Join us on the golf course with Jerry Hessel of Paulding, Ohio!
How did your amputation occur?
I was going to College in 1973 when I was 20 years old and thought a motorcycle would be a cheap mode of transportation. A young boy who had just gotten his license the week before, backed out of his Grandmother’s driveway, saw me coming, and froze sideways in the road. I was driving into a shaded area by the woods ahead and never saw him. I hit his taillight on the right side. I broke a hip socket, upper thigh bone, and the lower tibia was broken and folded over again losing 7 inches of bone. I was in 3 tractions from that May through September when they amputated my leg below-the-knee. I did not receive my prosthesis until January of 1974.
There were no jobs available back then so I went to a cable TV company 100 mile from home and started working. Being young and bound to be able to do everything, I even climbed poles on spikes (not one of my better moves). I was lucky and never fell. I worked there about a year and then came home and started fixing CB radios in Paulding, Ohio for about 2 years. Later, I worked on computer systems and was hired by Tandy Electronics, part of Radio Shack. I managed our shop for 24 years before they closed it. I was one of the top shops in the country. Later on, I installed backing electronics for 2 more years before starting at the schools as a Tech Coordinator for the next 8 years.
Out of all of your accomplishments, which are you most proud of and why?
Of course my marriage and 2 children. Also, I was very proud of my time at Tandy. I was the “try it out on Jerry” guy so we did new things like adding networking to homes, onsite service for repairs at Best Buy, Circuit City and Office Depot.
But the best thing I had done was to play golf in the 64 annual National Amputee Golf Open Championship at The Brickyard Crossing in 2012. I was not much of a golfer but SRT had sponsored it and said I would be okay. Over 200 golfers from all over the world came and played. Great time! It was so much fun being around amputees and others with disabilities. I felt I was home when I saw golfers carrying legs over their shoulders and thought, “I fit in here!” I love it when I looked out of the hotel at night to see open handicap parking as everyone was leaving them for the others! That tells you the people we were with. I was so far over my head but managed to tie for 6th place in my group. I even came home to find my picture on the putting green from the trip in the magazine back at SRT’s office. I simple loved it belonging with the group.
It is a great felling to win every once and a while. In the past at other local golf courses, finishing 5th in leagues and 2nd place in the fall league. Fall league is where I got my only hole in one (over rated as I just hoped I made the top of the hill ). The next time I played the same hole, it was left hanging over the back edge of the whole! Crazy luck!
What has your experience been like with SRT?
SRT has always been good. Started with Sam Santa-Rita when he was just starting. The cost of legs were very expensive for me so I wanted to make sure it would work. Sam had a new style the had lower sides and lighter and no more rubbing at the top. Sam told me that he would make me a leg and if I did not like it, he would not charge me. He did and I loved it. You can not have better people in your side!
What would you like to say to a new amputee to encourage them?
Go for it. I always found two types of people. Those that sit around and complain “poor me” and others like me that could do anything! There is a fine line in there but I will always find a way! It may not be pretty, but I can always get it done. Fittings are the worst as I always want it NOW but you must be patient. I am starting to learn my limits with my age but still not giving up. My wife needs several Gold Stars for putting up with me. June 25 this year is 45 years with her. A good support system is very important.
Another secret I found was to keep my weight in check. Why carry around 20 or 30 pounds? Not saying that easy, but it is needed.
If you are having fitting issues, try someone else if needed. I have had several. Sometimes a new eye can find issues other can not. Last but not least, once you find your “fit”, remember it. Once I get a new leg, I KNOW what it should feel like. Live life and enjoy it! At school, all the students would try to get doors for me, so I turned it around and would get the doors for them. The students loved it and became a challenge. Too much fun! Loved challenging students on crutches for races. They first looked at me and smiled but always showed me how good they could do. I never did race any but the challenge was there.
Again, make like fun. Life is too short. Let me know if I can help out. I’ll be on the golf course or fishing on my boat. Just Too Much Fun.