“It’s the type of thing that happens to other people, but never to you.” Says 58-year-old Dean Millman of Owings Mills, Maryland.
Dean is referring to the day in March 2009, that he led a group of 5 motorcycle riders, consisting of his wife and 3 friends, on a casual weekend ride. He couldn’t have known that this ride would be any different from the other rides. Unfortunately, it was.
On this day, a distracted motorist would fail to navigate a tight curve, cross the center line, and collide head-on with both Dean and his wife’s bikes, sending them both to the hospital with serious injuries.
As his wife recovered, Dean continued to battle for life and limb. He had multiple fractured bones and was in surgery every other day for 3 weeks. While he gradually healed, the damage to his crushed left foot was presenting complications. After 6 weeks, the doctors were unable to restore blood flow to his left foot. Dean and his doctors decided that the best chance for mobility was to amputate the leg below the knee, near the middle of his lower leg, for a better fitting prosthetic.
“It’s a very lonely experience. It’s that thing we all want to stay away from – but it happened to me.” Millman explains, “Your friends and family all want to be there for you, but they don’t know what to say. I’m still the same person; still a dad, still a husband. Dean is still Dean.”
Knowing that riding was his passion, Dean turned to his wife and 3 sons when he began to consider getting back on the bike. Although his wife has chosen not to ride anymore, the family consensus was to follow “Dad’s advice” to “always follow your passion.”
It wasn’t easy though, it took another 4 months for Dean’s wounds to heal, and another 4 months to learn to walk again.
Dean works with his prosthetist, Dennis Haun of Metro Prosthetics near Baltimore, Maryland, to customize his prosthetic leg. His leg was amputated a little lower than is typical, making customization of his prosthesis critical.
“I could tell right away that Dennis knows his stuff, is cutting edge, and compassionate. He truly cares.”
Over the last few years, Dean worked with Dennis and Metro, to change his prostheses many times.
“Most people don’t realize, that the stump of an amputation changes over time. I went through 6 sockets, to maintain a proper fit.” says Millman.
“I worked with Dennis to create a custom prosthetic that would work with my riding positions, and allow me to maneuver safely at stops and in parking lots by being flat-footed. The kickstand is the one thing I still couldn’t do, so we modified it with a lever that actuates a cable to raise and lower it.”
Since his accident, Dean has gotten back on his bike. “I went back to the site of the accident and rode by it several times. Once I dealt with that, I was able to move on.” Since that day, he has logged over 35,000 miles of riding. Along the way, he now makes a point of noticing other amputees and engaging them.
“I’m surprised by how many people I meet, who don’t have a prosthetic, or have a poorly fitting prosthetic, due to lack of education. One of the biggest problems is that many amputees aren’t properly educated on what their options are. That lack of information and education for new amputees is why they don’t know where to turn for answers.”
Dean also volunteers at amputee and prosthetic support groups, as his understanding and appreciation of the relationship between amputee and prosthetist drives him to help others.
“Honestly, your prosthetist becomes your world – they become your family.” Says Dean, “It’s the little things that matter. Like making me a ‘water’ leg, that allows me to shower standing up, or go to the beach. It really helps restore your self-esteem and feel good about yourself, and that’s everything.”
“It feels good to know that someone is in your corner. I think that’s the biggest battle.” Explains Dean.
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November 12, 2012
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