Since my amputation, all I’ve ever wanted to do is to walk hand in hand with my daughter. Now I can.
Assaf Dory is an Israel Defense Forces veteran who emigrated to the United States and became a deputy sheriff in Florida. In 2001, he seriously injured his right leg while chasing a suspect. Assaf was able to return to work after undergoing intense physiotherapy, but suffered a recurrence of his leg injury, along with long-term complications. During the subsequent 3 years, Assaf endured Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), sometimes called the “Suicide Disease,” and in 2010, was eventually forced to amputate his leg above the knee.
The amputation and chronic pain did not stop Assaf from rebuilding his life. As a fighter and an optimist, he has had 45 surgeries. The last 2 have taken place at the Institute for Limb Preservation at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (PSL), where Assaf received Integrum’s OPRA™ Implant System for above-knee amputations. This procedure has completely transformed his life. Moreover, the birth of his now 11-year-old daughter, Mechal, gave him additional courage and a reason to keep fighting on the road to recovery.
The OPRA™ Implant System helped Assaf get back on his feet
Assaf’s CRPS had worsened over time since suffering the injury. The neurologic disease gave Assaf severe and debilitating pain, which, originally confined to his residual limb, later spread to other parts of his body.
The pain he experienced while using a conventional socket prosthesis also kept him in a wheelchair. “I tried any kind of socket, and I just couldn’t stay in it for more than an hour,” says Assaf. “So, I resigned myself. I thought I’d be on crutches or in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.”
However, reduced mobility and depression led to a strained relationship with Mechal; and he once vented his frustration and anger by yelling at her. “I immediately realized that I was just so frustrated with myself, and we both started crying, and I said I will never do that again,” says Assaf. “I realized the level of my frustration with inability to do things, because I had both hands on crutches, and I couldn’t just go and pick something up from the floor.”
Assaf found out about osseointegration for limb amputation in 2018, but was initially hesitant about the procedure. After consulting with several doctors, he learned that treatment with the OPRA™ Implant System could enable him to do what he had been yearning to do for 12 years—walk hand in hand with Mechal.
Assaf was the first to get the now FDA-approved implant at PSL. He is also among the first in the United States to receive treatment with Integrum’s OPRA™ Implant System. The 2-stage OPRA™ surgery was performed by orthopaedic oncologist Dr. Daniel Lerman, and plastic surgeon Dr. David Schnur, at the Institute for Limb Preservation at PSL in 2020. (Watch video highlights from Drs. Lerman and Schnur’s interview with Blake Pokress, VP of Integrum INC. here).
“It was the best feeling when they put the prosthesis on for the first time. I was sitting on a chair with both feet on the ground, and I start crying because all of a sudden, my hips were straight and my back was straight. My stump was not dead at the end of the chair,” Assaf recalls. “And then to stand up straight and to stand there to feel it. It was an incredible moment.”
Today, Assaf is an adaptive athlete and a strategic advisor with Challenge America, a national non-profit organization that connects service members, veterans, and their families to resources that build community and give purpose to their lives.
Assaf plans to climb Mount Elbert, tallest of Colorado’s 14ers (mountain peaks over 14,000 feet high)
Nowadays Assaf is undergoing rehabilitation with a team consisting of doctors, a physiotherapist and a prosthetist. “I’m still walking with crutches, but I’m not in a wheelchair,” he says. “It’s a blessing to be able to wear a prosthesis because before I couldn’t, and it’s so incredibly easy to put it on.” With the OPRA™ Implant System, it takes Assaf just seconds to attach or detach his click-on artificial leg to a connector that protrudes from the skin.
During his interview with Integrum, Assaf even mentioned that he is training for a climb of Mount Elbert, the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America, and the highest point in Colorado. He has formed a team, and is preparing to make the climb at the end of August. Assaf said that he is doing this to raise awareness of the high suicide risk often encountered among first responders, veterans, and people suffering from mental and physical illnesses.
He wants to get the word out that people are not alone, and that together, we can overcome even the darkest moments in our lives. “I was lucky to have my daughter, but a lot of people don’t, so I want to show people with disabilities that you are not alone, that there’s people out there that care, even people they don’t know.” He is now able to walk side by side with Mechal while holding her hand. It is something they had never been able to do, until a few weeks ago.
For more information and to find out if you might be a good candidate for the OPRA™ Implant System, please contact the Institute for Limb Preservation at (800) 262-LIMB (5462). Amputee care navigator Jennifer Flores will guide you through the initial considerations for the Osseointegration Program.