marketing and public relations
 
 
click here for the news highlights
click here for all news releases
click here for contacts
click here to read our functions
 
click here for the experts guide
click here for our home page
click here to subscribe to news by email
click here for the southern miss home page
click here for licensing
 
style guide
 
graphics standards
 
 
Released February 13, 2003

FORMER SOUTHERN MISS FOOTBALL PLAYER
TURNS TRAGEDY INTO INSPIRATION

HATTIESBURG - 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 his focus.

"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 1999.

"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 myself."

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.

-30-

to the top

 
 

This page is maintained by the Department of Marketing and Public Relations at
The University of Southern Mississippi at http://www.usm.edu.
Comments and suggestions are welcome; direct them to usm_mpr@usm.edu.
URL for this page is http://www.usm.edu/pr/prnews/feb13/mcpherson03.htm
April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

AA/EOE/ADAI