My name is Mike Coulter. I’m 49, married to my wife Karen. We have two beautiful teenage girls who keep us busy as taxi drivers…sorry, I mean parents!
I stand before you today as a veteran of the amputee world. My life changing story began nearly 23 years ago, while as a food processing operator at Kellogg’s in London [Ontario], I had a horrific accident that dramatically changed my life in an instant.
I was 26 and had the world by the tail. Life is good. I am an active guy…soccer player…drummer in a band…and I drive a sports car! Look out world…Here I come!! But it all changed in the blink of an eye, because on that fateful day in June, I became caught in a machine and watched…slowly watched…as my hand was destroyed beyond repair. The doctor’s called it a de-gloving. You know what I called it at the time? Well suffice to say…there were no more sensitive ears in the emergency room that day!! So…the surgeon confirms what I already have figured out for myself. My hand will be gone…for the rest of my life!!
Okay then…I am young. I’m fit. I got this…or so I thought! After three short months at Downsview Rehabilitation Center, where I had therapy…both physical and occupational…I’m back at work with straps and a hook on my arm. I am working in the same area where I lost my hand. And I am crying, uncontrollably as I grip the railing around my work area. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is now my diagnosis.
Now, I don’t mean to make light of this debilitating problem that thousands suffer from on a daily basis, but they need to name the next coaster at Canada’s Wonderland after this one!! Wow!! What a ride!! Nine years. Nine Years I rode that demon to the highest highs and the lowest lows. There were days that felt like I was finally off the ride, but they were just small stops along the way. And in the mean time, life goes on.
My life changes again…but this time it is for the better. I receive my first myoelectric arm from Ottobock. The hand opens…it closes…all by my muscle movement!! This is cool!! But like any rookie entering his first game, I need to get the hang of this. One of my favourite stories to tell of my new world is of my first grocery shopping experience with this new hand.
I ventured out to the store to pick up a few things. Sounds simple?! Should be. Well…halfway through my shopping excursion, my new myo became attached to the cart I was pushing. The hand was literally holding onto the handle and I could not get it off!! Uh-oh!! After a few attempts, panic now sets in!! I cannot open the hand to get it off. So in the end what did I do? Well…I just simply slid my arm out of the hand and left it hanging there until I could open it manually with my other hand and a prying of my residual limb!! I thanked the Big Guy that I got it off the cart because this was a No-Frills…you know, where you put a quarter in to get your cart from another one? Well someone would have gotten quite a bonus for their quarter that day!!
Over the years this new life has given me many challenges but each one to me is a learning experience. And at times…a comedy routine!! So I learn and I laugh. Because if you don’t laugh at some of the problems you face in life then the journey is pretty boring!
So…where has this journey taken me? It has moved me from horror and pain to allowing me and my family to have some of the best moments in our life. It has shown me and allowed me to be part of amazing technology which has given me hope for the future of all amputees. This technology has given me the opportunity to play the drums again thanks to the people at TRS Systems.
It has made me smile…it has made me laughed out loud…it has made me cry…Sandra, Courtney and my beautiful wife Karen can attest to that one! It has allowed me to meet some pretty amazing people. For one…the incredible family at Truppe Health Care in London, who work tirelessly to make sure my life is better and always greet me with a smile! For that I am truly thankful.
Moving Forward with Michelangelo
So what does the future bring? Over 23 years I have seen the developments that this industry creates and it has blown me away! My newest myoelectric arm, the Michelangelo, was appropriately named after the artistic master who studied and recreated the body like no other.
It is the latest and greatest arm on the market. It has a flexible wrist, two thumb positions controlled by the same muscles I’ve used with every other arm. It has a neutral position to automatically put the hand into a normal look after no activity. And all of this controlled by a Bluetooth activated computer that is state of the art!! Plus…you can get a great tattoo!! I don’t know why people complain about tattoos hurting a lot…I didn’t feel a thing!! So…Am I blown away? Yep! But I’ll put this out there…Ottobock…what’s next? Bring it on!!
But what if I was to meet and talk to someone who has just entered this world? What would I tell them? What would I say…
One word…Choices. After much soul searching over two decades of this life I truly believe that we were chosen to be here…to experience this opportunity. Whether you are chosen to wear the prosthetic or the one that gets to create this incredible technology, we are all here for one reason. We were chosen to be part of this journey together, for this community of countless people who help and guide amputees through this new life. And the list of people is plentiful. So please accept your chosen life. Because you don’t get to choose what life gives you…All you get to choose is how you handle it!!