When I awoke after the first surgery to repair my arteries, my wife Kathie and I were greeted with bad news. The vascular surgeon could find no patent vessels below my left knee for bypass surgery. He shrugged his shoulders and with sadness told us he could not fix my problem. As Kathie lovingly squeezed my hand she began to cry. I was stunned. Kathie asked, “So what does that mean?”  Our surgeon replied “That’s a good question.” He left it up to us to conclude that I was going to lose my leg. The news was overwhelming. But I was grateful to have my beautiful and loving wife by my side. Together I knew we would get through this.

Two weeks later I underwent a below the knee amputation. The next day as I slept in a chair my brother, Steve, came into my hospital room and saw my amputated leg. He too cried. Our entire childhood the Southwick brothers were the champion touch football players of our neighborhood. We had running and passing plays known only to us that always overcame the opposition. There would be no more touch football games. When I awoke he lovingly comforted me.

My daughter, Ashley and son Peter, arrived and were in disbelief. How could their invincible father have suffered this fate? They cried and hugged me. We had jogged together training for the cross country and soccer teams; we had mountain biked in the North Carolina mountains, we had surfed on Florida’s beaches; and we had skied the  Colorado slopes. Would their Dad ever be able to do these things with them again?

Another two weeks passed, and Kathie and I knew something was wrong. The material coming from my incision looked like current jelly. The margins appeared black and ominous. We saw our vascular surgeon who frowned. “I am sorry the leg below your knee has died. We need to perform an above the knee amputation.” “Damn, damn, damn” I yelled. This meant I would lose far more function. No knee or quadriceps muscle for rowing or biking. Kathie hugged me and cried. Three days later I underwent a second amputation. I felt like I had lost the battle.

Once I returned home all I could do was sit on the couch and shuffle for short distances using a walker. But Kathie lovingly attended to my every need. Steve visited for a week and helped out. Friends brought meals and lent their emotional support. My Mom and Dad wanted to drive to Florida to see me. They wanted so much to be with their little boy, but at 89 years old they were too frail to travel. We set up Face Time and we saw each other every day. The love of my wife, my brother, my parents, my children, and my friends gave me strength. I knew I had to overcome my loss for them, as well as for me.