An Interview with Kevin Garrison: Amputation is Inspirational

Jun 6, 2012 by

Michael  F. Shaughnessy –

1)  Kevin, you have just written a book about something that happened to you a while ago. Tell us about it.

In I971, I had to have my right foot amputated due to the reoccurrence of a tumor when I was 17 years old. The book “It’s Just a Matter of Balance” – You Can’t Put a Straight Leg on a Crooked Man – is an autobiography that I worked on for over 3 years. I wanted to write my story down for several reasons, mostly to educate. I wanted to help in the development of a much deeper understanding as to the feelings of the permanently disabled in the reader.

2) What was your first reaction?

When I was told that my foot needed to be amputated I was alone with the doctor with no family or friends with me! The young doctor proceeded to tell me since it was in the month of April, to come back after I finished high school in 3 months and at that time they would amputate my foot. I felt the saddest I had ever experienced before in my young life! I fluctuated between sadness and anger. I wasn’t going to return to the hospital, that was my thinking as well at that time.

3)  How did you family take it ?

My mother was horrified and just broke down crying, and my father had great difficulty talking to me about it. My two brothers were so young that all they could do to help was to just leave me alone as I was consumed with so much anger!

4) How much rehabilitation did you undergo ?

Rehabilitation for me in 1971 was quite minimal. I was just scheduled for follow-up appointments in the cancer hospital – MD Anderson, in Houston, Texas. There were no amputee support groups available at the time and routine psychological care for a tragedy like this was not part of the normal medical rehabilitative protocol like it is today. I was left to heal and strengthen on my own.

5)  What challenges do you face on a daily basis?

Then early in my rehabilitation process, I was challenged with fear of rejection, acceptance of the change in my body image, trying not to let my developing deep seated anger show in my behavior but it did, a need to feel normal again became quite a challenge. Now I just have to deal with realistic limitations to my activity level so my residual limb doesn’t get abused too much. Around 3 in the afternoon, I need to sit and take the pressure off my residual limb for short periods of time so I can keep actively going into the night comfortably. We all have limitations, don’t we?

6)   I have done some hospital work, so I know a bit about P.T., O.T. and the like. What was your experience like?

Because of my age, 17, I was so strong physically going into this situation that PT and OT were not needed much at all. I had a few short sessions. I am not meaning to diminish the great importance of Occupational and Physical Therapy as it truly is quite an important part of the rehabilitative process.

My best and most appreciated experience was actually with a Nurse, she was quite empathetic. She had what I would call pure empathy for me, and she helped me greatly. I will never forget her genuine concern for my health and well-being. I found out later, as she told me during one of many conversations, that at one time she was a Nun.

7)  Now, tell us about your work in prostheses… I know they have come a long way in the past ten years.

I have devoted my life to this most beautiful profession! I started providing prosthetic services when I was 19 years old and I have never stopped. I became a Certified Prosthetist in 1979. This profession is truly evolving and I have experienced or witnessed almost 40 years of it. I enjoy very much providing excellent properly made prosthetics for upper and lower extremities. Seeing my patients restored in function is so rewarding that I will keep providing this service as long as I physically can! I absolutely love when the opportunity comes when I can provide state of the art prosthetics. With microprocessor ankle units, now combined with microprocessor knee units to myo electric proportional controlled hands, wrists and elbows, I can offer a very high level of restorative function that truly approaches the natural function that was lost.

8)      Kevin, what goals and challenges still await you- what do you still want to accomplish?

I wrote my book to help in the psychological part of the healing process for the permanently disabled. I want the book to be available to anyone that could benefit in reading it. I have most recently created a Blog that I post on every week to help further.

I just want to continue to grow as a professional, only improving in my competency and my sensitivity to my patients. I am interested in possibly working for the Veterans Administration in a VA hospital amputee clinic as a director as I get older moving on toward retirement.

I am leaving on June 30th to Haiti with Medical teams International to help provide prosthetic care and teach prosthetics, returning on July 8th. I want to help all I can!

9) What have I neglected to ask ?  Who did you write the book for?

I actually wrote the book to help the teenage student interested in a health care career, professionals involved in rehabilitative health care, permanently disabled people and their families and friends, and anyone interested in an inspirational true story.

I am very proud to say that the book has just been made recommended reading by the American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists. This is the main educational organization of our great profession.

10) Thanks for sharing your story- where can interested others get a copy of your book?

Over the internet at Barnes& Noble, many other book stores, Amazon, iUniverse publisher, and my web site as well,

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