At age 15, free style bike rider Kalvin Wilmoth was performing tricks with a group of his friends in Marietta, GA, around a four lane, low traffic area. Without any warning, a car ran a stop sign and hit the tire of Kalvin’s bike sending him plummeting to the pavement. The car drove on and was never found. Kalvin remembers the awkwardness of his foot being near his shoulder when he was on the ground. Being in shock and not feeling the pain in the moment, he recalls grabbing the foot and pushing it back down into its proper place. The pain consumed his body and mind at that moment.
Cell phones were not readily available decades ago. One of the fellow bikers took off running for a pay phone at a nearby shopping center. It seemed like an eternity before the ambulance finally appeared at the accident scene. Kalvin arrived to Kennestone Hospital and could not receive any treatment or pain reliever as a minor until his mother materialized over an hour later.
Finally, medical professionals began caring for Kalvin with the routine protocol for a broken leg. He was administered anesthesia and his leg was set with a cast. The next memory is sitting outside in a wheelchair waiting to leave the hospital after discharge.
As the car exited the hospital, Kalvin had no idea his path in life would be changed forever within a few days. Prescription pain medication had been given to him for normal dosages during the day as needed. Kalvin experienced brutal pain which he was told to expect. After 4 days, he returned for follow up to the orthopedic doctor. The cast was removed to reveal an unexpected discolored leg and a diagnosis of compartment syndrome. This occurs after a traumatic injury. The cast caused a severe high pressure in the compartment which resulted in insufficient blood supply to Kalvin’s muscles and nerves in the lower leg. The intensive care unit housed Kalvin for 10 days during his debridement (removal of lacerated,devitalized, or contaminated tissue).
On the 11th day, a decision was made to amputate Kalvin’s leg due to severe loss of all muscle tissue.
During the course of rehab, pain, fear and the unknown of his future haunted Kalvin. One amputee visited him and was very depressing. He shared all the negatives, complications of prosthesis and all the challenges he would face. Different pastors popped in for prayers with Kalvin. Prior to the accident, Kalvin was not involved in church. One night he found himself on the floor in the hospital chapel under a picture of Jesus, crying out for help in coping with his bitterness, anger and limb loss. Peace entered his soul.
Soon Kalvin’s friend and his father, who happened to be a pastor, began frequently stopping by the hospital to see him. Kalvin experienced motivation and courage to move forward in confidence with his life. He was discharged and was fit for his first prosthetic leg by an amputee prosthetist at Atlanta Prosthetics. Technology was not advanced, so the prosthetic leg was basically wooden. He experienced one good day of wear and then several days of recovery from skin breakdown.
Before the accident, Kalvin participated in basketball and football. The poor styles and limitations of prosthetics during his remaining teenage years did not allow him the opportunity to return to playing sports.
New doors opened and Kalvin became involved with his friend’s church and he traveled to Tennessee. He met Becky, a piano player. The sounds of her music brought love to his ears and heart and brought him to call Tennessee home. They have been married 23 years and reside in Pinson with their kids.
Through the years, prosthetic developments took place with improved comfort, function and computer legs. Kalvin worked in upholstery approximately 10 years but always knew he could share his experiences living as an amputee with others. He finally was given a job opportunity as a technician in an orthotic/prosthetic company in Jackson. Kalvin furthered his education, training and became certified.
Today, his talented hands help mold and make prosthetic limbs for others. His life experiences are shared with amputees through a free peer support program offered with Human Technology, Inc. Prosthetics and Orthotics. Kalvin visits with amputees or individuals who are going to lose a limb as a support advocate. He shares positive feedback and answers questions. New friends are made and Kalvin walks out hoping he has made a positive impact for an improved quality of life.