MOULTRIE —“Just trying to put one foot in front of the other ... wait ... I only have one foot!! Now what?!?” The statement on Monica Prestridge’s Facebook page resides under a picture of her prosthetic foot and real foot propped side-by-side in front of the ocean.

“You have to have a sense of humor about it,” she said laughing.

Prestridge lost her leg in January 1976, at the age of 4 while playing out in her yard.

“And being a 4-year-old, I wasn’t paying attention and fell under the family’s riding lawn mower,” she said.

When she was taken to the hospital, she had lost a lot of blood and Dr. D.W. Adcock was there to take her into surgery.

“He just happened to be at the hospital,” she said.

In a conversation she had with him this year, he told her a little of the story from his prospective. He told her that when she came in, she was “white as a sheet” and that the systolic number for her blood pressure — that’s the big number on top — was about 40, which some blood pressure charts don’t register, she said. She was in the hospital for about 3-1/2 weeks.

Sometime in the following summer, Prestridge said, she remembers getting her first prosthetic leg.

“They said I put it on and just took off running and never stopped. ... And I’ve worn one ever since,” she said.

Over the years she has seen the progression of the technology in prosthetics and said she wished that she had all of her “old legs” as a visual of the progression.

“As I grew, I would have to go pretty frequently,” she said of replacing her prothesis.

Her advice to other amputees, she said, was to find someone in the business of making prothesises who was also an amputee. She said a family should seek out the best care when it came to a prothesis.

“I don’t care how long you’ve been in the business, it makes a world of difference if you don’t have a prosthetic leg. You just don’t know what it’s like,” she said emphatically.

She also suggested that a person surround himself with a support group. She said that her family, friends and church were wonderful but being around other amputees makes it even better.

Prestridge said that growing up she knew only one other person who was an amputee and he was an older gentleman in her church.

“You know, I didn’t know anyone else like me. There was nobody I could identify with at all,” she said.

She said she felt like she was the only one in the world, as far as she knew, and she would have really liked to have a role model.

“I think it would have made a huge difference,” she said.

About four or five years ago, while she was working at the chamber of commerce, Jim Young, owner of the Amputee Prosthetic Clinic in Tifton, happened to walk in. He had just opened his business in Tifton and was looking for information about the local community, she said. Prestridge said meeting him and becoming his customer has changed her life because, through him, she has gotten involved with amputee activities like the Georgia Amputee Golf Tournament. This year, she plans to attend the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) National Conference in Atlanta, Ga.

“You don’t realize what a form of support it is ... being around other people who are like you,” she said.

She said when she was a kid she would try to hide the fact that she was an amputee and ignore it because there was no one else like her. Now, being able to attend the different amputee activities has allowed her to embrace it, she said.

“For a few years now I’ve kinda had the idea in the back of my head that I’d like to be involved with other amputees in some way, but never knew really where to start or what I wanted to do,” she said.

She said she felt that, lately, God was opening doors for her because some things have happened in the past few months that have seemed like signs.

A friend of hers, Lori Harper, who worked at Wonderland Nursery, asked her to visit and be a guest speaker for the pre-k children. The teachers had been talking with the children about the dangers of lawn mowers, she said.

“I was nervous going in there,” Prestridge said.

However, she said, she just went and talked with them and they asked her all kinds of questions about her prosthesis. She said she talked about what to do and what not to do around a lawnmower.

“They were so receptive and curious. But I really think they got the point,” she said.

Then, a few weeks later, Dr. D.W. Adcock literally showed up on her door-step and asked her if she would speak with a young man, Elias Theodoracopoulos, whom he met in La Esperanza, Honduras, on his annual mission trip. Elias and his mother, Xiomara, had come to Colquitt Regional Medical Center at Adcock’s request so that he could have his leg amputated.

“Dr. Adcock came and found me on Saturday after Elias had surgery on Thursday,” she said.

Theodoracopoulos had been in a motorcycle accident in 2002 when he was 15 years old and has had many surgeries since then trying to save his leg.

“For the last two years, he’s been in and out of the hospital constantly fighting infection,” Prestridge said.

She said Adcock told him, after they met in Honduras, that he really needed to have the leg amputated. Afterwards, Adcock wanted him to meet Prestridge to show the young man that he would be able to walk and live a normal life, she said.

“I told his mother that I wasn’t normal but it had nothing to do with my leg,” she said laughing.

Initially, she had a short visit with the family at the hospital and then, two weeks later Xiomara called, through an interpreter, and had many questions for Prestridge. She met with them again and walked them through the basics of having a prothesis, and she has been keeping in touch with them through the process.

“He’s just a sweet, sweet kid. I love them. It’s funny, even though the language is a barrier, it’s kind of not. We have so much more that bonds us,” she said.

She also plans to keep in touch with the family when they travel back to Honduras.

She said she spoke to the children and to the Theodoracopouloses as favors to friends and did not expect the blessings that she had received from doing so. So, she feels that these experiences have shown her that she is supposed to be “giving back” — and this was the first time in her life that she really felt that she had to do something.

“I’ve been very blessed and I would like to just be able to pay it forward,” she said.

At the ACA conference, Prestridge is going to meet up with a group, CAST (Christian Amputee Support Team) Ministries, and sit in on its peer training seminars.

“I’m really excited about being able to go to the conference and meet lots of other amputees, but mostly I’m excited to meet up with this CAST Ministries group and sit in on the seminars about the ‘peer training’ and ‘how to start a support group,’ so I can have the tools necessary to walk confidently through the next door that God opens ... whatever that might be,” she said.

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