‘I know I can power through’
Drew Garcia stood tall on two feet, one made of flesh and blood and the other crafted from metal and plastic.
“How does it feel right now?” asked Vern Hostetler, CPO, the prosthetist helping him.
“Good. Pretty decent,” Drew said.
Four months after he lost his lower right leg to a car accident, Drew went through physical rehabilitation at Spectrum Health Inpatient Rehabilitation Center at Blodgett Hospital. His leg healed from the amputation surgery.
He learned to zip around in a wheelchair or by using a walker while hopping on one foot.
Now, he prepared to take his first step on a new journey―life with a prosthetic leg.
There is no reason why he can’t have a full and active life.
An 18-year-old with a passion for basketball, Drew looked forward to the day he could run up and down the court and with his dad, brothers and friends.
But before he could run and dunk, he had to learn to walk. And that made him nervous.
At the Hangar Clinic in Holland, Michigan, he placed his hands on the parallel bars. Cautiously, he moved his feet. Stepped forward with the left, then carefully picked up and placed his artificial right foot. Step by step, his bold blue tennis shoes traveled the length of the bars.
“Outstanding,” said his dad, Joe Garcia. “Now we can call you the bionic man.”
Drew grinned. He vowed to come back stronger on the basketball court.
“Get ready, Dad,” he said.
A positive outlook
“Drew is doing great,” said Dennis Suzara, DO, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist who has cared for him since he began rehab. “He is progressing very well.”
The accident happened April 30. As Drew crossed U.S. 31 early in the morning, a car going 60 mph crashed into him. He suffered a torn aorta, kidney lacerations and a broken vertebra, in addition to blood loss from his crushed lower right leg.
Blake Miller, DO, the orthopedist who amputated the damaged limb, said Drew is “extremely lucky to be alive.”
As Drew recovered from his injuries and worked in rehab, he chose to focus on the future more than past. On potential rather than loss.
I don’t mind asking for help if I need it. But it definitely feels good to be independent again.
“I have to say I am very impressed,” Dr. Suzara said. “He will progress better because of his positive outlook.”
He reached a big milestone Aug. 30―four months to the day after he lost his leg. He received a prosthetic limb, a lower leg and foot designed for an active, basketball-playing teenager.
Hostetler, the prosthetist, helped Drew learn how to attach it to his residual limb, so he could do it himself at home.
Drew pulled onto his leg a neoprene sleeve with a pin that extended downward. He stepped into the prosthetic leg. After a few tries, he heard the sound he was waiting for: a click, click, click indicating the pin had locked in place.
“I want to do a little La Bamba now,” Drew joked.
Seeing someone take their first steps is “always exciting,” Hostetler said. “Long term, I’m hopeful we will have him back walking and doing the activities he wants to do. That’s our goal.”
After he left the clinic with his new leg, Drew stood chatting with his dad and grandfather.
“It looks good to see you standing up again,” his dad said. “You’re upright. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”
Prepared for the next step
Drew continues to go to therapy. He uses a walker outdoors. But now that he’s gaining confidence walking, he uses just a cane at home.
One day, he poured a glass of milk and carried it back to his room. A small task with big meaning. It was the first time he had done that in months.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I don’t mind asking for help if I need it. But it definitely feels good to be independent again.”
He goes to the basketball court, too, playing from his wheelchair. He’s not running―yet. But he can work on his shots.
“I love basketball,” he said. “I’ve been playing it 10-plus years now. Whatever the weather may be, I like to play.”
His accident derailed plans to go to college last summer. If all goes well with his continued recovery, he plans to enroll soon.
Dr. Suzara predicted good things for Drew’s future.
“There is no reason why he can’t have a full and active life,” he said.
When he does move onto new goals, Drew will bring with him more than a prosthetic limb. He has gained confidence in his ability to face down challenges.
“When it comes to obstacles and stuff, I’ll have a better mentality,” he said. “I know I can power through.”