Bilateral Amputation Doesn’t Slow Biker Down

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By Miki Fairley

Slime balls who take a handicap parking space when theyre able-bodied had better not try it in Omaha, Nebraska!

If they do, they might find themselves getting a ticket from a 6'3", 265-lb. guy on a motorcycle, who just happens to be sporting prostheses on both legs.

James Flink, 40, is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) drafter for the city of Omaha during the week and a police department volunteer parking enforcement officer during evenings and weekends. Plus he rides with the "Dirty Dozen" local motorcycle club.

James became a right below-knee amputee in 1995 due to a construction accident. Then an infection in January 2003 cost him his other leg below the knee. His insurance company was reluctant to provide the prostheses he needed and implied he should simply quit working and depend on Medicaid. "I would rather work!" James says emphatically.

College Park Industries, Fraser, Michigan, stepped in to fill the gap by supplying James with College Park Venture" feet. Since James is a large, active bilateral amputee, College Park has asked him to work with its engineering department to test new and existing feet.

Putting Prostheses to the Test

And can James put prosthetic components to the test! "It's a challenge keeping legs in one piece, because he's so active," chuckles his prosthetist Russ Burton, CPO, Burton Prosthetics, Omaha. "James has challenged the weak link' theory more than once. James will find the weak link in everything we make." Burton speaks warmly of James, especially noting his friendliness and big, infectious grin.

Bernadette Flink
Bernadette Flink

James wears suction BK carbon fiber sockets with Alpha® liners from Ohio Willow Wood and ALPS sleeves, and various College Park feet.

Coping with Amputation

What has helped James cope with being a bilateral amputee? He answers, "My wife of 18 years--and best friend, Bernadette." He also credits his doctor, Dan Detrick, MD, and Russ Burton. Also, "What really helped was when the Dirty Dozen Motorcycle Club showed up at the hospital to visit and help my spirits," says James. "Without them, I wouldn't have gotten on a motorcycle again and probably not even done half the things that I'm doing today."

Besides his job, volunteer work with the police department, motorcycle riding, and family activities, James has volunteered to be a member of the Mayor's Commission for the Disabled, Toys for Tots, and other organizations.

James' older son, Anthony, is still having some problems in dealing with his father's amputations, says James. His younger son, Patrick, thinks it is great that the tragedy hasn't kept his father from being mobile. "He tells his friends that his dad is part terminator," James says.

Other factors that keep James going is showing amputees and others what can be done by someone who is missing limbs. He adds, "The respect that comes with not letting other people take care of me when I'm perfectly able to take care of myself.  I can get out there and ride as safely as the next person--with a handicap plate on my motorcycle!"

 

James has been stopped several times by state patrol officers asking how he can ride without feet. "I don't like the way my feet look with the coverings, so I just tell people that I'm part machine and laugh about it. I love the look of metal and carbon fiber and the stares that the general public gives me!"

James' Advice to Amputees, Prosthetists

What advice does James have for other amputees? "Don't let anyone tell you that you won't be doing the things you like to do. It might take a little time to adjust, but don't sit there and pity yourself. Get up and get going. It does take a lot of work and determination. That is the first part of making you better. You will always be working to achieve your goals throughout life; just don't give up if you encounter an amputation.

"Ask your prosthetist many questions about various ways to make you better," he continues. "That prosthetist is the person you will need to be friends with for the rest of your life; be sure to treat him or her right."

For prosthetists, James says, "You have more power than you think in telling the amputee that he isn't going to be able to do things. Just tell your patients that anything is possible; encourage them; don't be negative. Sometimes by just listening to patients, you can refer them to others who can provide the help needed."