ABR Story

John Van Haren

I had the initial amputation and an Ertl made in 2010. Unfortunately, I suffered from an infection immediately following the procedure and lost more of my leg and the Ertl. I was, however, given a second chance to participate in life with my family after the motocross accident that crushed my foot in 2006. For the first time in four years I was no longer limping behind my family, but was keeping up. While my leg was not pain free, it was manageable, and while I couldn’t run, we enjoyed being able to get back to an active lifestyle that had been placed on hold for so long. Within a couple of years I developed a bone spur and nerve entrapment that was slowly reducing my ability to be active without pain.

We researched a prosthetist and a surgeon that were willing to help me understand the options available to me for a revision and better prosthesis. They were willing to take the time to install the Ertl I lost without the use of screws. I had my third and hopefully final revision in February of 2014. I healed well, but I struggled for the first three months trying to use a vacuum suspension system that my prosthetist thought would be better and would keep the volumes in my leg from fluctuating throughout the day. In June we switched back to the pin lock system, and by September I was healed enough to try my first run with my wife. She had run for years and was kind enough to slow down for me when I could only run about ¼ mile before I needed to walk. I think I ran and walked a mile that day and from that moment I was hooked. We have slowly been working on going farther and faster and since then I have competed seven races in a series where I live. The first two were 5ks and then we switched over to 10ks and ran three of them before wanting to attempt a half marathon. I crossed the finish line, but after about ten miles my leg was so sore and blistered that I spent the last portion of the race trying not to quit. I could barely walk and was unable to run for an entire month.

I quickly learned how critical set up is to compete in a longer run or in a race. I have suffered from the miscalculations that have occurred in this area. Using a single leg for both running and normal day to day activities proved to be more of a challenge than I would expect. It often took me four or five runs to get my foot aligned correctly after a change to accommodate a dress shoe for work or a change to walk barefoot at the pool. More often than not, I ended up running misaligned because of this, which led to sores as well as knee and hip issues. I have also learned that the socket fit becomes more critical when your leg is being pounded inside of it for hours during a run. I had hope that having a running prosthesis would eliminate many of these issues.

I also realized how difficult it is to use the same foot for so many different activities. My first foot was Ossur’s Reflex Rotate and this lasted me for three years but ended up breaking on the pyramid receiver. I currently am using Ossur’s Vari-flex XC Rotate for everyday use and running. This foot has broken twice on the spring portion which is noticeable as it rolls over. They replaced it twice prior to switching to an Fillaur foot. I have run over 400 miles between the two feet. Both of these were a very comfortable foot for day to day high and low level activities. The latter being better for running shorter distances. I do believe that energy losses occur because of the shock absorption and this does take a toll after a few miles. I also have Freedom Innovations Thrive that I use for backpacking and hunting. Both of these are a great foot for everyday use. I am truly lucky to live in a time where there are so many options and that a single foot can provide so much versatility. I was however looking to do better in my races and run some farther distances; both of these goals were beyond my reach with the current setup I had. So after five years I applied for the ABR Grant for a blade.

I received my blade in February of 2016. We flew to Georgia to meet with Ryan Fann, who helped me get fit for my new blade. The expertise he had in making a socket fit and be comfortable was as equally important as getting a running blade to heIp me run. The whole process was a great learning experience. I left so much more knowledgeable than when I arrived. Everyone was very personable and kind.

Since I have received my new running blade, I have found an even greater passion for running. Being able to do this with my wife has really helped us to bond, grow, support, and push each other to do better. When people ask me why I run I tell them because I remember what it is like to not be able to. Having the right running prosthesis has really helped me push the limits of what I can do instead of being constrained by my old prosthesis. The comfort I have now in my new socket is remarkable. I no longer suffer from all of the previous harsh aches and pains. I have no more bruising, swelling, blistering, and bleeding. I can effortlessly and painlessly enjoy running with my wife on the weekends or take a lunch break at work and head out for a quick six mile run. I began training for the all amputee Ragnar Team. I flew back out to Tennessee in May and enjoyed competing in my first Ragnar. I ended up running nineteen miles and it was by no means easy, but the stark contrast between my old prosthesis and my new blade was extraordinary.