Dave Mackey : Ultra Runner Chooses to Amputate His Leg
by RV/Vijay ·
Why This Ultrarunner Chose to Amputate His Leg
After a nasty accident and 13 reconstructive surgeries, Dave Mackey made one of the toughest decisions of his life
The gruesome accident left Mackey—a Hoka-sponsored athlete, two-time U.S. ultrarunner of the year, and physician assistant in Boulder, Colorado—with shattered tibia and fibia bones and a long, frustrating road to recovery.
After 13 reconstructive surgeries in 16 months, Mackey has healed enough to walk without a cane. But physical therapy complications have left him unable to run or walk without a significant limp.
Faced with more surgeries and potential setbacks, last week Mackey announced on Facebook that he had decided to amputate his left leg below the knee.
“I’ve spoken extensively with orthopedic surgeons and other healthcare professionals and coworkers about my options,” Mackey wrote in the post. “And there are other surgical options than amputation, but the chances of success are slim, and it feels time to move on.”
“Being below the knee, this is a ‘good’ amputation to have,” Mackey continued. “The technology of prosthetics is incredible these days, and improving, so I will be out in the mountains as before with my family and friends.”
Mackey went on to write that he’d ultimately be able to run any distance after the surgery, which he’s scheduled to have today.
While his recovery may not be as difficult as continuing the cycle of surgeries, the transition to being an amputee will be a process.
“It’s like losing a loved one: You mourn,” says Travis Ricks, a lower limb amputee and the senior programs manager for athlete relations at the Challenged Athlete Foundation.
“But when you’ve been through something like what Dave and I have been through—being in the hospital, countless surgeries, and lots of pain—you just want to move on with your life,” Ricks says. “An amputation is like a final answer to moving on.”
Mackey will likely have to wait anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months for the post-surgery swelling to subside before he can get fitted for a new prosthetic and start moving around again, Ricks says.
But it helps that Mackey’s amputation is below the knee, which means he’ll have full function of his knee joint and quadriceps muscle, says Ricks.
Ricks suspects Mackey—who has won U.S. trail running championships for distances of 50 kilometers (km), 100 km, and 50 miles—has the right attitude to help him return to peak form.
“Having that constant drive to be an athlete is going to serve Dave so well,” Ricks says. “And with the technology we have, there should be nothing that prevents him from becoming the athlete he was before his accident.”