Sergeant Mark Holbert has served in the U.S. Army for 16 years and lives with his wife and daughter in Rockville, MD.
“I was injured in Afghanistan in August 2010 by an IED; —it took six days to get back to the U.S., and after that, it took numerous surgeries and healing time before I was ready to learn to walk on my prosthesis.
The blast resulted in amputation of both my legs. My right leg was amputated to just above the knee and my left leg had a fungal infection, so it was amputated to the hip level.
Once situated at Walter Reed, I was moving from my room to the physical therapy area where you learn how to walk again, and I started to notice those with the same injuries or and those who were worse off. Little by little I was able to findout who they’re all working with.
My first experience with MCOP was when I was introduced to the prosthetists there– that’s when I got firsthand knowledge of what goes into this– the casting and the socket. I pretty much got an overview of what happens and how it works and how it will fit and feel. I got my cast for both sides– my leg and hip. Slowly I got used to it; it kind of compresses around your leg. From there it was learning how to walk with my therapist, and MCOP would come by and check on me and continually modify the fit to keep me on track.
Some of the sockets we tried helped me walk better than others. Through the process it pretty much became a really close friendship between me and the prosthetist.
The first time in my socket was actually kind of weird, just trying to get used to something compressed on my leg, and the first time being vertical in six to seven months– I had a lot of open wounds that had to heal so that’s why it took longer for me. It was weird gaining balance but after a while you get used to it. Whatever pain I had they would address to make the socket as comfortable as possible. I know my most challenging activity up until now was learning how to walk again.
I have been working with MCOP since the day I got my sockets and the progression has been wonderful. If I have any issues with my socket, they explore how to make the socket more low profile or wider– just generally more comfortable. When I first got my hip socket it was big and bulky. I had to buy jeans four sizes larger to accommodate my prosthetic. So I talked to the guys, to find something else that would work better. They would always be eager to try new things and they got it down to a low profile. My size 40 jeans got back down to my normal size 36.
I’m walking now; I learned how to play golf again. I even had a chopper converted into a trike so it’s easier for me to get on and drive.
I use two canes all the time now but I know it’s possible to walk without them, I just have to work at it.
Working with MCOP
The most unique offering that MCOP has for patients is that they put their patients first. It’s not about making a socket and sending you on your way. It’s sitting down with me and looking at my body and my walking ability and getting it as normal as possible at the maximum comfort level. And I know if there are any issues, the door is always open to get my prosthetics adjusted. So far it’s been a great experience with nothing negative when it comes to my care. Everyone there is friendly and very professional– with a skillset that is above average. Once I get a new socket, I really don’t have a complaint at all– it’s usually a first time fit, maybe a little grinding but usually no issues. If any smoothing is needed, it’s taken care of right away, preventing the socket from digging into me in some places.
With my injury, I heard people say I might never walk again. But with my results from my physical therapist and Mike and his crew at MCOP, just showing me other techniques, they know what to do and how to work with it. Overall they’re also my therapists—they put patients first, with good personalities and good attitudes to make you feel that of course you can succeed.
Mark’s Move Forward Goals:
My greatest challenge was learning how to walk all over again; after walking for 30+ years, that’s the biggest challenge at first. And the tools that MCOP provided were state-of-the-art technology of the knees and whatever was new on the market, they would try it. With their knowledge of putting the prosthetics together, patients are able to overcome anything.
My goal is to walk full-time without my chair. Even though my speed is at an old person’s speed, at least I’m walking. Right now I spend maybe three to four hours out of the chair each day. The goal is to walk and not use the chair at all. And the next challenge that I’m trying to learn is to go skydiving, with or without my prosthetics on. MCOP will help me modify whatever is needed so that I am able to do that. Just like when Mike made me a socket for scuba diving.
With Mike and everyone they really put their patients first over anything else, they spend time so that it’s quality and not quantity. And for me, that’s how I want to feel, because my greatest passion in life is being alive, just living.