Leveling the Playing Field: One “Papa’s” Story of Greater Mobility

A below-the-knee amputation hasn't stopped Papa Dan from keeping up with his grandkidsOn Sunday, September 9, families across the U.S. will come together to celebrate Grandparents Day and give thanks to those who have helped shape generations. For Oliver (18 months) and August (5) Younger, the holiday will be just another afternoon they get to spend with their Papa Dan, who’s been babysitting them nearly all of their lives.

Every week day, Dan picks up his grandkids from school and daycare, and “we just play,” he said — mostly with Legos, August’s favorite toy. They also enjoy swimming and taking walks together with grandma Robin (or as the boys call her, Bobin).

Before Robin retired, Dan was the sole babysitter for August. “I never even thought about it,” Dan said. “I wasn’t working; [parents Max and Liliana] were needing a babysitter. I didn’t know if I would do it, because I haven’t had that kind of responsibility in years. I kind of got the rhythm of it, though. Now I can’t imagine not doing it — it’s the best, absolutely the best.”

Dan, who underwent an above-the-knee amputation in 2008, wears a prosthetic leg and utilizes the M+D Crutch® when needed to keep up with his energetic grandsons. “It was scary in the beginning,” Dan said. “When you have two legs, you have leverage. As an amputee, you fall a lot. I did for a while. The hardest part was getting used to holding a baby when you can’t feel or see one of your limbs.”

Papa Dan Helps August Decorate The Driveway

Dan was only 14 years old when he had his first knee surgery. Before becoming a semi-permanent crutch user, he had been on and off crutches. He’s had to be constantly aware of his surroundings, as to not lose his balance.

Now that August is older, he’s become more mindful, too. “He understands that he can’t run away from me,” Dan said. “If we take a walk, he’ll have to wait for me, or Robin will have to go ahead so she can keep up with him. He understands I can’t jump; I can’t run.”

But Dan doesn’t let his disability limit his daily life. While Robin worked, Dan looked after their kids, and when he started to babysit August, he knew he’d find a way to do all of the things he needed to again, like changing diapers and cooking meals. There was a slight learning curve, but even with one leg, Dan said the second time around was easier, mainly because of the tools he has available.

“I had been used to traditional crutches essentially my whole life — my shoulders hurt; my wrists hurt,” he said. Still, “If I don’t have my leg on, I have to be on crutches.” Dan’s experience with axillary crutches is what inspired his son, Max, to develop the M+D Crutch, a mobility device that uses the forearms and elbows instead of hands, wrists and armpits to support users’ body weight. Over the years,

Dan helped Max fine tune the M+D Crutch before launch in 2016.

Papa Dan enjoys spending time with his grandkids

“I had a voice that was true to what [Max] needed,” Dan said. “I was someone that actually had to use the crutches. Everyone who uses them has a different reason or different goals. I was only representing one version of that.”

For Dan, and likely for many others, one of his goals was to move around more comfortably, especially when chasing after toddlers. “It’s a much better tool,” Dan said of the M+D Crutch. “It gives me less pain, less intrusion. I don’t have to think about it as much. You have to learn how to use it, because it’s a different mindset, but it’s so much easier.”

Dan utilizes the M+D Crutch mostly in the mornings and evenings and when he heads to the pool with August and Oliver. Recently, Dan’s family went to Disney World and walked over 13 miles over the course of three days. By the end of each day, “I’m ready to put on the crutches,” Dan said. “They’re just a part of my life — I can’t imagine not having them. I can’t imagine where things would be.”

Mobility+Designed hopes you have a wonderful Grandparents Day with your family! To learn more about the M+D Crutch for yourself or a loved one, browse our website or give us a call today.