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Life after double amputation: How a Calgary man is giving hope to others

WATCH: Ward Stene is an example in overcoming adversity and the power of having a positive attitude under life-altering circumstances. The Calgarian lost a part of himself but ended up finding something extraordinary. Jill Croteau reports.

On Feb. 13, 2019, Ward Stene received some life-altering news. The Type 2 diabetic had neuropathy in his feet, but he wasn’t aware how bad it was until he was rushed to the ER.

“I got a septic infection in my feet and I didn’t know I was in trouble,” Stene said.

“Doctors said ‘your best chance for a normal life is to have bilateral below-the-knee amputations.'”

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The 55-year-old woke up after surgery as a double amputee, but instead of sitting in despair, he found hope.

Ward after the double amputation surgery.
Ward after the double amputation surgery. Courtesy: Ward Stene

“I woke up from that feeling exhilarated. I was reminded ‘you’re alive’ and I wanted to keep doing positive things for my kids, my family and my friends,” Stene said. “I want them to look and say ‘he did it with positive attitude and didn’t become a jerk and he didn’t let it ruin his life he kept moving forward.'”

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Even so, the life he knew was going to be very different. Soon after his surgery he was fitted with prosthetics.

“It dawned on me that I’m never going to get that feeling of running off that dock and jumping into the water and feeling the sand.”

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Still, he shifted to optimism — it was his former career as a Calgary police officer that helped him find a way to adapt to this new reality.

Ward Stene in uniform.
Ward Stene in uniform. Courtesy: Ward Stene

“As a police officer, you have to go into difficult situations all the time and fix a problem,” Stene said. “It’s just the way I have chosen to live. I don’t see it as being extraordinary.”

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His outlook is contagious. Other patients at his physiotherapist appointments and clients at Colman Prosthetics and Orthotics are encouraged by Stene’s attitude.

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Stene with team at Colman Prosthetics.
Stene with team at Colman Prosthetics. Jill Croteau/Global News

His prosthetist, Candice Jay, said it’s been pivotal to his quick recovery and adjustment to his ‘new legs’.

“[For] some people amputation is hard to get past. People like Ward make my job fun and easy and it’s been a really good thing to have him around … other patients appreciate his positivity and camaraderie,” Jay said.

“That’s what I used to tell my rookies, you never know the impact you’re going to have on a life, so live it like you’re going to have that impact,” Stene said.