March 2007 Issue
|Wyatt Hogue shows how his Utah Arm works with his motorcycle.|
Thirteen years after losing his arm in a car accident, 35-year-old Wyatt Hogue retells the tale with surprising humor and adds that he's more active now than ever before. "I was a passenger of a car whose driver lost control," he says. "My arm was hanging out the window one minute, and the next it was gone. When the driver regained control, he wanted to get back on the road and get going. I told him, 'We're not going anywhere. My arm is gone.'" No one else in the car was hurt, and, except for Hogue's arm, there wasn't a scratch on him. "I was completely conscious; it didn't really hurt," he says. "A lady stopped her car behind us and came to look in the window. When she saw me, she started screaming, and that freaked me out."
Hogue was a senior in college when he lost his arm. Remarkably, he went back to school only two weeks later. "We were college kids," he says, dismissing the feat. "We continued doing what we did before-typical college things. I think [the driver] still struggles with his part in the loss, but we're still friends."
Though finishing his education was important to him, Hogue says at the time his main focus and motivation came from a desire to ride his motorcycle again. "I had no physical or occupational therapy. I didn't even know what a prosthesis was," he says. "I had a friend build a foot throttle on my Harley, and I've been riding ever since."
Eventually Hogue was fitted with a Utah Arm from Motion Control, Salt Lake City, Utah, after talking with Karl Fillauer, CPO, FAAOP, at an American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996. "I have two arms that I use now. One is body-powered and is easy to [don and doff], despite being a bit cumbersome after a full day's wear. The other is the Utah Arm that is easy to use, not as cumbersome, and I have no pain when I wear it," he explains. "My arm is carbon fiber with a titanium hook; it's all black and looks very cool." He adds that his four-and-a half-year-old daughter and one-year-old son decorated his arm with animal stickers and says, "My kids are great. They don't see me as different. I can do everything with my hook, even change their diapers!"
The arms give Hogue the self-confidence necessary to succeed in his sales position at his family's commercial printing company, Adams Lithographing Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and make him memorable to clients. "I try to be really personable with my customers," he says. "They see me coming with my hook, and they never forget me!" Hogue explains that his prosthetic arm makes him feel whole. "My body feels more balanced," he says, "like I have both sides."
Just as he resumed his college education and sales career, Hogue also continues to enjoy sports, saying he has more interests now than before the accident. In addition to riding a motorcycle, he has recently taken up dirt biking, which is much more difficult with only one arm. Hogue illustrates it like this: riding a bike down a street with one hand can be easy. Try doing the same thing on a mountain trail, and it's much more difficult. However, with a special handlebar attachment, Hogue has the movement of a wrist at the end of his prosthesis, making it much easier to enjoy this new sport.
"I do things just to see if I can," he says with a laugh. "Motorcycling, skiing, water-skiing-you take those things for granted when you have two arms. Now I do all those things and more." Hogue, who also earned his pilot's license after losing his arm, says he had to "jump through more hoops" as an amputee to prove to the FAA that he could control an aircraft with a prosthetic device. "It's an extensive process," he says. "You have to demonstrate ability like no one else has to."
Though Hogue is required to wear his prosthesis when flying a Cessna, he prefers not to wear one while water skiing. He opts instead to use a Delgar Sling, a harness device for the single arm amputee that straps the shoulder to an easy-release ski-handle. "The sling gives me more balance," Hogue explains. "It distributes the weight."
With the support of his wife and family, Hogue continues to do the things he's always loved and is constantly discovering new activities and abilities. "There are small things, such as buttoning your pants, that can irritate you," he jokes. "But, you set your mind to do something, and you can do it. Your physical characteristics don't define who you are or what you can do."
Sherry Metzger, MS, is a freelance writer with degrees in anatomy and neurobiology. She is based in Westminster, Colorado, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org