The Past Cannot be Changed; but the Future Can Get Better

The Power of the Heart and Perseverance Have No Limit in Life

This month, our friend Manuel reflects on his journey from his traumatic amputation and depression to triumph.

My name is Manuel Peralta and I live in Panama City, Republic of Panama. I want to tell a story that might seem fiction, but let me assure you that my story is totally real.

It all began in 2001 when I started my career as a police officer in the National Police of Panama. Approximately two years later I found myself working in a place called “Torrijos-Carter” territory, known locally as “Red Area,” and which accounts for a high percentage of national crime statistics.

I lost my leg in an accident at work when on the morning of January 1, 2003 I became involved in the criminal pursuit of an individual who tried to escape through the dark, rough paths of this community. I ran after the offender with my regulation gun loaded (a shotgun), but slipped and the gun accidentally fired off into my left foot. An hour later I was in hospital where a team of doctors decided to amputate the foot due to considerable damage to the tendons.

After amputation I fell into deep depression because I did not want to lose my leg since my life revolved around sport (football). To my misfortune, hours later the specialists considered that this level of amputation was not the most appropriate because of future difficulties with prosthetic fitting and recommended admitting me to the operating room again for Syme’s surgery.

The months passed and six months later part of the wound was not healing so I often went to the hospital for treatment. On one of these visits the orthopedic doctor told me that if the wound did not soon heal they would have to “cut back,” probably at knee level. This news left me very discouraged and my sadness was so intense that when the nurse saw my grief she said, “Why don’t you register to participate in this activity for amputee patients” and took me to see a banner that was stuck to the wall.

 

Angels do exist and they are not in the sky…they are here on Earth.

I enrolled right there at the hospital, the last of five candidates that the Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology required for pre-assessment. The “activity” was of a scientific nature and organized to demonstrate a new technique of amputation surgery called “Bone Bridge.”

The wait was not very long and one day I was in my backyard when I received a call from a person who identified herself as Rosielena Jované (my first angel) who gave me the good news that I had been chosen to be operated on. My joy was so great that I dropped the crutches and started jumping on one foot!

When I returned to the hospital I was told that a foreign doctor would travel to Panama to show the surgical technique known as “Bone Bridge.” For me this meant that my Syme’s level (that was still not healing after 6 months) would become a higher level amputation, but below the knee.

Rosielena then told me that she would be traveling to Panama the following Saturday and wanted to meet and interview me. When we met she was not alone. Mr. Larry Corley (another of my angels) accompanied her. He proved to be a living example of perseverance and willpower in overcoming “life’s difficulties.”

When I met another angel, Dr. Marco A. Guedes, how great was my surprise to see that these two gentlemen had overcome the “problem” that I was experiencing. Both were unilateral lower-limb amputees and they helped me understand that amputation was not the end of my life, but just the start of a new stage! God never left me. He sent me his angels for me to understand everything.

Three months after this Bone Bridge amputation (indeed I was the first person with this type of  amputation in Panama), I returned to my work and, thank God, I remain fully active.

Like them, many others have been an essential part of this process that changed my life. The US  company WillowWood donated my prosthetic components and as a result I work, support my family, and play soccer with my fellow officers and friends in my community! Mr. Luis Estévez and Licdo Eric Solis, my prosthetist in Panama, have taken care of my prosthetic fitting from the start.

For me this unconditional support from everyone is invaluable. All these people work in order to improve the lives of people like me. At the same time, thanks to WillowWood technology and their research, I can say, without fear of being wrong, that with my prosthesis I have regained my life and 98% ability to perform my  activities.

I have my family, my home, and a steady job that allows me to be a productive member of society. To WillowWood and all these people, a thousand thank yous!

Officer Manuel Peralta of the Panama National Police.

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