“Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”
They weren’t the words he was expecting to hear, but 26-year-old Nik Miller’s father held nothing back: “You can either grow from this or complain about it.” They came just months after the devout athlete and U.S. Marine Corps veteran was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle – resulting in head-to-toe injuries so severe, medical staff induced a coma to prevent further swelling in his brain while they attended to the rest of his shattered body. When he awoke three weeks later, he was hit with another devastating blow: his right leg had been amputated above-the-knee.
The next few weeks in the hospital were tough for Nik, as he wondered how he would accomplish even the simplest daily activities. Facing the possibility of an end to athletic pursuits altogether, Nik decided that was not an option.
His father’s words, coupled with his competitive spirit, fueled Nik’s motivation as soon as he was out of the hospital and able to start physical therapy. “I wanted to see how far I could go and what I could do. So if they said to do something for 30 seconds, I was going to do it for three minutes and thirty seconds.”
As his healing progressed, Nik began investigating the types of sports in which he felt he could excel despite his new physical challenges. Kayaking presented that opportunity.
He launched into a training program driven by the discipline and commitment that had defined him in both athletics and the military – and was soon fully committed to training for the Paralympic Games. But the physical demands heplaced on his body left him searching for a prosthetic device with a comfortable socket that wouldn’t slow him down when his residual limb size changed due to his activities.
Through referrals from fellow competitive athletes, he found himself describing his goals to Nancy Havlik, LCPO and the Area Clinic Manager for Hanger Clinic in Gainesville, Georgia.
Nancy fit him with the ComfortFlex® Adapt socket system – a revolutionary device patented by Hanger Clinic that provides a comfortable, secure fit for each person's residual limb and is now adjustable to tighten and loosen it during theday for a better fit.
The device was developed especially for people with above-knee amputations by a team of Hanger Clinic prosthetists who wanted to completely rethink socket design. Nearly all amputees experience fluctuation in the socket area, affecting comfort and fit. If the socket can’t be adjusted to accommodate fluctuation, the discomfort can force patients to be sedentary or confined to a wheelchair.
“When patients can’t move, their cardiovascular health declines,” explains Nancy, “And it isn’t just physical, it’s also emotional. Being stuck in a wheelchair can make patients feel hopeless.”
The difference for Nik was immediate – and gave him hope that the goal on which he’d set his sights might just be attainable: securing a place in the 2020 Paralympic Games. With that as their motivation, Nik and Nancy continue to work as a team to perfect the fit and performance of his prosthetic leg through the ComfortFlex® Adapt socket system, with Nancy frequently joining him on the water to watch his performance and make adjustments as he trains.
“Nik is very motivating”, says Nancy, “and he inspires me to think outside the box. It’s important to me to watch him on the water, because even if the device works great in our office, it doesn’t mean it will work the same out there. I want to make sure I get it right.”
Nancy will continue working with Nik right up to the 2020 Paralympic Games – where she’ll cheer him to the finish. But for Nik, it’s a finish that will represent a beginning: because his experience with Hanger Clinic gave him the hope and inspiration he needed, he intends to give it back by working with kids and young people to inspire them to overcome physical disabilities and prove, as he has, that “change is inevitable, growth is optional.”