April 10th, 2019 | Published in Amputee Stories
Gary Eagleton has been standing tall and assisting others for more than 25 years with the help of the team at Muilenburg Prosthetics. Gary is a military veteran whose amputation is the result of being wounded in Vietnam in 1970 when he was 19.
After returning to the states, Gary finished his education, earning a degree in behavioral science from the University of Houston Clear Lake and also earning a certification in non-profit management. For the past 30 years, he has devoted his career to advancing the wellbeing of children and families in communities throughout the U.S. through his work as an advocate, consultant and educator. His company, Eagle Enterprises, supports family strengthening, community building, and mental health education to organizations. His wife works as executive director of Communities in Schools – Houston. He is also active in NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness in Houston.
With his passion for building strong families and individuals, it is no surprise to learn what Gary considers as his biggest accomplishment in life. “Supporting the growth and development of socially and emotionally intelligent children into balanced and responsible adults,” he said. Gary is proud of his family and their successes. He is also pleased to be able to be a “SUPER” grandfather and enjoys hanging out at the beach frequently with his six grandchildren.
Gary treats his amputation “very matter of factly,” said Stan Vydrzal, CP, LP, his MPI prosthetist. “Gary’s prosthesis is very discreet so he can decide whether or not to tell people about his amputation,” Stan said. Sometimes he talks about it in his presentations, Gary told Stan. Sometimes, he chooses not to.
Stan and Gary began working together earlier this year. It was time for Gary to be fit for a new prosthesis after leaving the MPI practice a few years ago. “When (my original prosthetist) left MPI, I left with him… however, the level of customer service at the new facility was not comparable to what I had become accustomed to at MPI,” Gary said. He returned to MPI because, “The customer service at MPI is wonderful!”
According to Stan, Gary is highly motivated. “Gary’s gait is very smooth. He walks very well,” Stan said. “He doesn’t allow his amputation to keep him from doing what he needs to do.”
“He is also very participatory in his fitting process,” Stan added. “Because he has been an amputee for so long, Gary knows exactly what his leg should do and how his prosthesis should fit. He is aware of what he wants and needs his leg to do.”
For Gary and Stan this means they’ve seen each other frequently during the fitting and fabricating process. “He has been involved every step of the way and that’s been good,” Stan said.
Fit and comfort have come a long way, according Gary. “My first prosthesis had a waist band with a strap that extended from my waist, down the front of my thigh and buckled to a loop that was attached to my very heavy below-the knee (BK) prosthesis,” he explained. “When I first started wearing it, I couldn’t wait to get home and take it off. I spent a lot of time indoors hopping around on one foot simply because the prosthesis was so cumbersome. Hopping was easier than putting the prosthesis on.”
He added, “Not any more! I now wear my prosthesis from early morning to late at night.”
Gary’s current prosthesis consists of PTB socket worn with an Ossur Locking Liner and a Silhouette Foot by Freedom Innovations. The Silhouette is a high activity foot perfect for Gary’s busy lifestyle, according to Stan. “It’s great for daily walking and light sports activities.”
Ossur locking liners stabilize soft tissues effectively providing security, durability and comfort. The Silhouette features a lightweight, flexible design with responsive energy storage and return. It’s made with specially engineered carbon fiber lay-ups allowing wearers comfort for long periods of time, and provides for smooth rollover and natural gait. Engineered with multi-axial motion and a natural lateral to medial rollover, amputees can easily maneuver uneven terrain. These components work well for Gary who spends a lot of time on his feet.
Gary’s job entails providing guidance and training to organizations and individuals. To new amputees, he offers this advice, “You must do the work … wear the shrinker … use the prosthetic device … communicate effectively with the prosthetist!” These words are spoken from years of personal experience and successes.