It took only a few seconds for Fred Puttroff’s life to be changed forever.
Riding a bike down US 77 last August, Puttroff didn’t even see it coming when a car traveling south in the same lane swiped his recumbent bike, causing him serious injuries. The road to recovery has been arduous.
When Puttroff woke up several days after the accident, he found himself in Wesley Medical Center with a severe concussion, two fractured vertebrae and his left arm fractured in four places.
“They tried to save my left arm,” Puttroff said. “I can remember vaguely.”
When the flesh of his arm began dying because of the fractures, physicians had to amputate above the elbow.
He was checked out of the hospital more than three weeks later and sent to a rehabilitation center in Newton. After that, he spent four more days at Wesley Medical Center.
While he was still in the hospital, his sister, Karen Ryan, and his son, Aaron Puttroff, came from their homes in California to help him.
“I think I got home on the seventh of October,” Puttroff said.
He said he was glad to be finally going home after all that time in hospitals. But adjusting to life as an amputee hasn’t been easy.
Everyday things most people don’t give a second thought are things he’s having to relearn.
“Tucking in my shirt, I don’t do a very good job of that,” Puttroff said. “I just tuck it in with one hand. My shoes, I just leave them tied and stick them on with a shoehorn. I have a pair of shoes with Velcro fasteners. I haven’t tried putting on boots.”
He can only carry a box small enough to be carried with one hand. If two hands are necessary, it’s impossible.
“I haven’t had to hammer any nails,” he said. “Years ago I used to be an electrician and that would be very hard to do now — it would be impossible.”
He also cannot use fingernail clippers anymore, though he can use toenail clippers.
“I use emery boards taped together on my hand,” Puttroff said. “One emery board doesn’t have enough strength.”
Although he’s able to drive a car, using a turn signal often means using his knee.
To cut a steak, he uses a fork wrapped with adhesive tape and held between his teeth to hold the meat in place.
“It wouldn’t look good in a restaurant, but at home it works pretty good,” Puttroff said. “You’d be surprised to know what you can do with one hand that you never thought about.”
By the time all is said and done, recovery may take several more months.
Additional surgery is scheduled so his arm can be fitted with a prosthesis. The prosthesis is supposed to have moveable fingers, so that should help make life a bit easier, Puttroff said.
Throughout the process of relearning how to do everything he did before, Puttroff said his faith has been what helps him hold on.
“The only reason I’m here is my faith,” Puttroff said. “Jesus Christ has kept me here.”
Puttroff said he’s grateful to have a good church family who was good to him.
Doug Lind, friends with Puttroff through Eastmoor United Methodist Church, said he and his wife, Ginny, saw Puttroff about a half hour before the accident as they were driving back from Herington.
“He had his lights on and I swung wide and we waved at him,” Lind said.
About a half hour later, the Linds heard the ambulance headed to the scene of the accident.
The Linds went to the hospital that same night and contacted Puttroff’s family. They also did as much as they could to assist Puttroff during his recovery.
“He’s been fairly amazing to watch through this,” Lind said. “He’s kept up a fairly positive attitude. Fred wants to help everybody but he doesn’t want to ask for help. He needed help and people were ready to do it.”
Lind said he’s seen Puttroff’s faith in God deepen along with his ability to believe there are people in the community who genuinely care about him.
“I don’t know that he realized how much of an impact he’s had on the community,” Lind said.
Some volunteer work he used to love doing, but hasn’t yet been able to resume.
“I was delivering Meals on Wheels two or three days a week,” Puttroff said. “I’m not able to carry a two-handled cooler. I’m trying to figure out how to do it again.”
Another thing he used to do was drive people for the Marion County Department on Aging.
“I haven’t been doing that,” he said.
There is one thing he misses, though.
“With this nice weather,” Puttroff said, “I’d like to be back on a bicycle.”