Prosthetic enables Neb. man to resume normal life

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — At some point after the accident in early June, and the six weeks doctors spent trying to save his left leg, and then the decision to amputate it, Andrew Rogge turned to his dad.

“I’ll never be able to wakeboard again, will I?”

That was important to him. The 24-year-old from Du Bois spent part of his summers carving the lake at his family’s vacation home in Stockton, Mo. But it was more than wakeboarding: How would he help take care of his family’s crops, and their livestock, and their construction business, and their outfitting service?

He’d been working the morning of June 4, cresting a hill on a gravel road just inside the Richardson County line, when he met the oncoming truck.

“I took the brunt of it,” he said.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/1gI9GcI ) the collision peeled off his fender and door. The other truck’s rear wheel rolled up his hood. Rogge found himself trapped; right ankle wedged beneath his dashboard, left knee splayed open. He grabbed a roll of paper towels to cover the wound and waited for help.

Rescue crews cut him out of his truck and took him to the hospital in Pawnee City. Then he was flown to Bryan Campus West, where doctors tried to repair his left leg: femur broken in five places, kneecap split in half, 8-inch gash down his shin.

He was scheduled to be released June 18, but his leg was showing signs of infection. Doctors tried to save it during a 13-hour surgery in early July.

“I went into surgery and could feel my foot. And when I came out, I couldn’t.”

He didn’t know anything about prosthetic legs. But he had time, so he started searching the Internet. He found videos of amputees skiing, biking, running, playing golf with prosthetic legs.

“If there’s something out there, I’ve probably seen it. The first couple of months I was always on YouTube.”

And then he discovered the Ottobock X3, described as the first waterproof microprocessor-controlled knee. The company developed it with the U.S. military to allow service members with above-the-knee amputations to return to military duty, according to the company’s website.

With a cost of $90,000 to $115,000, it’s more than twice as expensive as the standard microprocessor-controlled knee, said Rogge’s prosthetist, Jason Dean of Hanger Clinic.

And it’s not for everybody.

“Our goal is to help people get their function back,” he said. “Our goal is to get them back to that lifestyle they had before.”

Rogge wanted to get back on the water, and in the field. He hunts, traps, fishes and farms. So he needed a prosthetic both waterproof and dustproof.

They struggled to convince Rogge’s insurance company to cover the added cost. Dean credits the persistence of his patient’s father. A pain-in-the-butt, he called him. But effective.

“Because he’s my son,” Mike Rogge said. “He’s got a lot of life ahead of him. And he’s going to accomplish great things. We want to do everything we could do to make sure he had that opportunity.”

The X3 uses a gyroscope and an accelerometer to monitor where the leg is in space — the same technology used in Wii video game systems. That’s intended to give him a natural gait and eliminate his need to always watch his step.

“That’s one of the biggest things so far, is to learn to trust it,” Rogge said.

When he received the X3 in October, Rogge became the first civilian in Nebraska to wear one. And to walk with one. He demonstrated his skills for reporters Wednesday at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, where he comes twice a week for therapy.

He’s learned to walk, climb and descend stairs step over step — instead of just one at a time. He can swing it high over taller objects. He can put most of his weight on it, lifting his right leg while leaning against a rail.

“It’s pretty amazing to see him come this far, that quick,” Dean said.

With a remote control, Rogge can select one of several programmed settings — the best range and position for golf, for instance, or running, walking, climbing. And Dean, with his laptop, can program custom settings for other activities.

Like wakeboarding. They plan to work on that this summer.

“I know it’s going to be rough,” Rogge said. “But it’s one of my biggest goals.”

Said Dean: “As long as it doesn’t end up 80 feet under the water, we’re good.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

This AP Member Exchange was shared by the Lincoln Journal Star.

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