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Subject: As promised, your judges commentary...21st Annual Writer's Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards
21st Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards
Entry Title: It's Just a Matter of Balance - You Can't Put a Straight Leg on a Crooked Man
Author: Kevin S. Garrison
Judge Number: 20
Entry Category: Inspirational
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "needs improvement" and 5 meaning "outstanding". This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.
In some cases, you may see special or out of place characters/symbols in your commentary. For example, you may see that a character/symbol replaces an apostrophe, copyright, and other "symbols". These substitutions occur for various reasons – and are unavoidable. They are often [programming] misinterpretations due to encoding, installed fonts, web based content/sources etc. Since the "content"[data] of the commentary is comprised of data sent from several different computers (programs, fonts etc.,) and from the internet (online entry system), you may at times see an interpretation of what had been an apostrophe, dash, quotation mark etc.
Structure and Organization: 4
Production Quality and Cover Design: 3
Plot (if applicable): 0
Character Development (if applicable): 0
The author provides a phenomenal description of his journey, especially in the earliest days of his foot injury and his mindset as a young man. The author has great talent in showing, not telling, the reader the steps of the journey and the mindset of his younger self. His choice of language is spectacular, including the progressions of his fear and confidence levels as a very young man, progressing through the years. It's especially impressive when the author shares sensory recollections, such as when the doctor is pressing on his wound, and he practiced great editorial constraint when it came to the more gruesome procedures he endured. The reader can follow and feel the path, but is not frightened into closing the book. Extremely well done, with great restraint and masterful sharing of experiential detail.
The Corvette rebuild story and analogy was spot-on and told in such an engaging way, that many readers will surely take this lesson with them long after reading the book. The rebuild provides great opportunity for improvement and personal pride in taking part in the new incarnation. Spectacular. The author creates a great sense of place in every environment, from the desert to the hospital to the Y and every other location; he has the mind and memory of a great writer, and it's a strength of this book to share the details so well.
Humor is part of strength, and where the author shares his humor as a coping mechanism and in hindsight is where his writing really shines.
The closing of the book, where he discusses his struggles with those who didn't support him, is one of the areas where readers in his similar circumstance will find themselves nodding in agreement, feeling the pain of the memory but also finding inspiration to let it go and forgive, as there is a strong path ahead. The book can be improved by eliminating those unusual historic photographs of the prosthetics innovators and simply history photos. One or two might have worked, but it's far better to get more photos of the author in his journey, using his prosthetics, more personal photos. Using the historic ones felt like filler and lost the flow of the book by being so plentiful.
Ending with 'The Beginning' was cliche, and hit a bit of a sour note at the last line. The book would end better without that.
Add a bit more dialogue in pivotal places so that the reader can hear what was said and how the author responded, then perhaps reflected on how he responded. The pain and anger areas would have been good lesson points.
The author inspires through a recounting of his life experiences. Some pull-outs of inspirational lines throughout would add an extra layer of relatability to this book. Overall, a strong read, a great project by a very talented writer who is an inspiration, even as a young man facing a changed future...which many current prosthetic patients will appreciate.
*Commentary may be quoted as: "Judge, Writer's Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards"
A review of It's Just a Matter of Balance
As appears in Kirkus Reviews
A heartwarming debut memoir about finding meaning in the face of loss.
In Garrison’s debut memoir, he recounts his experience with amputation and how it led him to devote his life to the study and production of prostheses. At 17, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in his right foot, and his doctors told him there was a “ninety-five percent chance” that amputation would be necessary—a pivotal moment in Garrison’s life that he recreates with vivid feeling (“The effect of those words as I tipped my head back, looking directly at the blinding bright lights above, shocked me in a way that I had never experienced before”). Three months after this fateful appointment, surgeons removed his foot and ankle. To any teenager, losing a limb might seem like the end of the world, and particularly to the athletic young Garrison, who admits that before losing his foot, he was uncomfortable around people with physical disabilities. Thankfully, his intrepid spirit helped him adjust to his prosthesis; however, he was underwhelmed by his device’s quality, and his desire for a better prosthesis spurred him to pursue a career path he’d never considered before—one that began with a minimum-wage job at a prosthetic manufacturer and ended with Garrison making a living as a certified prosthetist. Garrison is a proficient writer with an inspiring story, but his self-awareness and insight into disability give weight to his memoir. His sly sense of humor, meanwhile, provides a good balance to his heavier material, as when he reflects: “I was such a wild youth, before I lost my foot, that if I had ever gone into the military, I probably would have gotten into a lot of trouble….I would be hiding from the military authority way up in the mountains somewhere with two beautiful Asian women who loved me.” Overall, this book would likely be a valuable resource for anyone learning to embrace life with a prosthesis.
A quick but moving memoir of resilience.
An Interview with Kevin Garrison: Amputation is Inspirational
Michael F. Shaughnessy-
Kevin, you have just written a book about something that happened to you a while ago. Tell us about it.
In I971, I had to have my right foot amputated due to the reoccurrence of a tumor when I was 17 years old. The book “It’s Just a Matter of Balance” – You Can’t Put a Straight Leg on a Crooked Man – is an autobiography that I worked on for over 3 years. I wanted to write my story down for several reasons, mostly to educate. I wanted to help in the development of a much deeper understanding as to the feelings of the permanently disabled in the reader.
What was your first reaction?
When I was told that my foot needed to be amputated I was alone with the doctor with no family or friends with me! The young doctor proceeded to tell me since it was in the month of April, to come back after I finished high school in 3 months and at that time they would amputate my foot. I felt the saddest I had ever experienced before in my young life! I fluctuated between sadness and anger. I wasn’t going to return to the hospital, that was my thinking as well at that time.
How did your family take it?
My mother was horrified and just broke down crying, and my father had great difficulty talking to me about it. My two brothers were so young that all they could do to help was to just leave me alone as I was consumed with so much anger!
How much rehabilitation did you undergo?
Rehabilitation for me in 1971 was quite minimal. I was just scheduled for follow-up appointments in the cancer hospital – MD Anderson, in Houston, Texas. There were no amputee support groups available at the time and routine psychological care for a tragedy like this was not part of the normal medical rehabilitative protocol like it is today. I was left to heal and strengthen on my own.
What challenges do you face on a daily basis?
Then early in my rehabilitation process, I was challenged with fear of rejection, acceptance of the change in my body image, trying not to let my developing deep seated anger show in my behavior but it did, a need to feel normal again became quite a challenge. Now I just have to deal with realistic limitations to my activity level so my residual limb doesn’t get abused too much. Around 3 in the afternoon, I need to sit and take the pressure off my residual limb for short periods of time so I can keep actively going into the night comfortably. We all have limitations, don’t we?
I have done some hospital work, so I know a bit about P.T., O.T. and the like. What was your experience like?
Because of my age, 17, I was so strong physically going into this situation that PT and OT were not needed much at all. I had a few short sessions. I am not meaning to diminish the great importance of Occupational and Physical Therapy as it truly is quite an important part of the rehabilitative process.
My best and most appreciated experience was actually with a Nurse, she was quite empathetic. She had what I would call pure empathy for me, and she helped me greatly. I will never forget her genuine concern for my health and well-being. I found out later, as she told me during one of many conversations, that at one time she was a Nun.
Now, tell us about your work in prostheses… I know they have come a long way in the past ten years.
I have devoted my life to this most beautiful profession! I started providing prosthetic services when I was 19 years old and I have never stopped. I became a Certified Prosthetist in 1979. This profession is truly evolving and I have experienced or witnessed almost 40 years of it. I enjoy very much providing excellent properly made prosthetics for upper and lower extremities. Seeing my patients restored in function is so rewarding that I will keep providing this service as long as I physically can! I absolutely love when the opportunity comes when I can provide state of the art prosthetics. With microprocessor ankle units, now combined with microprocessor knee units to myo electric proportional controlled hands, wrists and elbows, I can offer a very high level of restorative function that truly approaches the natural function that was lost.
Kevin, what goals and challenges still await you- what do you still want to accomplish?
I wrote my book to help in the psychological part of the healing process for the permanently disabled. I want the book to be available to anyone that could benefit in reading it. I have most recently created a Blog that I post on every week to help further.
I just want to continue to grow as a professional, only improving in my competency and my sensitivity to my patients. I am interested in possibly working for the Veterans Administration in a VA hospital amputee clinic as a director as I get older moving on toward retirement.
I am leaving on June 30th to Haiti with Medical teams International to help provide prosthetic care and teach prosthetics, returning on July 8th. I want to help all I can!
What have I neglected to ask? Who did you write the book for?
I actually wrote the book to help the teenage student interested in a health care career, professionals involved in rehabilitative health care, permanently disabled people and their families and friends, and anyone interested in an inspirational true story.
I am very proud to say that the book has just been made recommended reading by the American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists. This is the main educational organization of our great profession.
Thanks for sharing your story- where can interested others get a copy of your book?
Over the internet at Barnes & Noble, many other book stores, Amazon, iUniverse publisher, and my web site as well, www.GarrisonsProsthetics.com.
Reviewed for the American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists
Title: It's Just a Matter of Balance - You Can't Put a Straight Leg on a Crooked Man
Author: Kevin S. Garrison, CP, LP
Publisher: iUniverse; Number of pages: 136
Reviewed By: Elizabeth Peterson, resident prosthetist, board eligible orthotist
It's Just a Matter of Balance-You Can't Put a Straight Leg on a Crooked Man is the story of the author's journey from smug high school jock to certified prosthetist with his own practice. Garrison discusses how a minor foot injury interrupted his innocence in the late 1960s. As the story continues and a Desmoid tumor is diagnosed, Garrison takes the reader on a journey through his teenaged denials and emotions. His late high school antics are comical, yet laced with a touch of self-loathing.
Garrison manages to pull himself out of the depths of self-pity when he develops a curiosity about his very ill-fitting Symes-style prosthesis. A mechanical-minded tinkerer, he becomes motivated to explore a career in prosthetics and pursue a quest to fabricate "properly designed limbs."
On his path to adulthood and throughout his education, Garrison is led to different parts of the country. The opportunities that present themselves to him can only be seen as compliments to his talents.
In summary: This book is ideal for those looking to get into the field. Garrison touches on the requirements that he needed to attend prosthetics school and gives insight on what current students can expect (from patient models to the dreaded critique). Featuring a humorous but sincere forward from Academy President-Elect Mac McClellan, CPO, LPO, FISPO, FAAOP, this is an enjoyable, quick read that can easily fit into the "inspirational" section of a personal library.
Amputee uses prosthetics, memoir to help others heal
As seen in "Sun Sentinal" - April 27, 2012
By Nicole Brochu
Kevin Garrison lost his right foot to cancer in 1971, at a time when there were no amputee support programs or doctor referrals for psychological counseling. At 17 years old, the one-time athlete was left to wrestle with the loss and emotional wreckage alone.
Two years later, he found a diversion that helped him heal: creating prosthetics like the artificial foot that allowed him to walk again. First as an apprentice at a plastics company, and later as a trained, certified prosthetist, Garrison had found his calling.
For the more than three decades since, the owner of North Miami Beach-based Garrison's Prosthetic Services Inc. has been helping amputees like himself get whole again, at least physically. Now, he's offering a contribution he hopes will help them, and those who love them, emotionally and psychologically, too.
In a new memoir, "It's Just a Matter of Balance — You Can't Put a Straight Leg on a Crooked Man" (iUniverse, $22.95), Garrison recounts not just the "anger, intense sadness and depression" he experienced when losing his foot but his lack of understanding about how those emotions were affecting him.
"I had never dealt with what happened to me," said Garrison, 58, of Weston. "When I was able to accept it and deal with it, I felt like I had more room in my mind where the anger used to be."
With a foreword written by Bruce "Mac" McClellan, the president-elect of the American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists, the memoir aims to "deepen the understanding of what goes on in the mind of someone who suffers a permanent disability," said Garrison, who received his prosthetics training at the University of California-Los Angeles and Northwestern University.
There's little question he has a bird's-eye view of the experience, not just as an amputee but as someone who tends to those who suffer the most traumatic emotional scars. Garrison's company is one of several contracted with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in Miami to provide prosthetic care to veterans with service-related injuries, and he participates in free clinics that counsel veterans on overcoming limb loss.
He has also signed up with the Medical Teams International to travel to Haiti to offer support and education to earthquake victims who suffered similar injuries.
"This happened to me when I was 17. I had no psychological help," Garrison says. With "It's Just a Matter of Balance," he hopes to spread the message of how healing that help can be.
18th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards
Author(s): Kevin S. Garrison
Title: It's Just a Matter of Balance
Category: Life Stories
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "poor" and 5 meaning "excellent," please evaluate the following:
Character Development: 5
Production quality and cover design: 5
What did you like best about this book?
Of the 24 Life Stories entries that I read, this was one of the best. At 17, Kevin Garrison lost his foot to cancer. He chronicles the events leading up to his loss, his recuperation and adoption of a prosthetic foot, and his developing interest in the field of prosthetics, which eventually led to his becoming a certified prosthetist. The author calls it" my story of survival." He writes, "I learned not to focus on everything I couldn't do but instead I chose to focus on everything I could do." This book is a story of life, of true feelings, triumphs, setbacks, and positive choices. The narrative flows smoothly. Mr. Garrison has a fine sense of pacing, and he includes a wealth of very interesting detail about the rehabilitation process, his work and life activities, the field of prosthetics, and his honest feelings. I think this book would make worthwhile and enjoyable reading for anyone and particularly for someone who has or faces a disability and for that person's family and friends, as well as for "clinicians, educators, and students" as another reviewer on the back cover recommends.
How can the author improve this book?
I don't have any suggestions for improving this book. I hope Mr. Garrison is able to market it widely. He might also consider seeking to publish excerpts in periodicals.
A Pompano Beach prosthetist, author, focuses on comfort
As seen in "The Pelican" Hometown News & Views - November 27, 2009
Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, Lighthouse Point, Lauderdale By The Sea, Florida
Vol.XVII, Issue 48
By Phyllis J. Neuberger
Kevin Garrison lost a foot to cancer on June 22, 1971 when he was 17. That loss gave him insights, compassion and led to a successful career in prosthetics and to authoring a book, titled, It's Just a Matter of Balance. Psychologist Veronica Noboa Pantuso writes,
"He was motivated by his own handicap to become a successful prosthetist and human being." Garrison nods his head in agreement and adds, "My motivation for this career was based on my own discomfort with the limb provided for me."
In September of this year, Garrison's Prosthetic Services, Inc. came to Pompano Beach opening offices at 1531 E. Atlantic Blvd.
This is a second location for owners Kevin and Catheline Garrison who have had a clinic in North Miami Beach since 1986. Well known for his compassion as well as his expertise as a prosthetist, one client, Patricia Wellisch says, "He has been working with me for several years. He's made an artificial arm and an artificial leg for me, and he does all of the adjustments as they are needed. Thanks to Kevin I am leading a normal life."
Garrison attended UCLA's prosthetic education program and then moved on to Northwestern University's long term program which included work in the famous Rehab Institute of Chicago. There, he successfully completed his training and passed the three-day exam by the American Board for Certification in Prosthetics in Chicago.
Certified and licensed, Garrison spent 10 years working for others and getting experience. In 1986 he opened a private practice in North Miami Beach.
His wife, Catheline, a registered occupational therapist and attorney, is now working on her doctorate at Nova Southeastern University. She still finds time to be her husband's clinical coordinator.
Garrison says, "I'm a registered vendor for all Broward Health hospitals, and I have a contract with the Veterans' Administration through the Miami VA Hospital. However," he adds, "My main referrals come from other amputees for whom I have made limbs. Surgeons who perform amputations now send their patients to rehab hospitals that have become places for helping amputees rehabilitate. Doctors who oversee these facilities are physiatrists. Dr. John Bell, who works mainly out of North Broward Medical Center and other local rehab centers is a physiatrist and a prime contact of mine."
Continuing, he explains that a limb must be adequately healed, for 10 days to a month, before fittings can begin. "The amputated limb changes rapidly over the next 15 months. Routine follow ups are essential to maintaining proper and comfortable function. My entire focus is good care and making patients comfortable."
He certainly succeeds according to Brian Philhower who says, "I've been with Kevin for a few years. He is the most knowledgeable prosthetic guy I've ever been with. When I went to him, my legs were raw. He made me two new below the knee prosthetics and they are the best I've ever had. He takes the time and truly wants his patients to be comfortable and happy."
Garrison says, "When I started back in '86, I realized my clients had emotional issues as well as physical ones. They were sad, angry and depressed about their situations. I decided then that I would make them the best possible prosthesis and they would become happier. Eventually I wrote my book to help new amputees confront their deep psychological issues as I learned to do."
Garrison personally makes all of the artificial limbs for lower and upper extremities in his North Miami Beach lab. He sees patients in both offices and will make house calls to home bound at no extra charge. "Materials are vastly different and improved since I began," he explains. "We now have the benefit of lightness with the use of graphite cloth, kavler cloth, and acrylic and epoxy resins. The mechanical parts are fabricated using aluminum, titanium and graphite parts, To increase comfort, we use silicone type liners to protect skin from pressure. These new innovations open up a whole new world for amputees allowing for greater comfort and function. Electronic limbs operate on battery power instead of body power."
Asked if he has done much work with veterans from Iraq, he says, "No. So far we have not seen veterans from this conflict in the Miami VA Hospital. From what I understand the amputees are treated allover the country and very few have been sent to us. I have a contract with the Veteran's Administration through this hospital and I volunteer there every month assisting in the amputee clinic for service related injuries. In fact, I provided the first i-Limb. handmade by Touch Bionics, to a veteran in this hospital."
The Garrisons have five children including one son now serving in Iraq. "I am very proud of my boy, who is so dedicated he reenlisted for six more years on this past September 11."
For a free evaluation, call 954-960-8747.
It's Just a Matter of Balance by Kevin Garrison
Book Discusses Both Literal and Figurative Balance
Original online publication of this book review at ADVANCE website
As therapists we frequently are exposed to people who are challenged by balance. What is sometimes not so obvious but can be just as challenging is finding our balance in life. Kevin S. Garrison, CP, LP, reflects on both in his book, It's Just a Matter of Balance. Garrison takes the reader on the path of his life from 1969, just before he learned of his foot tumor, to 2005 when he seems at a place of balance with his family, career and life.
This is an emotional, well-detailed and at times humorous story of Garrison's disability starting at age 16 when he was diagnosed with an "Osteo type Desmoid Tumor Grade III" on his right foot and the subsequent Syme amputation.
It's Just a Matter of Balance can also be viewed as an interesting analogy related to the amputee getting a new prosthetic limb. With the new prosthesis comes excitement and restoration, the pain of adjustment, the comfort and strength when the adjustment period is over and then the uneasiness when it is time for a new fit and the process begins again. Life can be similar. An event occurs - school, job, marriage, even tragedy. It is a difficult transition, we adjust, get used to it and then the next event occurs, making us learn to gain balance all over again. Yet each time it gets a bit easier.
Garrison paints the picture of himself as a maturing and humble young man and professional. He honestly describes the mistakes he made as an interning prosthetist and the resulting confidence (and balance) he gained as a professional by learning from these mistakes. And what seems to separate him as a fine practitioner is his ability to empathize with his clients, which he learns is shared by clinicians who have not experienced what he has. We all can learn from this.
It is amazing that Garrison as a young man was so driven to his career goal. From the moment he received his first prosthetic limb at age 17 he craved to know more. He states, "my new leg fascinated me.it was so challenging to try to understand how it had replaced my diseased foot."
The educational process was not an easy one for Garrison but he was determined. Each step of his career path brought with it struggles and adjustments. He adequately relays how integral they were in building his foundation and the balance that carries him forward.
The multidimensional characters that Garrison is able to bring to life, as well as the sketches and photos, add a fun element to this book. He includes several of his early clients who taught him valuable lessons, such as Mr. Truckner, who lost his foot in a grocery store. The four photos included are from an orthotic catalog published in 1906. The five sketches are renderings of original illustrations from a prosthetic manual published in 1906 and include interesting patient testimonials.
Garrison is able to share with us, as therapists, the perspective of a patient as well as a clinician revealing the compassion we sometimes lack. We are given an understanding in the privilege of seeing it through his eyes in this book. It's Just a Matter of Balance is interesting for anyone - a hopeful story for a person experiencing the loss of a limb and a useful story for clinicians.
It's Just a Matter of Balance, is a 129-page, soft-cover text priced at $19.95 and available from Garrison's Orthotic & Prosthetic Clinic Inc., 888-333-8770 or www.garrisonop.com
Michele Owens works at an educational collaborative south of Boston.
A Very Personal Story and Inspiring Read
As seen in AMPLIFIED - The Official Publication of Limbs 4 Life
Kevin Garrison shares his very personal story of becoming an amputee at age 17 due to cancer. His experience eventually leads him to study prosthetics. Here he finds the skills to help other amputees adjust, and within this journey, he also finds a much deeper understanding about his own life as an amputee.
There is a wonderful sincerity within this book. It is a truly inspiring read.
P.O. Box 282
East Doncaster, 3109
Phone: 1300 78 22 31
Amputee shares experience in book
Weston resident Kevin Garrison hopes his book about his struggles after losing a foot to cancer will inspire others.
As seen in the Miami Herald
By Beth Feinstein-Bartl
While jotting down his life story, what kept Kevin Garrison going was knowing that his experience battling cancer and losing a foot to the disease could help other people, particularly fellow amputees.
"When I was in the process of writing the book, it became, at times, very complicated and difficult," said Garrison, a Weston resident who recently finished penning his biography. "But I would stop and say to myself, 'If one person can benefit from reading this book, if one person contacts me and says it has changed their life and I've helped them, it all will have been worth it.' "
It took Garrison 2 1-2 years to complete his manuscript, It's Just a Matter of Balance.
"It was very expensive to print," he said of self-publishing. "I didn't contact publishers because I heard there would be a lengthy delay in getting it to market. I wanted to get it out as soon as possible."
The 129-page book chronicles Garrison's journey of learning to love life after being diagnosed at age 16 with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that led to the amputation of his foot. He began wearing a prosthesis a year later.
Garrison, a native of Cleveland, recounts his struggles and victories as an amputee. He went on to become a certified prosthetist and devote his life to helping other amputees, a path that eventually led him to found Garrison's Prosthetic Services in 1986.
He operates clinics in North Miami Beach, Margate and Pembroke Pines. He runs the business with his wife, Catheline. The couple have five children.
He has been promoting the book at various places, including a signing in January at the Borders Books & Music in Aventura. It received a big boost in November when it was listed as recommended inspirational reading on the official website of Heather Mills McCartney, an amputee and wife of Paul McCartney.
"I joined her website to communicate with other amputees," Garrison said. "I sent her a copy of the book. To have it listed is such a gracious honor."
Garrison is looking for a publisher to take over the book's marketing.
At each appearance, he reads a chapter and takes questions. Meeting the public has been very rewarding, he said.
"I'm enabling [amputees] to see through my story what they are going through and what they are feeling is normal," he said. "In doing that, I am empowering them to move on, accept what they've been through and gain strength from that and fully grow as an individual."
The book has motivated others, as well.
Brent Goldman, headmaster at The Sagemont School in Weston, said a guidance counselor at the private school is working with Garrison to come up with projects involving the students, who include one of Garrison's children.
"His book can teach them many different lessons," Goldman said. "Mr. Garrison has truly made lemonade out of lemons."
Rabbi Sheldon Harr, spiritual leader of Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation, where Garrison and his family are members, said he was moved after reading the book.
"I thought it was a profile in courage," Harr said. "It showed the perseverance of a person who knew he had to overcome challenges and turned it into a meaningful venture that helps other people. It shows that never giving up and working toward a goal is possible, no matter what our circumstances might be."
Garrison's next local appearance will be at 7:30 p.m. March 21 at Borders in Coral Springs.
The biography is available at Garrison's website and through his clinics.
A portion of all sales are donated to The Barr Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Boca Raton that supplies prosthetic limbs to needy amputees.
Weston Resident Offers Hope For Others
Cancer survivor, author, designs artificial limbs.
As seen in the Weston Gazette
By Debby Teach
It is not unusual to find Kevin Garrison running, playing tennis, biking or golfing in Weston, where he has lived since 1993. At first glance he might seem like any other athlete, but a closer look reveals the prosthesis that extends below his knee. Garrison's handicap, however, rarely prevents him from doing most activities. He dedicates much of his time to teaching others to do the same.
Garrison was only 16 when he learned that he had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. His doctors recommended amputation. At 17, he received his first prosthesis. He found it difficult to use and very uncomfortable.
"I knew that I had to remain strong for my family and friends and pretend that my situation did not bother me," Garrison said. "In reality I was struggling with ways to survive the terrible mental and physical trauma."
Garrison had always been very athletic and was on his high school's varsity wrestling team. He was artistic and creative. He was also mechanical and loved to work on cars and machines. He decided to draw on his abilities and channel all of his energy into ways to turn his situation around instead of feeling sorry for himself.
"I was always fascinated by the way the prosthesis worked and I knew that I could create something that was more comfortable and fit better," Garrison said. "I was determined to become a great prosthetist."
He attended prosthetic school and worked for others in the field for 10 years. In 1986, he went into private practice and now has three offices in South Florida. He designs, fabricates and fits all forms of artificial limbs for all age groups. Garrison said advanced technology has made today's prosthetics very strong, light and realistic looking.
"In my own small way, I am helping people regain their happiness in life by returning them to a feeling of normalcy," Garrison said. "I love my work. It is so gratifying."
Garrison feels fortunate to have so much. He works with his wife, Catheline, who is a registered occupational therapist, as well as an attorney. He has five children who range in age from 6 to 27. He is extremely active and leads a very full life. He is constantly reaching out to others through his work and in other ways.
He lectures to private organizations. In addition, he recently published an autobiography, "It's Just a Matter of Balance," which details some of the struggles he has encountered and how he overcame them.
"I hope my book helps readers embrace their disability so they can move forward in their lives and live the best life they can," Garrison said.
Weston Gazette: Why did you choose this line of work?
Garrison: I have been fascinated by it since the day I discovered it.
Weston Gazette: If you could change anything about yourself what would it be?
Garrison: I would be more patient and worry less.
Weston Gazette: If you had one day to spend any way you liked before the world ended, how would you spend it?
Garrison: I would spend it with my beautiful wife, children and our complete extended family.
Weston Gazette: What publications do you subscribe to?
Garrison: I subscribe to several professional publications that apply to my field.
Weston Gazette: If you could spend one day with a famous person, who would it be?
Garrison: I would spend it with Paul McCartney, because I am fascinated by his music and life.
Weston Gazette: Who is your favorite performer?
Garrison: My favorite actor is Roy Scheider, who played the police officer in Jaws. He is a very intense actor.
Weston Gazette: What is your favorite hobby?
Garrison: I love to go fishing, because it is relaxing.
Weston Gazette: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Garrison: I can remember getting to the cash register in a store, after waiting in a long line of customers to purchase something, only to realize that I did not have my wallet.
Weston Gazette: Are you a morning person?
Garrison: No, I am not usually awake until 11 a.m., even with my coffee.
Weston Gazette: If you could change your career, what would it be?
Garrison: I love my career and would not want to change it.
Weston Gazette: What do you like to do during your free time?
Garrison: I like to relax and spend time with my son and family.
Weston Gazette: What are the ages and interests of your children?
Garrison: I have five children. Gabriel, 6, the only one who lives at home, loves all of our pets. Nathan, 19, is an airman in the United States Air Force. Mindy, 21, loves to sing. Barrett, 24, loves sports. Dayna, 27, is very creative and artistic.
Weston Gazette: What's your idea of the perfect vacation?
Garrison: We love to go to El Conquistador, in Puerto Rico. It is the most beautiful place in the world.
Weston Gazette: If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?
Garrison: I would go back to my youngest age to correct all of the mistakes I made which contributed to sadness in me or anyone else.
Weston Gazette: Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Garrison: I will never forget Mrs. Lopez, one of my high school art instructors, because she really cared about her students.
Weston Gazette: If you could be anyone else, who would you be and why?
Garrison: I am happy with who I am.
Weston Gazette: If you never had to work, what would you have done?
Garrison: I would have been a philanthropist, helping society in very meaningful ways.
Weston Gazette: If you had a chance to shape world opinion, what cause would you adopt and what would you say to world leaders?
Garrison: I would adopt a cause that supported equal rights for every human being on this planet.
As seen in:
Dallas Amputee Network
April 2007 Newsletter
The featured speaker was Kevin Garrison, an amputee prosthetist from Florida who wrote a very impressive book, "It's Just a Matter of Balance" which describes his journey through the stages of transition into amputee life, and how he decided to go into the field of prosthetics.
Kevin grew up in El Paso, Texas, where he loved hiking in the desert looking for fossils, ancient Indian relics, and interesting wildlife. He told us about the injury to his foot which led to his amputation at age 17, and the experiences he had adjusting to his limb loss, at the age when being "normal" and fitting in with his peers was so important. He read portions of his book describing his thoughts, fears and moods as he realized that his life would be drastically different than he expected it to be. He wrote, "Things became very serious for me very quickly. Losing a foot was like a ton of bricks falling on you all at once, weighing you down and making you feel helpless under there in the dark, not being able to move or even breathe." Those of us who are amputees can certainly relate to this feeling of helplessness, and it's one of the many stages we have to work through.
As he learned to walk with his new prosthesis, he began to examine how it was put together and how it worked, and this led to his interest in becoming a prosthetist. While he was a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, he got a part-time job working in an artificial limb shop, and through hands-on experience, discovered that this was definitely his field. He was accepted at UCLA as the youngest applicant for a prosthetic certificate course (at age 19) but after completing that course, he went on to Northwestern University in Chicago and became a board-certified prosthetist in 1979. He eventually opened two of his own prosthetic facilities, Garrison's Prosthetic Services, Inc. in Margate, Florida and North Miami Beach, Florida.
In writing his autobiography, Kevin was hoping to inspire other amputees to follow their dreams and never give up hope - when things seem the darkest you have to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and work toward it. The support of family and friends is invaluable, but other amputees can understand what it means to lose a limb, and are able to help in a much different way because they have gone through it. Kevin has told his story in a very personal way, from his view of life as a teenager to the maturity he experienced in his realization that the anger he felt at the time was never expressed. This book is not only meaningful for amputees to read, but prosthetists and other professionals in the field can gain important insight into the psychology of losing a limb.
By: Ellen Fernandes
Amputee, founder of the Dallas Amputee Network