by Lyn Vandebrake
Sherri, a pretty rough-and-tumble free-spirited gal with long brunette hair and bright green eyes, loved motorcycling. It was a clear sun shine day when she and her partner took the bike out for a spin with several other cycle enthusiasts.
The Chrysler in the on-coming lane changed Sherri’s life forever when its driver lost control of his vehicle. Crossing the center line, he plummeted through the small group of bikers at devastating speed, killing several instantly.
“My left leg was amputated on the scene by the accident,” said Sherri. “I was coming in and out of consciousness, lying in a ditch. I could hear others, my friends crying out in pain, one crushed, another mangled in machinery. I couldn’t move. I knew my leg was missing. I passed out, then came back. Paramedics were working on me.”
Sherri’s partner would die before rescue personnel arrived. A total of three casualties occurred due to the accident. Several others suffered permanent injuries resulting in life-long disabilities.
Casualties other than death also occurred as those losing a limb often feel their life is over. Sherri was not the only one to lose a leg that day. Unable to embrace the active lifestyle they once had, many amputees suffer depression, a feeling of despair and uselessness. One specialist sites a statistic of 70% of his amputee patients as being on a life-time anti-depression medication.
Sherri was fitted with her first prosthetic device six months after the accident and surgery. She would go through a total of eight different prosthetics, several different clinics and over ten years of time before a friend recommended Jeff Boonstra.
Boonstra, an Orange City, Iowa native, is a Certified Prosthetist and member of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetics. He specializes in lower limb prosthetic rehabilitation with Advanced Prosthetics Center, Omaha, Nebraska, on staff with APC for the past six years.
Boonstra also practices in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. His business, owned and operated by Boonstra and his associate, Mark Macquire, is a comprehensive limb-loss center partnering with local physical therapy associates and physicians to deliver the greatest outcome for those individuals needing a prosthetic device.
“With correct care and proper prosthetic fit, the majority of patients are able to get right back into life doing 99% of what they did prior to their amputation,” says Boonstra. “We don’t consider ourselves a brace-and-limb shop. Many prosthetic clinics provide a product or device. We want the experience to be different by working toward an outcome with the use of a technology and prosthesis designed specifically for each individual’s needs.
“We are also strong supporters of physical therapy. Even with a well-fitting prosthesis, it is crucial for a patient to have specialized and frequent therapy appointments to help them achieve their goals; regain strength and abilities,” said Boonstra.
“We are a small privately owned company specializing in giving a great amount of care and follow up attention. This allows us to offer the highest level of care and customer service to our patients. Most people have no idea what to expect when they experience the loss of a limb. We offer support and education for these individuals and their families to try and make the process as easy as possible.
“Our goal is to stay up-to-date with current education and technology. Our team brings expertise in limb loss care, always partnering with the patient’s physician, physical therapy and other professionals,” said Boonstra.
“This is what puts us on the cutting edge. We are a state-of-the-art facility with our patient care above the industry standard. Between our Omaha and Dakota Dunes location, we manufacture all of our custom devices in-house. This allows us to control the quality and gives the clinician the ability to oversee every device.” said Boonstra.
For Sherri this equates into the perfect fit with a prosthesis that is comfortable, giving her mobility she’d not previously experienced. “I have such a small amount of leg left, only about three inches, so every prosthetic device I had before was just so hard to fit, impossible to wear,” said Sherri.
“They were uncomfortable. Some made me bleed, one fell off altogether. A common problem was they weren’t stable and the ankle would keep turning, or the entire leg,” said Sherri. “I was raising two small children by myself. I thought this is never going to work.”
Lest readers think this story is a commercial for Advanced Prosthetics Center, Sherri adamantly makes it known it is instead a declaration of getting one’s life back, of reclaiming something valued that once was lost, then recaptured.
“Lots of places will sell you a device,” said Sherri. “It’s Jeff’s dedication to his patients that makes the difference. He actually came to my physical therapy appointment, met my therapists, worked with them to make sure my device was fitted properly, giving me the best performance it could possibly give.
“He is the one medical professional who actually returns phone calls, answers questions and calls back to make sure everything is okay,” said Sherri. “He made the difference in my life.”
Today Sherri has two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. She works a full time job and enjoys many activities she once thought impossible.
Not a newcomer to life’s tragedies, Boonstra is a cancer survivor, not once but twice. Diagnosed with testicular cancer as a young 19 year-old with sights on a college football career, Boonstra underwent chemotherapy in 1996.
Though his tumor had tripled in size in three short weeks with the cancer spreading to his lymph system, the aggressive three-month treatment was a success. Boonstra recovered, sprang back into life with a vengeance, attended classes at University of Iowa, joined the rugby team, worked out at the gym and soon regained his physical stamina and strength.
It therefore came as a complete shock when tests after a routine physical in 2004 revealed a golf-ball size cancerous tumor in Jeff’s abdominal area in front of his spine. Jeff would undergo an eight-hour rare and risky surgery. A subsequent complication resulted in yet another surgery several months later.
Today Jeff is in vibrant health. He uses exercise and his upbeat energetic family to keep him positive, an attribute he brings to his business of helping others.
Though doctors were skeptical that Jeff would ever father children, he and his wife Michelle have two boys; three year-old Jackson and a recent surprise package, six-month old Tanner.
As one of Jeff’s patients put it, “I thought my life was over. I cried. I knew things would never be the same for me. And then Jeff got a hold of my case. He said, ‘We will work on this together to make it happen.’
“God doesn’t ever take you some place that He doesn’t intent to get you all the way through. Jeff was with me every step of the way, with one of those steps being taken with a prosthetic.”
To contact Jeff Boonstra or his associates call Advanced Prosthetics Center at 605-232 -0066 or visit their web site, www.advancedlimbs.com.
Jeff Boonstra’s APC office is located at 355 W. Anchor Drive, Dakota Dunes, South Dakota 57049.
To contact the Amputee Coalition of America’s National Limb Loss Information Center call 888-AMP-KNOW (888-267-5669) or visit their web site at www.amputee-coalition.org.