“Change is inevitable and life will humble you. No matter who you are; whether you’re rich, poor, what color, what nationality; things will happen. The thing that determines your success or failure in life is how you as a person deal with it.” This is the advice from Walter, a resident at St. Augustine Health Campus who was recently discharged after six years with us. As is evident in his quote, Walter was, and still is, a “glass half-full” type of guy, even after all he has been through. “Walter is the most cheerful person I’ve ever met. I never heard him say anything negative and even if he was remotely not positive, he did it in an eloquent tone,” says Rick Basista, a St. Augustine volunteer.
Walter was born in California and has lived all over the U.S. including Louisiana and then Georgia, where he had a successful career in motorcycle sales at Harley-Davidson and an import dealership in Marietta. He is an avid reader and guitar player and had dreams of owning his own Ducati motorcycle. At the age of 27, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Walter says he was simply “not being a good diabetic,” by not paying attention to his body, refusing to take his medication and believing that working out would take care of his diabetes. One day he discovered a rough spot on his foot that bled and never healed. Too stubborn to seek medical attention, the spot became infected and led to his first amputation in his early 30s. Several years later, he lost his vision and was deemed legally blind.
Walter came to St. Augustine shortly before his second leg amputation, again due to complications with diabetes. He says that the hardest thing for him was having to rely on others as he was so used to living alone and doing his own thing. After being wheelchair bound for a couple of years, he decided that it was time to walk again and try to become as independent as his disabilities would allow him to be. Bob Sullivan, Walter’s physical therapist at St. Augustine, worked closely with the prosthesis company to replace Walter’s old prosthetic leg and to get him a new one for his second amputation. After weeks of determination and therapy with Bob and doing exercises targeted at strengthening the muscle groups needed to help him stand on and use his legs, Walter was on his feet again.
Though Walter was able to walk, he wasn’t quite ready to leave St. Augustine just yet. One of the things he looked forward to the most while at the Health Campus was being able to cook for himself. During his sessions with our occupational therapy staff, he practiced how to do things in the kitchen with modifications and adaptations like putting a raised sticker on the microwave so he could identify the middle and recognize the buttons around it. Important phone numbers were also programmed into Walter’s phone so he could easily stay in touch with friends and loved ones.
After six years of “inevitable changes” and therapy sessions, Walter took what likely became one of his most memorable walks. Surrounded by all of the people that cared for him during his stay at St. Augustine, he walked out of the Health Campus doors and into his new life.