By Savanah Mandeville • Photos by Tera Miller
This year hasn’t been easy on anyone, but for Mark Boyd of Miami, Oklahoma, 2020 came with setbacks and obstacles many can only imagine.
Mark will be the first to admit life knocked him down this year, but instead of staying down, he drew upon a valuable lesson he learned from his father.
“Dad always said, ‘There’s no possibility of success without first failure. Don’t ever let failure hold you back.’”
As a father of five and grandfather of seven, Mark was determined to be strong for his kids just like his dad always was for him.
The story begins January 6, 2020, when Mark underwent surgery for the amputation of his left leg just below the knee. The surgery was necessary to remove a potentially life-threatening infection in his foot he had battled since May 2019.
“The surgery was a very difficult decision to have to think about,” Mark said. “The things going through my head were, ‘Am I ever going to walk again? Will I be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life?’”
But, he was determined to walk again. Mark is only 47-years-old and still has two kids at home, a sixth grader and a senior in high school.
Fortunately, Mark’s physical therapist referred him to Dave and Beverly Helms of Grand Prosthetics & Orthotics LightWeight Artificial Limbs & Braces in Grove, Oklahoma.
“The only way I know how to put it is Beverly and Dave and their son, Andy, probably changed my life forever,” Mark said. “They are absolutely amazing. They made it a lot easier than what I thought it was going to be. They were there with me every step of the way, they knew what to expect and what issues to work through. They became like family to me because they cared so much about helping me get walking again.”
Mark learned all about proper cleaning, wrapping and shrinkage of his residual limb, diet and exercises to promote healing, and how to adjust to a new normal in his day-to-day life. The week Mark was due to be cast for his temporary prosthetic, he was met with another setback.
“My appointment was on Thursday, but that Monday was when COVID-19 broke out, and everything got shut down,” he said. “That set me back two months. Mentally, that was a rough time because I was stuck in a wheelchair.”
Finally, in May, Mark was casted for his temporary prosthetic, and one week later, his new leg was ready.
“Dave said it was the fastest one he ever built,” Mark said. “It was funny because he said to get up and try to walk, and I didn’t even grab the hand rails. As soon as he put my leg on, I got up and started walking.”
Mark received his permanent prosthesis September 25. He chose to have it made with a beautiful American flag design to honor his father, who passed away almost exactly two years prior.
“My dad was a huge patriot for this country,” Mark said. “He had the opportunity to try out for the Pittsburgh Pirates and decided to fight in Vietnam instead. My leg is a constant reminder of what he went through for me.”
Today, Mark has regained his mobility and independence.
“A lot of times, I don’t feel I have a prosthesis on. It’s really comfortable, it fits so well, and it’s easy to get around. I’m still learning my limitations, but I got my normality back pretty quickly.”
As 2020 draws to a close, Mark can look back on the year that tested him physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“My kids and my grandkids kept me going. Especially my youngest daughter; I have to be there for her. They are my driving force,” Mark said. “I also am thankful to my mother, Linda Boyd, and my partner, Dawn Freeman, for the constant support and help through this all.”
Today, Mark can stand tall knowing he is honoring his father’s legacy in more ways than one: as an American, as a dedicated father and as a courageous fighter.