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Standing strong

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, May 16, 2018
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Approaching the finish line on the McCarroll Middle School track last month at Jackie’s Run 5K, Angie Fowler fought her emotions with each step.

She’d been through seven years of surgeries, long hospital stays and a fight for her life that ultimately cost her her lower right leg. Days filled with anger and sadness now faded behind cheers and euphoria.

Angie Fowler

ANGIE FOWLER. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I started crying. I have two older kids. My oldest is a cheerleader at the high school, and I have an Eagle Doll,” Fowler said. “They were there with all their friends at the finish line. It was really cool having them standing there. I couldn’t believe I did it. I thought I’m never going to be able to do anything like this ever again. It was pretty life changing.”

The Decatur mother of four completed the 5K on a prosthetic built for walking. She plans to complete two more short races soon as part of her application for a sport prosthetic, which can cost between $50,000 and $60,000. Insurance will not pay for the upgraded prosthetic. She is attempting to get a grant to cover a portion of the cost.

“The leg I have right now is a really basic leg and doesn’t have any movement,” Fowler said. “There’s a lot of things that I can’t do. I found a few things online where you can apply for a sport running leg. You have to write an essay, go through an interview process and walk or run three 5Ks. I did the first one at Jackie’s Run. I jogged a fourth of it on and off because you can’t jog with this leg.

“There’s two prosthetic companies that want to help people who were active before and want to get them back to what they were doing before. I’m going to meet with them and see if there’s anything or some special financing they can do.”

BATTLE FOR HER LIFE

Taking to the slopes in Ruidoso in 2011, Fowler expected a smooth run down the mountain. But a crash left her with a broken leg and ankle that required surgery with pins, plates and screws used to reset the bones.

That was only the start of her troubles. Her ankle later collapsed, requiring a replacement. The ankle replacement surgery led to a MRSA infection in 2015.

“I got necrotizing fasciitis from it and [the doctor] left my infected hardware for seven months,” Fowler said.

Frustrated as her health declined, Fowler searched for another doctor without much luck.

“Finally I found another doctor that would take me. No one wanted to touch me for legal reasons,” she said. “When I got to him, he said I was so septic if he wouldn’t have got to me within a week, I would have died. I had no idea.”

The next day her leg was amputated. She then went into septic shock.

“My organs started shutting down, and they didn’t think I was going to make it,” Fowler said. “I started going into cardiac arrest, and my fever was 106.7. They told my family to start making arrangements.”

Against the odds, Fowler pulled through, to the amazement of her doctors.

“Most people that get a MRSA infection in their limbs lose both limbs, all four or die,” she said. “They said, ‘we cannot believe that you’re actually sitting here and standing here.'”

She credits her positive attitude of believing she was going to be OK to getting her through.

It’s been a long journey over the past few years since the amputation. In just three years, she had 40 surgeries.

“They have to keep going in because I have a bone infection from the MRSA. They have to keep going in and cutting off more bone,” Fowler said. “They’ve gone in six more times since my amputation and cut off more bone.”

Fowler is due for another surgery, which she is putting off.

“I need to have another revision done from when I was in the hospital back in September, but I’m just kind of putting it off because it’s the first time I actually felt good. Depending on how much bone they have to cut off this next time I might have to go above the knee,” Fowler said.

EMOTIONAL JOURNEY

Since the amputation, Fowler has felt a wide range of emotions, including anger over how she got there.

She also had to deal with putting a successful real estate career on hold.

“I had a property management company and was a real estate broker,” Fowler said. “I had to shut my company down when I was in the hospital. I was managing 300 rentals and had 17 agents.”

Fowler eventually found a friend in Candice Davis at the gym Fire Forged Barbell, who helped her escape the dark place she was in.

“I met Candice about a year ago. I was depressed, down and mad at the world and doctors,” Fowler said. “I saw this thing on Facebook, a six-week, ‘new you’ challenge. I signed up for it and went in and met the gym and there’s a coach there that was so excited to have me. She’d never had an adaptive athlete before.”

Though Fowler had her doubts she could do the workouts, Davis assured her she could. Davis spent the entire night before Fowler’s first session watching videos to create a workout for her.

Fowler was quickly hooked and found a new purpose.

“Honestly, this girl saved my life,” Fowler said. “It put me in a whole new mindset. She’s become one of my closest friends now.

“I never thought I could do anything that I’m doing now. When I was in the hospital, I could never see myself walking on a treadmill or lifting weights. I never thought I’d get to where I am today.”

She’s now thinking about bigger challenges than just 5Ks, including an adaptive weightlifting competition and a mud run.

“I’m getting into all that. I love it,” Fowler said.

NEW PERSPECTIVE

After all the surgeries and learning to adapt her life after losing a leg, Fowler has developed a new outlook on life.

“It could always be worse,” Fowler said. “I thought this was life ending. Now, I realize that I can overcome these things … It changes your perspective on life completely.”

As she’s shared her story recently with others, it’s been met with encouraging words. Many have called her an inspiration. She just hopes it inspires them to get more out of life.

“I didn’t choose this, and I don’t feel like I’m inspiring at all because this just happened to me and I didn’t have a choice,” Fowler said. “But I hope when they see it, they think that, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t take this for granted’ and maybe see things different when it comes to other people.”

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