Meet Hernan Knob of Colombia, and read his incredible story of survival, 10/23/2013

The time was 3:30 am on June 5, 1993, in Pereira, Colombia. Hernan Knob, then a 22-year-old college student, had just finished a shift at a popular night club when he heard a knock at the door. As Hernan turned the knob and opened the door he was met by a blinding light and tremendous explosion. What happened next  forever changed the path of his life.

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A LITTLE HISTORY OF MY LIFE

By Hernan Knob (revised/edited by Karen Hughes)

From childhood I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up… then, I started to follow the path that would lead me to it. There were a few obstacles along the way, but these difficulties never stopped me.

It was clear that football (soccer) was my favorite sport. I played a little more than five hours a day. As I grew up, I knew I would soon have other responsibilities, and the time to pursue my dream of playing major championships and even become a tournament champion was diminishing. Still, football remained my passion.

My mother was adamant that I attend school and concentrate on my studies.  I was an excellent student, and quickly realized that the secret of getting good grades was to be attentive in class and do my homework.  This strategy helped me excel in my classes, and likewise I realized that I liked my teachers and enjoyed learning from them. However, when I became a teenager I began to like other things and my studies took second place behind football.

When I was 15 years old, my brother introduced me to what would become another passion–salsa dancing. It was more out of curiosity that I learned to dance salsa, and my brother taught me every time he learned new steps. In less than six months my dancing made me a popular kid, and my school friends always wanted me to dance and teach them steps. The girls wanted to dance with me, and that is how I met my first girlfriend.

My mother introduced me to many things in life, including faith in God and attending church. I grew up Catholic and always tried to follow the principles that she taught me.

I  had the good fortune of attending one of the best public schools in Bogotá and the country. I chose to study industrial chemistry, and dreamed of being a scientist in a laboratory inventing something new.

After finishing high school, knowing that I wanted to continue studying chemistry, I applied for college and was accepted by a public university away from my home in a city called Pereira. I started my studies in 1990, but duty to my country called me into compulsory military service. The time I spent in the service was a meaningful experience which I learned a lot from.

18 months later, I returned to the university, hoping to finish my studies in chemistry. The economic situation was not good, and I had to find a job. My best friend helped me find work as a DJ at a bar he also worked at.

On 5 June 1993, working a normal night, we finished our work at about 3:30 am, and were about to receive payment of our wages. My friend, who by that time was the business administrator who together with the accountant made the payments, paid me first and told me to rest for a few hours because it was finals week and in a few hours I would need to be back to my studies.  However I was stubborn, and decided to wait for him to finish so we could go home and study together.

A few minutes later we heard someone knocking at the door of the bar, and when I opened it I was greeted by a loud explosion.  The walls fell down on me, like they were part of the roof, and I was so confused. The first thing that came to mind was that they were going to kill everyone in the bar because by this time the country suffered a war between drug cartels and there were many attacks in Pereira. I started yelling at people inside to take shelter and to remove the debris that had fallen on me. Once I was up I tried to run outside but I fell to the floor. I tried many more times, but I always went to the floor. I managed to drag myself and made it a few feet where I met my friend, who comforted me a little and I fell asleep in her lap and began to dream.

My dream was both strange and pleasant; while walking through a vast hallway I felt a rush of exhilaration and a bright light shone. There were pictures on the wall, and when I got to the last one I experienced great sadness. The picture showed me in the disaster, and the pain in my legs was so strong. I cried as I realized I could not play football again and I desperately wanted to wake up from the nightmare.

When I woke up I immediately gave thanks to God for ending the nightmare, but a second later I realized it was not a nightmare and was my real life. They were pulling me out of the club and all I wanted was something for the pain. I thought I had broken my leg and it hurt me to my soul. I had prepared for more than seven months for a great football event –the University National Games. Despite my pain, I was confident that the hospital would put my leg in a cast and I’d be walking and possibly competing again soon.

In the hospital emergency room my thoughts were complex. The pain was intense and sadness overwhelmed me as it became clear I may not play the championship. My mind did not allow me to understand many things, and finally, after asking all the nurses for something to stop the pain, they put a mask on my face and my endless pain finally ceased.

I awoke in the recovery room, feeling a heaviness in my body and a great thirst. As I tried to move, I heard a nurse tell me that I was recovering from surgery and I should not try.  I was obedient for a moment, but felt the need to assess my injuries.  I started with my hands and arms. I saw many cuts and abrasions and IV tubes, as well as other lines connected to the screens, monitoring my vitals.  But the minute I tried to move my legs, the right one did not respond. I thought that perhaps it was because I was very tired and weak. Then I pulled away the sheet that covered my missing leg, and upon seeing it, I fell into a panic.  Then I felt intense anger and began shouting and asking why they cut the leg. I also blamed God for giving me this punishment. I did not understand. I had never been a bad person, I was obedient to my parents and the church. Why me?

After the shock wore off I began thinking about my future. Since I could no longer play football, perhaps I’d take up chess. I also considered becoming a scientist so I could invent a leg that would let me walk and dance again.
At this time I made changes in my life and career plan. I never lost the desire to live, and was optimistic about my future, always hoping for the best.

After almost nine months of hospitalization, I tried to return to my studies, but they were interrupted at least twice a year for surgeries necessary to save my remaining leg. But the surgeries were ultimately unsuccessful, and I made the decision to amputate. The amputation was performed in 2001, and I began the process of learning to adapt to living my life without legs. I relied on my wheelchair for everything.

In the years since this unfortunate accident, God has blessed me with a magnificent wife and a beautiful daughter who makes me proud every day. I became a public school teacher and I teach math and computer science to children and adolescents. I am also a volunteer for an organization that supports people with physical disabilities.

In 2009, my life changed once again. The prostheses I was using allowed me to walk, but caused great pain and wounds that would not heal. Through the efforts of many people who ultimately brought me to POA, I managed to get my quality of life back. I no longer had to suffer with wounds and use crutches to walk. I returned home in comfortable prostheses which allow me to walk comfortably with the help of a small cane. I returned to my family and students a stronger man, no longer plagued with health problems. I thank Stan, John, and the staff at POA for giving me a new life by providing me with the prosthetics that enable me to give more to my family and students. God is good.

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Helpful Information re ADA, Disability Benefits & Returning to Driving after Amputation in current issue of Amputee Coalition’s inMotion Magazine

There is some excellent advice and answers to important questions about ADA & Employment, Qualifying for Medical Benefits, and Getting Back Behind the Wheel after amputation in the September/October 2012 edition of inMotion magazine. Check it out!

Click here to for link and location of articles on the Amputee Coalition publications web page.

Sub-Atmospheric Socket Design Technology Gains Momentum, O&P Edge, July 2012

POA’s Stan Patterson, CP and other experts in the field of negative pressure/subatmospheric socket design are interviewed in the excellent article published in this month’s edition of the O&P Edge. —> Sub-atmospheric Socket Design Technology Gains Momentum

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Mabio tries out an anti-gravity treadmill, 6/21/12

During a visit to a re-hab facility yesterday, Mabio, a POA employee and below knee amputee, was given an opportunity to try running on a Zero Gravity treadmill which had just been delivered to the facility. It was originally designed by NASA to help astronauts train for zero gravity conditions. Mabio said it felt like he was “running in water or air” -it was effortless. This technology is now being used to train athletes and in rehabilitation facilities.
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The 2013 ACA Convention will be held here in Orlando!!!!!

We have some great news to share!! The Amputee Coalition is holding its next national conference right here in Orlando next year! Dates are June 25-30, 2013.    Click here for details on 2013 ACA National Conference

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Jeff Moore gives X2/Genium Bionic Knee a Thumbs Up!

POA patient Jeff Moore was recently fit with the X2 bionic knee (military version of the Genium). He says it definitely lives up to the hype!      X2/Genium Video

New Product! Otto Bock Triton Harmony® (Vacuum) Prosthetic Foot

We have successfully fit several BK patients at POA with this new technology, including Jean Law, a bi-lateral amputee. The main features of the foot are the lightweight integrated vacuum pump and shock absorbing/rotation functionality. Says, Jean, “It feels very light, comfortable and natural; not stiff at the ankle like other prosthetic feet….and I don’t have to use a manual pump!”

These are very exciting times in the prosthetic industry; cutting edge technology has led to the development of several new and revolutionary products! If you would like to see if the Triton Harmony® foot is right for you, or if you are interested in trying some of the other new products and techniques we are now using in our practice, give us a call and make an appointment so we can fill you in!

**New Product Release*** Otto Bock Triton Prosthetic Foot with Integrated Vacuum, 10/2011


We fit POA patient Jean Law, a bi-lateral below knee amputee, with this brand new technology today! The main features of the foot are the lightweight integrated vacuum pump and shock absorbing/rotation functionality. Says, Jean, “It feels very light, comfortable and natural; not stiff at the ankle like other prosthetic feet.”

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“A Day Among Giants,” CAF San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) 10/23/2011

Every once in a while you are blessed with a special day when you experience something so moving, inspiring and powerful that it takes your breath away. Such was the case when I attended the San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) fundraiser event in La Jolla, California this past weekend. So, you might be wondering, who are these giants I speak of?

Since Bill Walton was in attendance at many of the events, and certainly the tallest among us, you might think I am speaking about him, but I’m not. There were lots of donors with giant wallets and volunteers with giant hearts, but I’m not talking about them either. The giants I am referring to are the 200+ challenged athletes participating in the event – every single one of them. People with giant hope, determination, and incredible strength of body and character.

As someone who has lived most of my life as an amputee, I am very aware of the huge effort these athletes must put forth and obstacles they must overcome. They train long and hard, through pain, physical setbacks and challenges, to accomplish something most able bodied people can’t even imagine themselves doing – competing in a triathlon!

Although I am fortunate enough to have good health and work at a state-of-the-art prosthetic facility, I have never had the ambition to even attempt to accomplish such a feat. To be honest, lately I have to push myself to lift a few weights or take a spin on my bike. The times I have been tempted to step up my fitness routine I come up with excuses like “I don’t have enough time,” or “I’m getting too old.”

So there I was, perched above the La Jolla cove waiting for the ocean swim part of the SDTC to begin, totally unprepared for the emotional ride I was about to take. From the moment the first group of swimmers came forward my eyes were riveted to the scene unfolding in front of me. I watched in awe and amazement as one after another, amputees and other disabled people of all ages and levels of ability – some blind, most missing limbs (many two or more) climbed, hopped and rolled or were carried into the bone-chilling Pacific Ocean for a 1-mile swim! Then I watched again as they emerged from that water the same way they went in, dried off, reattached body parts, and went on to complete the rest of the competition! Every event I witnessed blew me away. Our own Mei Mei White (just 7 years old and an above knee amputee) rode her hand cycle for 10 miles on a difficult course set up for adults! Two-year-old Cody proudly put his “bendy knee” to the test as he ran with his mom in the Kids Run while his family, clad in bright yellow “Team Cody” shirts, cheered him on. Chris Self, who became a below knee amputee as a result injuries suffered while defending our country, completed the Tri just days after riding a bike 620 miles down the California coast!  Although I don’t see myself performing at the level of these warriors, I know I can and should do more, and they have motivated me to make the effort.

So today I am sending a giant shout out and thank you to Scout, Mei Mei, Chris, Cody and Andy (superstar participants from our own POA/SCP family) and all the other amazing athletes I was honored to be among last weekend. The pride and passion you possess and instill in others is very powerful and humbling. You can be sure there will be no more excuses for this woman!

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Feedback on Genium Prosthetic Bionic Knee System, 9/2011

Ronnie Dickson put together a video featuring some of our patients trying out the new Otto Bock Genium knee and placed it on his blog, takealegoff.blogspot.com. He also included written feedback from our POA blog. Click here to view video/article.