Amputee Reaches Goal, Becomes Police Officer

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By Miki Fairley

After massive flooding from a rain-swollen river, half the town of South River, New Jersey, was evacuated. A disabled elderly man was trapped in a house which nobody could reach. Finally, rescuers got the idea of running a front-end loader through the water. Jumping from the bucket through a second-story window, a search-and-rescue team member was able to bring the man to safety. He later received an award for action above and beyond the call of duty.

The rescuer, a police officer and paramedic, is a remarkable guy who embodies the adage, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Born with a congenital limb difference leading to a transtibial amputation, Mike Gorman, East Windsor, New Jersey, has had a lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. On the way to his dream, Mike has been a firefighter, paramedic, and truck driver.

At the age of 15, Mike entered the cadet program for the Middlesex county volunteer fire department, which mostly involved becoming familiar with firefighting apparatus. When he was 17, he also became an emergency medical technician (EMT).

Mike has a flair for dispatching and manning radio communications; he became the "radio man" during fires, helping to coordinate efforts on the scene. However, he was expelled from high school just six days before graduation because school officials said he spent too much time answering fire and rescue calls. That didn't stop Mikehe went on to acquire a GED.

When he turned 18 and wanted to train as a firefighter, he was turned down because of safety issues with his prosthetic limb. So the next time he applied, he simply didn't mention the limb. After 180 hours of strenuous training, including lifting, moving, and carrying heavy weights up and down ladders and fighting live fires, Mike passed the Firefighter Academy course.

He didn't reveal he was an amputee until the day of graduation. During a drill where his partner needed to hold onto Mike's leg, he loosened his prosthetic foot so that it came off in his partner's hand. He was allowed to graduate anyway.

Mike did get into police work as a dispatcher, but after nine years, he was at the top of his salary range. He had just gotten married, and as he says, "There was just no way I could support a family on that salary." He decided to become a truck driver, but had to fight regulations that drivers had to have all their limbs. After finally winning that struggle, he passed driver school and drove a tractor-trailer rig for about a year.

But his dream to become a police officer didn't leave him, and friends helped keep it alive. A friend who was a police officer at Kean University, Union, told him that, since he had a background in communications, he could become a police dispatcher there for four to six months. Then, if the chief decided he had potential, he could attend the police academy. Mike did have the "right stuff" and so began his training.

But then an old obstacle jumped in his way. His knee tended to dislocate easily, and shortly after he started his academy training, the entire knee dislocated. Doctors said he would have to be off four to six weeks. Mike didn't accept that, so they popped the knee back in place and gave him some strong medications. After one day off, he was back in training, including seven-mile runs, high-speed sprints, and agility and obstacle courses. He achieved a 95-percent average and won an academic award, graduating fourth in a class of 35.

What about that knee? Mike considered surgery, but doctors told him he would be unable to wear a prosthesis for over a year and said he would only get about 70-80 percent of his knee function. Mike decided on weightlifting and other types of strength training to help stabilize the knee instead. So far, his efforts have been successful.

Mike now works "on the street" at Kean University and he also serves part-time in EMS for Woodbridge Township. At the ripe old age of 30, Mike has achieved much of his dream, although in the future he would like to work for a city police department. In the course of his police, firefighting, and EMT work, Mikein addition to other dramatic experienceshas delivered three babies. And he and his wife Allison have just recently welcomed their own first baby, Vanessa Ann, into their family.

Besides his own determination, Mike also credits the Springlite Advantage DP high-performance prosthetic foot for his success. He also highly praises the skill of Mort Levy, CP, Orthotic & Prosthetic Center, Toms River, who has been his prosthetist for 25 years.