Bowling amputees in York County show the courage to keep living

Herald columnistSeptember 27, 2013 

  • Want to know more?

    HealthSouth – 803-326-3603; healthsouth.com

    The Prosthetic & Orthotic Institute – 803-980-5080; poiprosthetics.com.

Nobody can tell Veronica Erwin that she can’t live a full life.

She’s 50, the mother of an Army soldier, the loudest Winthrop basketball fan who ever lived – and she wears a prosthesis where her right foot and ankle used to be.

So Friday afternoon, after a full shift at her job at a laundry, Erwin pulled a bowling shoe onto her prosthetic foot and bowled.

She rolled strikes.

“So many people give up when they lose a leg, or a foot,” Erwin said. “We just want anyone to know that they don’t have to give up.”

Erwin and a bunch of others are members of an amputee support group sponsored by HealthSouth rehabilitation hospital and the Prosthetic & Orthotic Institute, a Rock Hill company that makes prosthetic limbs.

“We try to help people return, as much as possible, to their lives,” said Amy Stefani, a physical therapist for HealthSouth.

This bunch of tough people with missing feet and hands and ankles and shins is considering a name change to add some excitement to their mission. Possibilities include the words “Inspire” and “Achieve,” because that is exactly what these people who have lost limbs do.

The group, plus many of the rehabilitation and prosthetics staffers, spent Friday afternoon’s monthly meeting of the support group at Strikers Family Sportscenter in Rock Hill.

The people with new “bionic” legs fashioned by the prosthetics experts, well, they smiled and laughed and most importantly, bowled.

Wearing two prosthetic legs – one painted with the colors of the Carolina Panthers, complete with the team logo – Michael Hughes of Chester asked for no help because he needs none.

Hughes might have lost his legs to vascular disease, but at 50, he says simply, “I can do anything.”

“If I can inspire someone to not give up – to live – I’ll do it,” he said.

The group from the Prosthetic & Orthotic Institute, which helps people with the products, offers something else along with the prostheses – shared hope.

There was a former sheriff’s deputy named Tito Alvarado, who lost his lower leg in an industrial accident a few years ago. A lady with two prosthetic lower legs.

Everybody laughed and cheered.

Nancy Lowery of Chester lost her right leg in 2010, her left leg earlier this year. She is still full of life and energy – and excitement for life.

“I live alone,” Lowery said. “I have this motorized chair to get around, but I am not going to stop living.”

Mike Lucas might be a senior citizen by mathematics, and he might be missing the lower half of his right leg, but he’s not letting that slow him down. He and his wife of 50 years have been on a cruise, and he’s off soon on another.

“I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to do,” Lucas said.

And if that means bowling on a Friday afternoon, with the help of a prosthetic leg or a wheelchair, then that’s what it means.

These people might not walk like other people. They might limp a little or shimmy a bit. But they live.

And they do not complain.

Maybe they could teach the rest of us something about living our lives to the fullest without moaning and complaining about the little things.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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