Bill Bailey of Fort Wayne, Indiana is one of the most recognizable faces at SRT events. Not only does he donate countless hours to educating physical therapists and students as a patient model, he is a long-standing veteran of the Amputee Walking School, and the head of the Fort Wayne Amputee Support Group.
Bill’s journey to where he is today began in 1968 when he was injured during a high school football game.
“I went through fourteen surgeries to try to restore my knee”, said Bill. “The last attempt created the perfect conditions for a staph infection, which took up residency until February 18th, 2008. That day resulted in the amputation of my left leg above the knee”.
Bill described the vast contrast of his home before and after the surgery.
“Home is that place where we go to relax, eat, sleep, and to be with our loved ones”, said Bill. “It’s like having a warm blanket wrapped around us on a cold morning. In my case, my very warm security blanket had turned against me and had become the enemy. The night I was discharged from the hospital, my wife had to find a piece of cardboard to help drag me up our very small hill to get to the front door. We didn’t have a wheelchair or crutches on that first night. This was an omen that I ignored until about the tenth time I fell down the steps from the 2nd floor. I needed advice on how to rebuild my life, but all my searches came up empty”.
“In 2008, I couldn’t find an amputee support group anywhere near Fort Wayne. I had basic questions regarding hygiene, socket fit, etc., and the only source for information was my first prosthetic company prior to SRT. However, I was having suspicions that they were more interested in upgrading my equipment than providing me with quality information. They were very nice and professional, but if my inquiry didn’t result in a sale, I was told to ask my physical therapist. I never had a therapist after I lost my leg, so I began trial and many errors”.
“My first prosthetic company fit me with a leg and left me to my own devices on how to make it work”, continued Bill. “I fell many times mostly due to a poor fitting socket. This was resolved by upgrading my leg to a computer assisted model, however, my socket still didn’t fit. I visited several prosthetic companies looking for answers”.
“In late 2010, I received a postcard from SRT, encouraging me to make an appointment before the end of the year”, stated Bill. I met with Sam Santa-Rita (Founder and Prosthetist), Shawn Brown (Prosthestist) and John Arnold (Prosthetist). Amputees helping other amputees; I knew I was home. After my very first visit, I received a shiny new socket that fit so well I just about kissed all three of them. The men and women of SRT are an integral part of the prosthetic and orthotic world, and especially in Fort Wayne they are (in my humble opinion) the central hub. From their location information, education, innovation and motivation flow outward, they create a wheel touching all of us in the amputee community”.
Not long after becoming a member of the SRT family, Bill visited his first Amputee Walking School at the Turnstone Center in Fort Wayne.
“On my first visit to the Walking School, I kind of hid in the back of the gym and tried to take it all in”, said Bill. “I watched, listened, and then I smiled. It was a room full of below the knee and above the knee amputees. It seemed that every person wanted either Dennis or Todd’s (the instructors) attention. What I remember most was a man who wanted to be able to dance at his daughter’s wedding. Dennis took the challenge and the rest is history. I watched the two men waltz around the room while everyone stopped and gave silent support. I’d like to believe that we all could picture this man and his daughter on that special day. The Amputee Walking School comes around every three months and after my first experience, I have tried to be there every time Dennis and Todd come to town”.
“That same man who eventually did dance at his daughter’s wedding, (whom I would later learn was Kenny Geradot), helped with forming an amputee support group that now resides at the Turnstone Center in Fort Wayne”, said Bill. “Ken and I became really good friends. He would give me a call and off we’d go to visit a new amputee in the hospital, pass out literature at the V.A. Hospital, or just stop in different businesses to try and procure a donation”.
“Suddenly and tragically in January of 2015, Ken passed from this life to the next”, stated Bill. “I think (and this is purely speculation) that due to my friendship with Kenny, other members looked to me to carry on what Ken had started and loved. My only job when Ken was alive was to make cookies and treats on meeting night. I was very happy making chocolate chip delights. I didn’t want to lead anything, but if someone didn’t step up, the group would fold. Ken was too good of a friend to let the dream die”.
“Our support group’s main purpose (after mutual support) is information”, explained Bill. “It doesn’t even have to be amputee related. Any company and/or group that is willing to come out on the fourth Wednesday of the month and is willing to spend a little time with us is a good thing. Mustard Seed, Citi Link, and Gerber Insurance are a few of our neighbors that have come out to speak. We believe that information is power, so just about any topic is valid. When you come, everyone will greet you and welcome you. We want to know if you have any outstanding issues. Tell us and, if possible, we will help you. Other than that, have a drink eat some cookies (I still make them). Laugh with us and sometimes be sad with us. Remember our motto – “We Stand Corrected”.
“Membership to the Amputee Support Group is easy”, explained Bill. “We accept people with no legs, one leg, two legs, and four legs (service dog). Everyone is welcome”.
The next upcoming dates are as follows:
November 16th at 7:00pm
December 14th at 5:30pm
Turnstone Center, 3320 N. Clinton Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana – Plassman Atheltic Center entrance.
After the Holiday season, the group typically meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:00pm
The SRT family is proud of Bill, not only for his personal accomplishments, but for his relentless devotion to supporting and educating his fellow amputees and friends in the community.