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THE DAILY OKLAHOMAN

August 14, 1999

Bethany Officer Makes Valiant Stand
Amputee Takes First New Steps

By Bob Doucette
Staff Writer

For the first time in six weeks, Tim McCarthey was able to stand on his own two feet. Better yet, he was able to walk on his own two feet. McCarthey, a Bethany police officer who lost his left leg after being run over by a motorcyclist in July, was fitted for his first prosthetic leg Friday. Once he had it on, he learned to plod along a short walkway and get the feel of learning to walk with an artificial limb. "That's probably one of the most incredible things I've ever felt," McCarthey said. "It felt good." Watching McCarthey closely was Scott Sabolich, the man who eventually make a permanent prosthesis for him. Not far off, McCarthey's wife, Cassie, recorded the session with a hand-held video recorder. For Cassie McCarthey, shaky steps in a rehabilitation room are nothing new. Early in their marriage, it was Cassie who was recovering from a traffic accident that shattered the bones in her feet. Her husband had to be the care-taker during her rehabilitation. "I think it (her accident) has made us both more understanding," she said. "It's definitely prepared us. Now we get to swap." The couple have endured much in their three-year marriage. Cassie's accident happened just two months after they were married. She stayed in a wheel chair for three months, then spent another three months on crutches. She still can't run, and pushing her husband's wheelchair can be strenuous. "He's kind of heavy," she said. McCarthey is ready to relieve his wife of her wheelchair duties. "I'm tired of her pushing me around," he said. Friday's fitting was his first step toward shucking his wheelchair. McCarthey will be given a temporary prosthesis next week, and then begins learning to walk again. But the initial fitting was awkward. "It feels weird. Not the socket, but just being able to stand on it," McCarthey said. Looking over to newfound friend Craig Gavras, he wondered aloud how people learn to walk with artificial limbs.

Gavras' response was simple: "Mother Nature will take over."

Gavras was a Dallas police officer in 1995 when he was attacked by a group during an arrest. The injuries he suffered cost him his right leg. Like McCarthey, he had to relearn how to walk. And ever since McCarthey's hospitalization, he's been offering a few tips.

"I know what it's like," Gavras told McCarthey. "I've been through what your going through."

Hearing those words is encouraging, McCarthey said. But watch Gavras walk with a fluid, athletic ease is more powerful still. The effort to help McCarthey get to where Gavras is now will be aided by improvements in prosthetics technology. At Sabolich's lab, McCarthey had to wait only minutes for the first test leg to be made. After the initial fitting, the leg was taken back to the lab to improve the fit. Within 15 minutes, McCarthey was fitted again. Shortly after, the walking began. The limb's lifelike movement is aided by a combination of hydraulics and leaf-spring mechanisms that give it strong flexible joints. But regaining his mobility will take some time as McCarthey's other injuries haven't fully healed. His left arm, broken in two places, is still numb in places. Without a wrist brace, his left hand would hang limp, he said. Doctors told him a major nerve was damaged. But the prognosis is good. His arm is expected to regain his full strength. The rest of McCarthey's recovery also looks good. Although weakened, McCarthey is still in decent physical condition.

Judging by his first day's progress, it may not be long before he is walking a beat again. "I don't want those crutches again. I'm ready."