- At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, his legs long
and his arms solid, Jamie McPherson resonates the air of an athlete
both strong and determined.
McPherson needed that determination more than ever
Oct. 22, 1994, when the former University of Southern Mississippi
football player's life changed forever during a homecoming game.
"The defensive ends were supposed to rush the
quarterback," remembers McPherson, a former lineman who'd made
the routine tackle a hundred times before. But this time something
went horribly wrong. A teammate crashed full-force into McPherson's
knee, severing tendons, veins and nearly everything else in his
right leg. "A physical therapist who later saw the (video)
tape threw up," McPherson said. "You can see it really
good what happened."
Over the next three weeks, McPherson endured 13
grueling surgeries. But the true test of McPherson's strength came
Nov. 7, when doctors amputated a portion of his leg. "There
have only been two or three people ever who have lost
a limb from football injury," McPherson said of the resulting
staph infection that caused his surgery. "In fact, one of them
happened right after my own surgery."
But from all of this strife, McPherson found a calling.
Before his life-altering tragedy, McPherson, now
31, had planned to work on the business side of setting up programs
for able-bodied people, as well as those dealing with debilitating
injuries. But when extraordinary forces changed his life, he changed
"I didn't even know there was a field [of being
a prosthetist] until all of this happened," McPherson says.
"I thought you just ordered parts and put them on. But it's
an amazingly complex field. So I changed from the business side
to the clinical side."
Once his physical healing began, McPherson was fitted
with his first prosthesis by Rick Psonak, former director of the
Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center Orthotics and Prosthetics
Department, in which McPherson himself has worked since September
"From there, I got interested in production,
and then in the cases," McPherson said of working with prostheses.
"It's the perfect mixture clinical and mechanical, hands-on
with patients, and it's therapeutic. I get to speak to amputees
and there's a lot about the job I really enjoy from the actual
fabrication [of the prostheses] to visiting hospital rooms to meet
those who are dealing with losing a limb. Some don't know what to
do, some don't know if they want a prosthetic at first. They think
it's so difficult and that it looks so bad. That's when I talk about
McPherson said when he reveals he is an amputee
to new patients, it's a wake-up call for them. "I've been told
it helps them open up[to show that] it can be done. I may
have an insight to what a patient's feeling. In this business, I
see a lot of situations and for those patients with no family, I
become their support. But ... you don't have to be an amputee yourself
to be good as a prosthetist."
Southern Miss alumnae Sharon Howse is one of those
who benefitted from McPherson's unique perspective after she lost
a portion of her leg to a 1998 illness.
"I have had at least six prosthetic legs,"
said the former Southern Miss public relations writer-editor. "The
MMRC-made prostheses were, by far, the most uniquely adequate. Jamie
explained the equipment to me before I ever received the leg and
even got down and crawled on the floor as he trained me on
the proper stance and weight distribution for balance with the leg."
McPherson, a native of Grand Saline, Texas, now
lives in Hattiesburg with his wife, Traci; daughter, McKenzie, 8;
and sons, Bryan, 5, and Connor, 3.