In just four years, David has gone from breaking his foot while working on Broadway, to living on crutches for a year, to losing his left leg, then his right leg—all in the midst of having a second child and living through a pandemic.
“It’s been a rough stretch for me,” David says. “But you know what? My family thrived during the pandemic. We had campouts in the living room. Played board games. Made up recipes. We have fun together.”
And with everything David has been through, we think his story—of pulling through the hardest time in his life with a strong appreciation of family and a great sense of humor to boot¬—is a remarkable one to reflect on. This is the story of David’s four-year journey.
Year One: The Very Bad Break
David’s foot problems began in 2017 when he was first diagnosed with “neuropathy,” a condition that caused him to lose all sensation in both of his feet.
“Since I had no feeling in my feet, sometimes I’d injure myself and not know it,” David says.
And while this was an ongoing issue, he typically managed just fine over the next year—even as he put in long hours working as an audio engineer on Broadway. That is, until one morning when David couldn’t get his shoe on. After examining David’s foot, the doctor was incredulous at what he had found: David had been walking on a broken foot for days, possibly weeks, without any idea he had injured himself at all.
“The doctor found stress fractures in every single bone in my foot,” David says.
While ten years ago, this complication, called Charcot’s Syndrome, would have been an automatic amputation, there are now some options you can attempt to save the foot. And that is exactly what David spent the next year trying to do.
“They put all of these pins and rods and bolts in my foot,” David explains. “I was told to keep all weight off of it. I couldn’t walk or drive for that entire year.”
And after a grueling 12 months of surgeries, a loss of independence, and a total interruption of life—all in an attempt to save his foot—David developed a MRSA infection in his hardware. Which meant he would have to remove the hardware and start the process all over again. David reached out to several doctors for advice. They all said the same thing: his foot would never be the same.
“The doctors were like, look, prosthetics have come so far, and you’re a strong guy. You’re going to be just fine with a prosthetic,” David says.
David fought the idea for as long as he could. But as his foot kept getting worse, he finally made the once unthinkable decision to amputate just below the knee on his left side.
Year Two: David’s Recovery & First Prosthetic
David first met James Spiegel, VP and liaison at Allcare, in the hospital after his surgery. At first, they talked football and movies for a while. But when the conversation turned to prosthetics, James revealed something about himself. James is also a below-knee amputee.
“I didn’t even notice when he walked in,” David says. “When he told me, I was like, look, man—I don’t know anything about prosthetics. I don’t even know if my insurance will cover it.”
After talking it over and checking on his insurance, James assured David they could get him a good, useful all-purpose leg.
“I liked Allcare from the beginning,” David says. “They made everything super easy for me. They even walked me through their shop, which was cool to me, being in the theater business.”
As the pandemic hit, David eventually decided to leave the Broadway scene for an AV company that provides consistent 9-5 work hours and enables David to spend more time with his family.
“They’ve been super accommodating,” David says. “And I have better insurance now.”
With this new insurance, David was finally able to get a robotic foot.
“This foot is awesome,” David says. “It moves like a real ankle and automatically adjusts when going up and down ramps and stairs.”
And, since the robotic foot is controlled via Bluetooth, David can program different ankle settings for different shoes using his phone rather than adjusting everything manually with a tool.
Year Three: The Pandemic & The Set Back
In the summer of 2020, David got an infection in his remaining foot. Since he could not feel it due to his neuropathy condition, it ended up getting so bad that it led to a bone infection called osteomyelitis.
“The doctors wanted to take some bone out of my right foot,” David says. “Since it was a bone I didn’t really need anyway, they said it would be fine.”
But after surgery, one of the ligaments attached to that bone started to weaken and eventually snapped. This caused David’s foot to curl under—which forced him to start walking on the side of his heel. The doctor suggested surgery to stabilize the foot and then more surgery to add hardware to his tibia.
“How do we know this isn’t going to get infected and turn into a year-long project like the last time?” David asked the doctor. “We can’t guarantee that it won’t,” the doctor responded.
Suddenly David found himself in almost the exact situation he was in with his left foot, pre-amputation.
“I remember thinking: this is just the second verse to the same song,” David says. “And my robotic foot sounds better than what they can do for my right foot anyway.”
So at his next appointment, David turned to Eric Katz, his prosthetist at Allcare for his opinion.
“Do you have any patients that are double amputees?” David asked. “Yeah, several,” Eric said. “And most of them are doing great. I’m sure you’ll do just fine too.”
Year Four: The Second Amputation
That is when David made the decision to amputate his remaining leg. In April of 2021, David went in for surgery to remove his right leg, just below the knee. In late June, he got his second prosthetic and spent the month of July learning to walk again.
“I now have two robotic ankles, and I can do anything I need to,” David says. “I’m back at work. I’m walking. I mean, I’m even driving right now which I couldn’t do for a long time.”
One of the greatest parts about talking to David is witnessing his passion for his family—even through all of the adversity and challenges he faced during the hardest period of his life, family is clearly his number one priority.
“Some of the best advice I got was that you should live with your kids, not in spite of them,” David says. “And that’s exactly what my wife and I do. Have fun together with our kids.”