Mark Kirby: Retired, Classic Car Enthusiast
It was a beautiful fall day and my buddy and I were doing something we loved, dove hunting. What started as an idyllic day quickly turned into a nightmare. I had shot a bird and was focused on watching where it landed so I could retrieve it.
As I stood up my finger instinctively reached down to arm the safety on my 12 gauge shotgun. As I reached to click it, I was stepping forward and my back foot got tangled on the strap of my hunting stool. I felt myself falling forward and reached out with my left hand to steady myself.
And then I heard it, the ear shattering BOOM.
I felt a searing pain in my arm as I hit the ground. As I had fallen, my right finger had slipped from the safety to the trigger, pulling it as my left arm was inches away from the muzzle. Now I laid on the ground stunned–in shock, and bleeding heavily. My hunting buddy quickly made a tourniquet and placed me in his truck as we made the 35-minute drive to the hospital in Wichita Falls. I wondered if I was even going to make it through the emergency room doors.
The hospital staff rushed me in and everything became a blur. After stabilizing me, I was taken to Parkland Hospital because of their expertise in gunshot trauma. The doctors at Parkland truly fought to save my hand for seven days. Despite their valiant efforts I was told I had a choice–to leave the wrist and hand in tact as a nonfunctional claw or to amputate. The decision didn’t take me long to make. I chose amputation.
I remember going to sleep for surgery knowing afterwards, life would look very different. When I awoke, my left wrist and hand were simply gone. Vanished, Disappeared. It was a very surreal feeling.
Dr. Mesra, who had performed the amputation, told me the surgery had gone well. He also spoke very highly of Chris Lake at Lake Prosthetics. He explained that Chris is one of the best in bionic hand and upper-limb prosthetists in the country.
I KNEW I wanted function back; that is the reason I chose the amputation in the first place. Soon I called Chris, and they listened to my story and quickly scheduled my first visit.
Working with Lake Prosthetics
The Lake Prosthetics process is scientific and exacting, but it is far from being cold or distant. The first thing I experienced was the warmth and genuine care of Chris and his team. They made me feel very comfortable, which was vital because we were going to be spending quite a bit of time together. He was truly invested in my regaining function through developing my customized bionic prosthesis.
The fitting and trial process was meticulous. They worked tirelessly to get my bionic hand to function exactly as I needed for a return to as normal of a life as possible. Multiple measurements and trial casts were created. Chris and his team were very patient with me as I tested all the options repeatedly, sometimes needing quite a bit of time to determine the best comfort and control.
The Lake Prosthetics team showed great foresight, working with me right from the start on strengthening my arm. This was wise because Chris knew that my insurance company would require me to have the arm strength and muscle control necessary to control the bionic prosthesis to gain their coverage. By diligently performing the exercises he gave me, I passed the test with flying colors.
In January 2011, I celebrated the official receipt of my completed bionic prosthesis. It was amazing! I flexed my muscle and all of a sudden I see movement where there was no hand. And the hand fit perfectly.
As to the appearance of my prosthesis, the craftsmanship is unreal. If I wear long-sleeves people don’t even notice I have an artificial hand. (Someone even asked me how often I have to clip my fingernails. I got a real kick out of that!)
Now that I had my prosthesis, the time had come for me to try to return to my passion…
…driving my 2007 Z-06 racing Corvette.
Regaining My Passion
I have always been a car guy. My dad had a 1966 427 Corvette. I loved that car, and I had finally bought my own in 2009, less than a year before the accident. In the hospital, I was concerned that I would never be able drive it again in competition because it is a stick shift. Honestly, I wondered if I was going to be able to drive period.
My first event back in the car was on a drag strip where I convinced the track owner to let my son ride shotgun and shift for me. We actually won three races that day! The feeling was exhilarating, but even better was the realization that I could steer with the bionic hand freeing me up to shift with my right hand.
Soon I was fully engaged in my passion again. Chris helped me mount a necker knob—a ball that fits on the steering wheel—which my hand could grip better. My steering with the bionic hand became very smooth even at 80 mph on tightly curved and slalom tracks.
I WAS RACING AGAIN!!! My dream was ALIVE.
The Freedom of Daily Life
In my daily life, I can carry things, open doors and do many of the other basic functions of life. My friend calls my decision to amputate “courageous.” I don’t see it that way. I see it as a guy who wanted his hand to work correctly, and now I have that because of Chris Lake. I cannot say enough about my experience with him and his team and would HIGHLY recommend them to anyone seeking a bionic prosthetic.
Simply put, Lake Prosthetics gave me my life back, and I’m forever grateful.