When Cara Fortunato of Youngstown, Ohio began unloading heavy equipment for her landscaping business, she couldn’t have known how much her life was going to change. The Landscape Architect and Handywoman was unloading a skid steer loader from a trailer, in Los Gatos, CA., when the truck and trailer began rolling backward down the street. Still in the skid steer loader, Cara tried to jump free of the impending accident; however, she ended up getting caught in the middle of it. As the truck and trailer jackknifed, Cara’s leg was pinned between the trailer and a tree.
At first Cara was sure that her right leg was broken, well it wasn’t, her leg was completely severed upon her impact with the tree. She was immediately life-flighted to Stanford Medical Center where she learned that her right leg would not be able to be reattached. After a 5 hour surgery her original below the knee amputation resulted in an above the knee amputation.
Upon leaving the hospital, Cara moved in with her parents in Florida for the next 2 years as she healed and started learning to adapt to life without her leg.
With little information or direction, Cara began cold-calling Prosthetists, to find someone to help her.
Over the next few years, Cara had a hard time finding the customer prosthetic service she needed. She was using a very basic “manual” style knee that Medicare had provided, but the socket was too big and did not fit properly. “I saw 2 different Prosthetists who were unable to correctly fit me with a socket,” says Cara. “It wasn’t until three years after the accident, that I met Dennis.”
Cara is referring to Prosthetist, Dennis Haun, of Metro Prosthetics in Maryland.
“I consider Dennis top-notch. With his sense of humor and camaraderie, I knew our relationship would be a great fit.” Cara explains, “Dennis said, ‘Let’s start over.'”
Since Cara had tried other knees that didn’t work with her lifestyle, Dennis looked to fit her with a new prosthetic leg. Not just a leg that would allow her to walk well again, but a leg that would allow her to enjoy her other passions as well. Dennis fit her with a computerized prosthetic leg; call a C-Leg, by Ottobock.
“It’s important to help people get back to the quality of life that they expect,” says Haun. “Understanding a person’s lifestyle demands is critical in selecting the most appropriate prosthetics to help the them achieve the best outcome.”
While Cara is back to work, she spends a little less time doing the hard labor, and a little more time doing design work; however, it is certainly not due to any loss of mobility. Cara’s other passions include rock climbing, cooking, house renovation and coaching women’s basketball , activities that require a lot from any knee.
“Dennis built me a rock climbing socket for my leg that allowed me to compete in the Extremity Games.” Says Cara, who won the gold medal in 2007 and 2008 and a silver medal in 2009, as well as the 2009 Silver Medal in the Kayak competition.
“It’s priceless to find someone like Dennis – to be able to have that personal relationship. Not only has he given me the ability to feel confident and walk again, but I can do the things that I love to do. Dennis is my ‘MacGyver.'”
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