- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - For Dave Dunville, losing his left leg about 10 years ago felt like he was losing a family member.

“I threw my hands up … and told the doctor to just take it,” Dunville told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus ( https://bit.ly/1yeznco ). “I had enough, and nothing more could be done.”

After multiple hospital trips and 21 surgeries, Dunville made the decision to have his left leg amputated roughly 6 inches below his knee in 2003.

Dunville was one of 17,000 Michiganders who lost a limb annually, according to a study done by the Amputee Coalition and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Years after the accident that eventually cost him his left leg, he’s been inspired to travel a new course. He now works for H-Care in Flint and spends time at Hurley Medical Center talking to patients preparing for an amputation or recovering from one.

Dunville was the first full-time amputee peer-support visitor in the United States, according to the Amputee Firefighters Association website.

“I walk into some devastating situations, and I will sit and listen and talk to them as long as they need me too because I know what that feels like,” he said.

Because of his dedicated involvement with amputation, he was featured on the CDC’s website to discuss how advancements in prosthetic technology has positively affected his life. The Amputee Coalition partnered up with the CDC to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disability.

“It’s such an honor, and I hope to inspire others with my own story,” Dunville said.

A slip-and-fall accident cost Dunville his job at the Hartland Deerfield Fire Authority in May 1999. Firefighters were cleaning up around a fire station when Dunville slipped on a wet patch on the asphalt.

“I was over 300 pounds before the accident and was worried I wouldn’t be able to do much physical activity,” said Dunville, who is now below 200 pounds.

His incident was complicated with osteomyelitis, a bacterial infection that destroys bone.

After several operations, the infection wouldn’t heal. Dunville knew something had to be done.

“I was transferred to the University of Michigan hospital, and my doctor said my decision to have my leg amputated was the right one,” he said.

Six hours after the surgery, he was using a walker, and he was discharged after 50 hours.

“Everyone was in shock because of how rare that was,” he said.

Dunville knew a huge change was about to affect not only him and his career, but also his family. His son was young at the time, wanting to constantly do outdoor activities such as kick a ball or go swimming - all things Dunville was incapable of doing with him right away.

“It was heartbreaking because I couldn’t physically do some of those things with him,” he said.

Soon after, he was introduced to his first prosthetic leg and eventually received a BiOM prosthetic that includes ankle movement and helps boost energy. Dunville became more active in tae kwon do and Boy Scouting.

“I broke down crying when I used the BiOM for the first time,” Dunville said. “It was like they literally just gave me leg back.”

Now, Dunville has several prosthetic legs for different activities such as walking, running and swimming.

“Nationwide, 509 people lose a limb a day, and Michigan is almost 10 percent of those losses,” Dunville said. “People just want their life back as quickly as possible. I’m lucky I was able to do activities with my son growing up because of my prosthetic leg.”

The numbers “shouldn’t be this high, but since they are, something needs to happen,” said Dunville, who also a member of the Amputee Coalition Honor Scientific Medical Advisory Committee.

The coalition has launched campaigns in legislatures throughout the country to advance legislation that would ensure fairness and equity in the insurance benefits of people with limb loss, according to its website.

As of now, 23 states have passed this legislation. Dunville said the organization is working on getting Michigan on board, but insurance companies are “too powerful in Michigan” to do anything just yet.

“People don’t want to be on Medicare; they just want their life back as soon as possible,” Dunville said. “Apparently it’s doing something right if 23 states have it in place. I just hope Michigan will jump on board eventually.”

Dunville hopes to continue to show people how advancements in technology can be a powerful impact in an amputee’s life.

“I just want to people to realize the real struggle have on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “Losing a limb is very difficult thing to go through, and amputees just want to get back to their lives as fast as possible.”

___

Information from: Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, https://www.livingstondaily.com


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