Physical Therapist Helps Amputee Rebuild Active Lifestyle

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Las Vegas resident Lawrence's life took an interesting turn of events on June 18, 2016. After an exploratory surgery, physicians found a cyst on the bottom of Lawrence's tibia, diagnosing him with myxofibrosarcoma. They told him they would use chemotherapy to aggressively treat the cancer that affects connective tissues, and if he survived the treatment, amputation would be the next step.

The news did not deter Lawrence's positive demeanor. He continued to live life as usual, and even urged doctors to hold off on the surgery until after a Black Sabbath concert he wanted to go to. A week after the concert he underwent amputation surgery.

Six months into his recovery, Lawrence was introduced to Daniella Morton, PT, DPT, clinical director at ATI Physical Therapy in Las Vegas. Morton is one of only a few physical therapists in the area who specialize in limb-loss physical therapy. Her passion for working with patients with limb loss was sparked several years ago when a patient with a prosthetic leg came in with the goal of learning to walk again.

Morton played an integral role in helping Lawrence, classified at a K3 activity level, prepare for his prosthesis. When he met her, Lawrence was using a mechanical, starter prosthetic knee and had progressed to the point of needing a microprocessor knee. The two met twice a week, doing a wide variety of strength, agility, and balance exercises to get Lawrence ready for a K4 device, allowing him to receive what he calls a "Ferrari knee."

"Daniella did not go easy on me," said Lawrence. "She had me going up and down stairs, walking backward, moving left to right, and then sometimes she would push me in an effort to get me off balance and see how my body would react. It was quite the session when I'd work with her."

Prior to his surgery, Lawrence led an active lifestyle, with sports being one of his favorite pastimes. He urged Morton to not only whip him into shape during their sessions, but also prepare him to earn a high K-level so he could get a prosthesis that would let him get back to sports.

After he received a K4 device, Lawrence continued to devote time toward getting stronger and faster. He and Morton stuck with their routine of meeting twice a week, performing more walking and strength exercises, as well as flexibility and mobility movements, which paid off when Lawrence regained the strength to walk and to resume playing sports. Now he plays for the Las Vegas Knights hockey team.

"I'm not supposed to be alive, but I'm alive for a reason," Lawrence said. "I want to help Daniella as much as I can. I want to help amputees."

The bond the pair shares remains today. Lawrence continues to work with Daniella, and he joins her when she teaches physical therapy students at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Roseman University. The two educate students about evaluating amputees' K-level designations and what exercises will prepare them for life with a prosthesis.

Like the way Daniella poured her heart into helping him, Lawrence is now giving back to the amputee community to help others live an active life like his own.