November is National Caregiver’s Month and we asked Barb Caspers to share her 50 year journey living with her husband Carl, who lost his leg below the knee in an accident when they were both in high school. Barb will share her story in 3 parts in her own words.
My name is Barb Caspers and my story starts with my boyfriend and I double dating with his friend Carl and his girlfriend. Just before prom of Carl’s senior year in high school he was practicing quickdraw with a pistol from a holster for a old west town show in our area. While drawing the gun from the holster it didn’t clear and the bullet spun down his leg. After a very long hospital stay, his leg was amputated right below his left knee. Pretty devastating for a high school senior. He had recurring infections and wasn’t able to wear a prosthesis. My boyfriend went away to college and the girlfriend disappeared so he asked Carl to watch out for me. He was on crutches and didn’t seem like much of a threat… We have now been married 50 years and Carl likes to say he is still waiting for that guy to come back! We married young with not a terribly bright future and Carl having many problems with his residual limb. To say it was a struggle in those early years is definitely an understatement. The prosthetics in the early 1960’s were difficult for a young man of 21. Joints, lacers and waist belts with hard sockets and stump socks were not exactly in the area of high technology. As a new bride I did wonder a few times what I had gotten myself into! He is lucky he was cute.
He had a very caring prosthetist and he tried everything to make him comfortable. After several more surgeries he was able to donn a prosthesis but it wasn’t terribly successful. The prosthetist he was working with saw something in him that he thought he might have the potential to become a prosthetist himself. So, we embarked on the journey of school and learning the trade. By the time he left for Northwestern in Chicago, we had a two year old daughter and I was pregnant with our son. It was a rough road as we didn’t have much money and he wasn’t able to come back to Bloomington, MN very often. He left at the beginning of the pregnancy and returned when our son was sleeping through the night – boy, did he owe me!
He found the field of prosthetics to be an excellent fit and felt he would be able to relate well with his future patients also being an amputee. He joined Dan Rowe in St Paul and they formed Rowe Caspers & Associates. It was an exciting time in our life to begin to build a practice together. I worked part time at the front desk (the beginning of a long career in the field of prosthetics myself) and we planned for this to be our future.
Our phone rang one evening and that future changed paths. Billings Montana was calling and offered him a position there. Well, although born in Minnesota he always had a longing for living life like a cowboy out west. So, we bundled up everyone and started our next adventure. It was an amazing time for us personally and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
We had a cow, horses, dogs, cats and terrific neighbors. Carl’s leg still wasn’t great but he had learned to adapt the best he could. The prosthetic business there was difficult for us and after 4 ½ years we returned to Minnesota. We started a small practice in St. Cloud and began all over again, not the original plan but that how life seems to go sometimes. As we became part of the community and the practice growing quickly, he tried to find new ways to make himself and his patients more comfortable. The technology was changing and becoming better and he was working hard to be part of it. Through trial and error and lots of thinking he came up with the TEC Interface System. Wow, did that make a difference . I was very proud of what he accomplished in its development.
As we continued to grow our son-in-law and daughter decided they wanted to join us. They had both finished college with marketing degrees and wanted to help make the Tec liner available to more amputees than just our patients. It was a wonderful time for the four of us with the excitement of the prosthetic conventions and the travel brought us all very close. It was the beginning of another new adventure!