When Jeremy was four years old, he lost his left leg below the knee in a tragic lawn mower accident. He spent three weeks in the hospital.
Since his leg was amputated at the accident site and not an operating room, he needed five surgeries to fight infection.
But Jeremy bounced back. By time he turned five in October, he was walking with his first prosthetic. By Christmas, he was skiing in his backyard. Today, after nearly three decades, Jeremy is a husband, father, assistant hotel manager, and award-winning para-athlete.
“I may have lost my leg, but that didn’t slow me down,” says Jeremy. “You are only limited by the limits you set for yourself.”
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The Path to Success
As Jeremy’s body grew throughout his childhood, he had three follow-up surgeries to address calcium deposits.
“There were definitely some differences I faced growing up as an amputee, but my life was pretty much like any other child’s,” says Jeremy. “I was always energetic. I played every sport you could imagine whether formally in a league or just in my backyard with friends.”
Around the age of 12, Jeremy’s dad got him interested in golf. Thanks to friends and a drive to get better, Jeremy began to play competitively. At age 16, he began to play in Eastern Amputee Golf Association (EAGA) tournaments.
“My biggest challenge when playing golf was weight transfer. During the backswing, all your weight is on your back leg. And when you swing and follow through, your weight shifts to your front leg, which for me is my prosthetic,” says Jeremy. “It took me years to figure out and adapt my swing. At first, since I couldn’t properly transfer my weight, the ball tended to veer to the right. After working with coaches and becoming more comfortable with the weight transfer, I was able to improve my swing and up my game to the point where I was a contender.”
He won an EAGA regional championship and several Pennsylvania Amputee Open titles. He has finished in the top five in the National Amputee Golf Association’s Open Championship for three years in a row.
“Golf has afforded me so many opportunities to go places, meet people, and play courses that I otherwise would not have been able to play,” says Jeremy.
In addition to golf, Jeremy plays for the Steelwheelers Wheelchair Basketball team. After a colleague recommended the sport, Jeremy signed up for a charity wheelchair game and has loved it ever since.
“Wheelchair basketball was not at all what I had expected it to be,” says Jeremy. “The players go so hard and really are in it to win it. The metal rims on the chairs grind against each other, causing literal sparks to fly. As soon as I saw the team in action, I knew that I had to try it out.”
Since his Steelwheelers debut, Jeremy has been named several times to the all-tournament team at nationals.
An Ongoing Need for Rehab
In 2016, a Steelwheelers teammate who worked at UPMC Mercy suggested that Jeremy check into getting help at UPMC. He began working with Michael Munin, MD, medical director, EMG Labs at UPMC Shadyside and director of the spasticity and prosthetic rehabilitation clinics at UPMC Presbyterian, to find solutions for some day-to-day problems he was experiencing.
“Amputees’ needs in general can span a wide range. For me, it could be anything from needing something that could help me walk around the house, to something that helps me with my job at the hotel,” says Jeremy. “I walk about 12,000 steps per day at a hotel, and Dr. Munin has really taken the time to listen to what I need and has incorporated not only that for my everyday prosthetic but also for the golfing that I do. He even came up with the idea to get me a special golfing prosthetic, which is better equipped to help with my needs on a golf course in terms of rotation below the knee and more. Dr. Munin listened to my needs and found the best suitable option for me and my life.”
With the busy life Jeremy leads, it has been invaluable to have a doctor who can diagnose and resolve an issue quickly and effectively.
“A couple of years ago, I was experiencing pain at work, and Dr. Munin helped identify the problem to be the heel of my dress shoes that I wore at work, which were a little too high, causing me to put pressure on a different part of my limb,” says Jeremy. “Thanks to his expertise, Dr. Munin was able to diagnose the issue and get me fixed up in no time.”
Being an amputee for most of his life, Jeremy is no stranger to hospitals and the health care system. After coming to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, however, he especially appreciates that the care he receives is all-encompassing.
“I’ve been to a lot of hospitals over the years, and usually the process is long and drawn out. You see a doctor who schedules you for an x-ray and come back a couple of days later for the x-ray. Then you return on a different day to see the same doctor, discuss your x-ray, and figure everything out,” says Jeremy. “At my appointment with Dr. Munin, the process was so much faster. He wanted me to get an x-ray, so I immediately went down two floors, got an x-ray, and went back to his office. By the time the elevator got me back to where I needed to be, Dr. Munin was already looking at my scan. That sort of speed and dedication was impressive.”
The communication and relationship between UPMC and the prosthetic company is also great, according to Jeremy. “There has been a representative there in the office every time I have gone to see Dr. Munin, enabling them to talk about issues, work them out together, and really streamline the whole process.
“Dr. Munin truly listens to what my specific needs are,” says Jeremy. “His expertise enables me to troubleshoot any pain or issues that may arise in life, helping to find a solution and get me back to living life to its fullest. And for that, I am so grateful.”
The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.