. But for Bik, 33, from Sacramento, Calif., it served as a minor roadblock on his path to regaining his active lifestyle.
Bik, a right transfemoral amputee, lost his leg following a 35-foot fall from a power pole while working as a lineman for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in January 2005. The fall dislocated his right knee and broke the femoral artery. After 3 grueling days and four surgeries attempting to repair his injured leg, doctors decided to amputate.
“I remember I was in the hospital for about 3 weeks after [my] injury and everyone was bringing me magazines and articles showing me all the things amputees are doing. I never really got too depressed about it, I accepted it pretty early on. I was immediately thinking about wanting to do all these things,” Bik said.
Perhaps not coincidentally, that drive now has Bik showing up in articles chronicling his latest exploits – which include various 5K and 10K runs, as well as half marathons. Just 2½ years later, Bik finds himself leading a more active lifestyle athletically and still manages to hold a job in the same vein as his previous one, as he now works as a metering technician, still with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The road back has provided more difficulties than Bik had originally anticipated, but has also allowed him to discover organizations that have given him constant encouragement.
In March 2006, Bik participated in his first mobility clinic, put on through the Challenged Athlete Foundation’s (CAF) “Catch a Rising Star” program. CAF’s Catch a Rising Star, according to their Web site, provides post-rehabilitation support and mentoring to individuals who have suffered a traumatic injury or been born with a congenital defect, resulting in an amputation. Support consists of training clinics and an online community of peers. Through CAF, Bik had found a new avenue to improve his running.
Seeking out advice
A little over a year after his amputation Bik found himself becoming interested in competitive distance events and triathlons. The clinic allowed Bik to hear from other amputee athletes how, by making small technical changes, he could shave time off his runs. The mobility clinic also provided a casual and non-threatening environment for any leg amputee to be taught either simple mobility, such as learning how not to rely on crutches and getting comfortable with new prostheses, or advanced technical advice, from which Bik benefited greatly. Bik said just having someone in front of you demonstrating is the most effective way to improve in any capacity. It is a communal environment of amputees and prosthetists looking to help one another.
“I started trying to run on my own and there weren’t a whole lot of resources that I could find to help me out, to teach me what I was doing wrong or how to be more efficient. In January 2006, it started to click a little bit more and I went to the mobility clinic in March. I was reassured that some things that I was doing were right and [got] some help with things to help me be more efficient,” he said. “From there I started to schedule runs. Every month, [I wanted to] have a new 5K or 10K run, or triathlon – some kind of an event, so that I was constantly working toward a prize. … That was a suggestion at the clinic.”
Since his first mobility clinic in March 2006, Bik has competed on a consistent basis, including completing his first Olympic-distance triathlon at The Triathlon at Pacific Grove last September. His desire to push himself to constantly improve made him a perfect candidate for CAF’s most recent mobility clinic, held at No Barriers USA’s Festival 2007, which was held June 28 to July 2 in Squaw Valley, Calif. In just one year, Bik went from participant to exhibitor, demonstrating for others the minor technical changes that had helped him immensely.
“I feel like I kind of graduated from the program and now I can continue to pass it on,” Bik told O&P Business News. “I had this feeling driving home from the clinic – that euphoria feeling. Everything just looks a little prettier. Every time I leave a CAF event – they’re so positive and I get so much from them – I end up feeling like I’m helping other people and it just gives you that good feeling when you’re leaving.”
Networking and peer support
Couple that feeling with networking and peer support opportunities and you begin to see how valuable CAF’s Catch a Rising Star program can be for amputees who might not know where to go for help and advice. Bik believes CAF provides a “one-stop shopping” experience for amputees – if he ever has a question he knows exactly who to go to first.
“If CAF doesn’t have an answer, they know somebody who does. It’s an unbelievable asset because it’s so hard to find [answers] on the Internet by yourself. It’s nice to have just one place to go.”
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Andrew Kelly is the assistant editor for O&P Business News.