Amputee cyclist visits Truckee during U.S. tour

Dan Savickas
Photo by Colin Fisher.Dan Sheret is shown here with his prosthetic leg, a high-tech device that makes it possible for him to cross-country on his bicycle.

Last week Dan Sheret began his 52-day, 3,200-mile trek across 13 states. His ride began in San Francisco and ends up in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Sheret is riding his bike across the country for several reasons.

Two years ago, Sheret’s life drastically changed with a simple jump over a two-foot tall fence in his back yard.

His ankle was shattered and the news was far from promising.

“The first surgeon I saw said I would walk with a cane and live with chronic pain for the rest of my life,” said Sheret.

For the next two years Sheret found himself in such pain that he couldn’t even walk across the street.

“I was up to 200 pounds. I finally went to see a specialist in Seattle. He told me I could spend five years doing re-constructive surgery with a 25 percent chance of having any mobility, or have it amputated.”

It was at this time that Sheret meet Dr. Ertl who specializes in amputations.

“The man was a complete presence. After the meeting I made an appointment to have the surgery two weeks later.”

Dr. Ertl specializes in what is called an “Ertl amputation.”

Dan explained how in this surgery a bone was grafted to his tibia and fibula to make a ‘u’ shape, acting as a heel. This allows him to put all of his weight on his leg. “Amputees that haven’t undergone the Ertl procedure would not be able to do this because it would cause they too much pain.”

The muscles are reattached so that Dan has an actual working calf. This is not common in what is called guillotine amputations. The blood vessels are also reattached to help prevent cardiac problems, which often plague amputees.

Sheret took nearly six months to recover from the procedure. Then on the very first day he received his first prosthetic leg, he went for a bike ride.

“I just started cycling before I hurt my ankle, so I really wanted to get back into it. One the first day I rode about a half a mile, and everything hurt; but I could it.”

So everyday Sheret got on his bike and rode.

“I was up to 10 miles a day when I received my new Harmony prosthetic leg. The next day I went out and rode 20 miles. I thought, ‘I could ride across the country,’ and an idea was born.”

The Harmony is a new device created by Otto Bock Health Care for lower limb amputees.

The Harmony uses a vacuum-assisted socket system to help reduce the pain caused by most prosthetic legs.

According to Otto Bock, “Traditional socket systems don’t allow for or respond to fluctuation, resulting in an inconsistent fit for the artificial leg and blisters, rashes, chafing and even ulcer on the residual limb.”

Carl Caspers, a lower limb amputee developed this technology.

The key is the vacuum that allows for natural fluid exchange between the patient’s leg and the Harmony.

Dan is raising money along his journey for BARR, a group that supplies artificial limbs for those who can’t afford one. On top of that, he is also trying to raise awareness about the Ertl procedure and the Harmony technology.

“I have no pain, I am completely pain free,” Sheret said after day four of his trip. He says this with a smile on his face, “I just rode up and down Donner Summit, what a hoot. A lot of lower limb amputees never get off the couch. I want to show people that they can do anything.”

After 74 miles and 8,500 feet of vertical climbing to Truckee from Auburn, Dan adds, “It was a personally challenging day and I’m really proud of what I’ve done.”

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