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Amputee Bob Clausen Says If You Want Something Bad Enough, You Will Do It


Editor’s Note:  Widower and Navy veteran Rober “Bob” Clausen did two tours in Vietnam. At the time, he thought he had returned home from the war relatively unscathed. Despite suffering from a back injury, he was still able to walk and lead a fairly normal life. But, like many Vietnam servicemen, Agent Orange came back to haunt him later in life, and at the age of 69, he became an amputee. A true soldier, Clausen refuses to let circumstances get in the way of doing the things he wants to do.

The Effects of Agent Orange Nearly 50 Years Later

Vietnam Vet's Hat & Service Ribbons

In 2011, my right calf started hurting while walking. It wasn’t a cramp; the muscle just started hurting. I had major back surgery before that, but my back doctor said the pain wasn’t related. I was referred to a vascular doctor who did some tests and said I’d need one or two stents in the thigh and maybe a bypass in the lower leg. Since it was an invasive procedure, I went to the Department of Veteran Affairs for a second opinion. They came to the same conclusion.

In October 2012, I went in for surgery at the VA. They didn’t end up putting two stents in my thigh or doing a bypass. Instead, they put a stent in my waist area right of the belly button. The blood pooled, and I ended up in intensive care for a day. It took a couple months for my body to recuperate all that blood, and it hurt. It was like getting kicked in the groin and the pain never goes away. After that, my leg didn’t bother me for a few months, and then it started hurting again. The doctor said my right femoral artery was 90% plugged, so I had an angioplasty done to clean it out.

That December, I drove down to Reno from Vancouver, where I was living at the time, to be with my daughter for Christmas. The day I got there, I ended up in the ER because my artery was bleeding. They operated on my leg, and I stayed in a hospital there for nine days. The surgeon told me I was a lucky fellow because the majority of patients he’d had with that kind of aneurysm didn’t survive. He also said I had a staph infection which was probably due to the prior surgery.

A few months later, I bought a house and three days before the move from my apartment, my right foot was hurting so badly I couldn’t even put pressure on it. I went to the hospital, and they discovered I’d had another aneurysm. They decided it was necessary to amputate my right leg below the knee. From there, I went to a healthcare facility for a few weeks and ended up having a third aneurysm, so they had to take some more off that leg.

All of this happened because of the staph infection and inadequate blood supply from vascular disease. Vascular disease is the VA’s term for having served in Vietnam. Otherwise, it’s called peripheral artery disease. They say that Agent Orange causes vascular disease, so here I am with one leg instead of two. I was 69 years old when amputated.

Making Do With What You’ve Got

men who use wheelchairs 2

It took me a long time to heal. My leg was removed in 2014, but I couldn’t get a prosthetic until August 2015. I used a manual wheelchair while healing because I couldn’t get approved for an electric one. I’m not sure why. The nurses tell me I’m too independent, but when you live by yourself in a house, you have to be.

I would really like an Aqualeg. It allows you to wear the prosthetic all day long and also walk along the seashore. If it gets wet, no big deal because it’s waterproof. If you want to go swimming, just jump in the pool. That’s what it’s made for.

The VA has a caregiver that comes out a couple times a week to do some housework. It’s really helpful, but it bothers me because if I had the right prosthetic and wheelchair, I would be able to do almost everything I did before with two feet. I’m getting compensated well by the VA, but I have to pay people to do things that I used to do. That’s what bothers me. I used to be active, but I just can’t do it anymore.

It hurts your ego and your go-getter attitude because you can’t do the things you used to be able to do.

DIY Wheelchair Alterations

 

mowing-lawnI’m mostly confined to a wheelchair inside and outside my house. I was able to get a grant from Home Depot because I’m a veteran and they made my house and property wheelchair compatible. They put a concrete ramp from the garage to the ground level and ran pavers out to my shop building. A manual wheelchair on grass or dirt surfaces is like trying to ride a bicycle in sand dunes. It just doesn’t work.

However, I found my wheelchair to be dangerous, so I made some alterations. The big wheels hold your weight, but if your weight is behind the axle, it’s easy to tip backward, so they put those anti-tippers on them. I took those off because every time I tried to back up, the wheels would get hung up. I also moved the axle housings back so my weight is no longer behind the big wheels and lowered the front wheels, so I can propel faster.

I used to drive truck. You always have to load a truck in such a way that it meets all the laws, but also so that it won’t break down your trailer. It’s called weight distribution. I used those principles to make alterations to my wheelchair.

Going After What You Want

disabled athlete with the wheelchair during a sports competition

I was told I couldn’t drive with a prosthetic leg and that I’d have to learn with levers and buttons.

But if you want something bad enough, you’re going to do it.

So now I’m driving. I have a motorcycle, too. I will ride it someday. I can’t garden anymore because it’s not possible with the wheelchair. I enjoy cooking. I have to since I live alone. I also enjoy woodwork. I made each of my daughters a game board with a black onyx chess set, checkers, and deluxe scrabble. They are on a lazy susan. It took a while to figure out how to do that. I made some tissue and toilet paper holders out of red oak. I have done some pool cue racks, a coat rack, and some anniversary clocks. I started a cutting board with exotic hardwoods from different countries. Now I just have to find the time to finish it!

cutting-board-set-up-1

Mind Over Matter

After my first amputation, I was in the hospital feeling sorry for myself thinking, “geez, who was I this mean to to deserve this kind of punishment?” But when they cut the leg the second time, I happened to think, “you know, stuff happens.” You just have to start thinking a little bit differently and praying. Praying is very important. I don’t go to church, but I’m religious in my own way. When I’m having trouble with pain, I’m already laying on my back, so I just fold my hands and rattle away. I’m allergic to opiates, so I can’t take any kind of pain medication. It’s hard. You can work yourself up to it and tell yourself you can handle it, but when it actually happens, you may not be able to handle it. I found that mind over matter works.

Hipster son running with disabled father in wheelchair at park.

Anytime you can get your mind off of your injury, you’re better off.

Editor’s Note:  All information contained in this article was provided by Robert Clausen. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Wheel:Life.

A Magazine for Amputees

amplitude-logoAmplitude magazine provides valuable and unbiased news, information, and resources for amputees who want to live more fully, as well as articles and information relevant to their families and their caregivers. It offers content on a wide variety of topics, including peer support, active living, emotional issues, health and wellness, mobility, and adaptive living—anything that will help amputees enjoy all that life has to offer. Learn more at www.amplitude-media.com.

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Comfort Medical is Helping People to Achieve a Healthier and Happier Lifestyle

If you’re an avid Wheel:Life reader, you may remember that we ...

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Advocating for Disability Rights with Stephanie Woodward and CDR

Editor’s Note: During a summer internship at the Center for ...

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Building Strength and Confidence with Handi Capable Fitness

Editor’s Note: A botched hernia operation during infancy left James ...

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Comfort Medical Sponsors Freedom Concepts to Help You Win An Adaptive Bike

Have you always dreamt of gliding down the street with the wind in ...

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Experience It All At the Abilities Expo!

Days are becoming shorter, nights longer, and the holiday season is ...

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ParaSportsLive: Bringing Adaptive Sports Coverage to the World

Editor’s Note:  When wheelchair user Tony Jackson’s original ...

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Introducing the New Cure Ultra Coude Intermittent Catheter for Men

Cure Medical has unveiled the new 16-inch Cure Ultra® Coude ...

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Get Ready for Rolling With Me’s Each By Name Conference

Wheel:Life, Comfort Medical, and Rolling With Me is excited to ...

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Smooth Sailing with David Gaston

Editor’s Note:  A Texas coast native, David Gaston has been in and ...

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Gain Traction This Fall with National Ramp

Summer is officially over and dreary winter weather is on its way. ...

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Wheelchair Dancers Organization Says Everybody Can Dance!

When life-long dancer Beverly Weurding was diagnosed with limb-girdle ...

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Pursuing Health and Happiness with Malaise Wheelchair Fitness

Editor’s Note: Justin Malaise grew up in small-town Wisconsin as a ...

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Former Ms. Wheelchair Illinois Continues to be a Voice for the Community

Editor’s Note: Born with spina bifida, Kim Brown has been a ...

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Dare to Discover the World of Accessible Travel With Handiscover

Editor’s Note: Sebastien Archambeaud has always loved traveling, so ...

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Made for Kids! The Pediatric Hydrophilic Cure Catheter + Free Backpack Program

Parents only want what’s best for their children and keeping them ...

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Wheeling, Driving, Bowling, Preaching, Parenting…Johnny Hudson Does It All Hands-free!

Editor’s Note: Johnny Hudson was born in 1977 with unforeseen ...

Pat Dougherty explains FreeWheel to a new fan at a recent Abilities Expo.
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The Abilities Expo is Coming To Boston!

Boston awaits with open arms. This September 8–10, head over to the ...

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Comfort Conversations: Change Starts with You – Becoming an Advocate

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

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WheelchairTravel.org: Blazing the Trail Towards an Accessible World  

Editor’s Note: After sustaining severe burns during a car accident ...

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The Artfully Gifted Foundation – Serving Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

Editor’s Note: The Artfully Gifted Foundation (a non-profit) was ...

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How the SCRS-IL Can Help You Live Independently

Editor’s Note: When triple degree holder Jose Gonzalez returned ...

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Peter Arballo Never Gave Up on Himself — Neither Should You

Editor’s Note: Peter Arballo was born in Southern California to ...

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Full Speed Ahead with Endurance Racer Michael Johnson

Editor’s Note: Michael Johnson of Lansing, Michigan, started racing ...

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The Extraordinary Life of Triple Amputee Monica Vickers

Editor’s Note: Monica Vickers was born in 1954 missing both legs ...

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Rick Hayden Rolls on Capitol Hill for Your Rights

When Rick Hayden visited the US Capitol last week, he went with your ...

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Gear Up for Abilities Expo Chicago

Calling all Midwesterners — Abilities Expo is coming to Chicago! As ...

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Run, Jump, and Throw Stuff with Angel City Sports

Editor’s Note: Clayton Frech is the CEO and founder of Los ...

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Sled Hockey with Coach Koz

Editor’s Note: Sled hockey (also known as sledge hockey) is almost ...

Summer Solutions with STYLEDWEL
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Summer Solutions with STYLEDWEL

Editor’s Note: Mary Marshall, founder of STYLEDWEL, created ...

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Following Your Inner Guidance with Kristina Rhoades and How National Ramp is Helping Her Do It

Editor’s Note: Kristina Rhoades is a mom, wife, speaker, writer, ...

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Comfort Conversations: Finding Encouragement Through Peer Support Groups

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

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Allen Beauchamp on Life, Love and Hockey

My name is Allen Beauchamp, and I’m 43 years old. I live in a ...

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Yoocan Get Empowered!

Editor’s Note: Inspired by a family member with disabilities, Moshe ...

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Introducing the Cure Ultra: Ready to Use Catheter for Men

Cure Medical has unveiled the new 16-inch Cure Ultra™ Intermittent ...

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Refuel and Rejuvenate At Abilities Expo New York Metro

East coasters, or anyone within striking distance, gear up for ...

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Criptaedo: Breaking Boards and Barriers

Editor’s note: Paul Brailer, aka Criptaedo, was born with spina ...

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Rolling Forward with Amputee Advocate Stella Sieber

I’m currently 63 years old and live in Durham, North Carolina. ...

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Stroke by Stroke: Moving Forward with Mallory Weggemann

Editor’s Note: At 18 years old, Mallory Weggemann walked into the ...

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Comfort Conversations: Finding Your New Normal After a Spinal Cord Injury

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

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Glenn Moscoso: Wheelchair Daddy

Editor’s note:  Glenn Moscoso is a husband and father living with ...

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Avoiding Slippery Slopes with Garth Walker and National Ramp

Editor’s Note: After selling his prior business, Garth Walker went ...

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The National Sports Center for the Disabled: Finding Self-Confidence through Personal Challenge

Editor’s Note: The National Sports Center for the Disabled, founded ...

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Wheeling around the World with Susie Twydell

Editor’s Note: Based in England, Susie Twydell, an avid traveler ...

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Amplitude Media Group: Closing the Information Gap

Wheel:Life is thrilled to announce their newest community partner, ...

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Accessible Hiking, Camping and Fishing? WOW!  

Editor’s Note: Wilderness on Wheels (WOW) is a foundation and a ...

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Comfort Conversations: Events, Free Packs, and More with James “Woody” Beckham

Editor’s Note: The Woody Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit ...

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Jenn Sexton Shares Her Secret for Independence: An Extra Long Cure Catheter

Jenn Sexton was five weeks pregnant when she and her husband, Thomas, ...

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Glen Schlotterbeck: Reinvent Yourself!

Editors note: As a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Glen ...

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Educate, Energize, and Enlighten at Abilities Expo Los Angeles

The Abilities Expo is back in Los Angeles and gearing up to show you ...

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Juan Sebastian Betancourt: Changing the Way Businesses Serve People with Disabilities

Editor’s Note: Juan Betancourt is on a path to change the world for ...

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AccessibleIndonesia: Making Travel Accessible in a Non-Accessible Country

Editor’s note: Kerstin Beise, a German physiotherapist, who also ...

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A Lesson on Living Life to the Fullest with Hydred Makabali

Editor’s note: Hydred Makabali, born and raised in England and now ...

Up/Down Team Champions (Top L to R) Shane Hayden, Harold Collins (Seated L to R) Gary Bowling, Kenneth Hill, and Don Law
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Knocking Down The Pins of Life with Wheelchair Bowling Champion Kenneth Hill

Editor’s Note: Fifty-year-old Kenneth Hill from Plainfield, ...

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Take Your Wings and Fly with Denise Horn

Editor’s Note: Fifty-six-year-old Denise Horn of Janesville, ...

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Ashley Hutson Wilson Beat a Small Chance of Survival to Live a Full Life

Editor’s Note: Thirty-one year old Ashley Hutson Wilson from Kyle, ...

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Jam with Mel Bergman: Creator of Wheely Guitars

Editor’s Note: Mel Bergman of Camarillo, California, is the ...

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Gary “Tiger” Balletto: Champion Prize Fighter Who Rolls with the Punches

Editor’s Note: You can capture a ferocious wild tiger and put him ...

9 Robby Heisner
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Meet Robby Heisner: Creative Entrepreneur on Wheels

Editor’s Note: Robby Heisner of Smyrna, Georgia ...

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The National Rifle Association’s Adaptive Shooting Program with Dr. Joseph Logar

Dr. Joseph Logar Editor’s Note: Dr. Joseph Logar has his doctorate ...

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The Rollettes Take On an E.P.I.C. Project to Empower Others

Editor’s Note: Chances are, you’ve seen these ladies ...

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Speak Up Now to Save Your Wheelchair: Fight Medicare Cuts

Your window is narrowing to preserve access to mobility equipment – ...

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Go Further Together with GRIT: Stories of Community Support

Our friends at GRIT, the makers of the revolutionary Freedom Chair, ...

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Paralyzed Veteran’s Mom Awarded Dream Trip by ElDorado Mobility

Editor’s Note: Serving our country as a military service member is ...

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Wheelchair Karate: Attack the Attacker with Kenneth Perry

Editor’s Note: Kenneth Perry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ...

5 Tom Cannalonga
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Ditch Your Chair to Sit-Ski the Slopes with Tom Cannalonga 

Editor’s Note: Fifty-two-year-old Tom Cannalonga lives in Edison, ...

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Welcome to Wheel:Life

We are so glad you’re here! Wheel:Life is a global initiative ...

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