Tom Burgess, 17, hopped on his family tractor for a ride, like he did on most days. But this time, he lost control of the tractor and hit a flag pole, causing the tractor to rollover his lower body.
“The accident was scary, but it happened so fast that I barely had time to absorb what happened to me,” he said.
Tom was rushed to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, and it was soon determined that Tom would need to have his left leg amputated. He had broken his femur and severed an artery and nerves. Many youth his age would likely be angry, fearful and even depressed to need any kind of limb amputation, but Tom kept a level head. He knew this wasn’t the end of the world, and he’d overcome the obstacle set before him.
“When I found out I’d have to have my leg amputated, I was calm,” he said. “I understood that it was what needed to be done, so I didn’t want to stress myself out about it.”
Tom spent two weeks at Presbyterian Hospital prior to his stay at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Sewickley, a rehabilitation hospital where he spent a week learning skills to help him remain mobile while his amputation healed and he waited to receive a prosthetic. In November 2011, he was re-admitted to the hospital for a second time and spent a week and a half receiving prosthetic training.
“I really like my prosthetic leg,” he said. “It was a big adjustment to learn how to use it the right way, but the therapists were there to help me and every day I got better at it. I’d practice my walking with a therapist twice a day.”
While at HealthSouth, Tom worked with several doctors and therapists that not only remember the great progress he made during his stay, but also his unique personality and positive outlook.
“From the moment I met Tom, I knew he was going to be fun to work with,” said Scott Bleakley, physical therapist. “He has a very unique personality and positive outlook on life. He worked hard in therapy to adjust to his prosthetic leg and succeeded. Learning to walk with a prosthetic is challenging, but he never gave up.”