Kelowna man wants people to help him learn to walk again after recent amputation

Ralph Zaiser first noticed something wasn’t right with his leg last year, when it became red and inflamed and it hurt to walk.

The 50-year-old from Kelowna, B.C., went to see doctors and learned he had several blood clots in arteries and veins in his upper and lower right leg.

Initial surgery to remove the clots and restore circulation was unsuccessful, according to Zaiser — and four days later he underwent surgery that amputated his leg below the knee.

“You’re shattered,” he said. “You have so many emotions that go through your mind, like, ‘why me?,’ denial and utter disbelief.”

Ralph Zaiser is learning how to be mobile on his new prosthetic leg and is now able to run errands around the city and cut his front lawn. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

After two months of healing, Zaiser started to use a series of prosthetics, along with crutches.

He spent afternoons at the local shopping centre walking and resting as he learned to use a prosthetic leg — and that’s when the idea hit him.

“Why don’t I get a bunch of people to join me in this walk?” he said.

On Saturday, Zaiser plans to walk for an hour around the corridors of the Orchard Park Shopping Centre and is inviting the community to join him.

“I want to create some awareness, and [a] good way to do that might be to create a spectacle of some sort, because if you do that, all of a sudden people will be like, ‘What is this all about?’ and maybe they will start asking some questions.”

Zaiser chose a date in April to coincide with Limb Loss Awareness month and started sharing his story through videos posted to social media about being a recent amputee and the challenges and triumphs he’s experienced as he learns to accept his disability and work toward greater mobility.

That experience has been very rewarding, and eye-opening, he said.

“There are so many disabled people in this town that I’ve started taking note of and before I was a lot like everybody else and didn’t notice these people.”

He is inviting both physically disabled people and the able-bodied to join him in his awareness walk.

A positive attitude and a support network

Steve Ziehr, president of the Amputee Coalition of B.C. Society applauded Zaiser’s effort seeking out people to help him on his journey back to mobility.

Most amputees go through a grieving process when they lose a limb, Ziehr said, adding it can be a difficult road for them to reach acceptance.

“The more positivity you have and the more people you have around you to help, it sounds trite but it’s so true, the easier it’s going to be on you,” Ziehr said.

Zaiser is asking anyone interested in participating to meet him at the shopping centre food court this Saturday at 10 a.m.

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