Caring for Amputees

By Schrum, Nelia | Soldiers Magazine, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Caring for Amputees


Schrum, Nelia, Soldiers Magazine


WHEN SGT Kortney R. Clemons raced to help a wounded Soldier in an overturned vehicle in the streets of Baghdad in February 2005, the explosion of a nearby improvised explosive device made Clemons a casualty, too.

Clemons, a 25-year-old medic, lost his right leg above the knee. A former cornerback on his high school and college football teams in Mississippi, he now faces another fight--adjusting to life without a limb.

Medically evacuated to Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas, within days of his injury, Clemons said he figured the explosion happened for a reason and the important thing was that his patient also survived the blast.

Clemons joined fellow amputees recovering at BAMC, where the Department of Defense opened its second amputee-care center in January 2005. The first center opened in December 2004 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

After learning to walk again with the aid of a prosthetic device, Clemons is now able to use a hand cycle, jog around a track with a prosthetic left leg and power lift. He also took up skiing when a group of amputees went on ski outings to Colorado and New Mexico with the U.S. Paralympics and Disabled Sports U.S.A.

"It's so different now that I'm missing a limb," said Clemons of his athletic pursuits. Participating in the adaptive-sports therapy programs, Clemons is finding new sporting opportunities that he hadn't tried before losing his leg.

"It has allowed me to do a lot of things that I haven't done before," he said, adding that "actually, the good outweighs the bad." The way Clemons sees it, athletic competition is a good thing, because an athlete can compete throughout a lifetime. "We even compete with ourselves," said Clemons. "Some days it's pretty challenging just to get up. Playing these sports allows you to put stuff in perspective and just move forward in life."

Determination and Optimism

As Clemons and the other 92 amputee service members are finding out at the amputee-care center, recovering from a limb-loss is a full-time job requiring, grit, determination and optimism.

To facilitate the recovery of service members like Clemons, the center has more than 100 employees and boasts a 2,500-square-foot training gym with state-of-the-art exercise and rehabilitation equipment.

Patient care at BAMC starts with surgical treatment to maximize a Soldier's performance, said COL Mark Bagg, orthopedic consultant to the Army and chief of orthopedics and rehabilitation at BAMC. …

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