LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Not long after Joe Riffe had an above the knee amputation, he was determined to get back to work as a paramedic. Less than a year later he has.
Riffe currently works for Rural/Metro EMS. As a paramedic Riffe faces challenges everyday. He always ready to take the call and always ready to save a life, but perhaps his biggest challenge is personal.
"You have to adapt to overcome," said Riffe. "So it's been trying at times, but for the most part it has been a great success."
It's been a long journey to get Riffe back in the driver's seat.
"A year ago this was more of a pipe dream and this is what I want to get towards and a year later, it finally became a reality that it was something that I was going to be able to do and it's been wonderful to be back," said Riffe.
In May 2011, Riffe fell more than 100 feet while hiking. He injured his leg so badly he was told if he ever wanted to get back to his beloved job, the only answer was amputation.
Riffe knew he would need a special military designed protest and the key to getting him back to a normal life was in the hands of his insurance company. It was an expense he could never afford on his own. Riffe said it was the greatest feeling when he heard they finally agreed.
"It's the first microprocessor leg that actually thinks with you," said Riffe. "It kind of tries to keep up with me and stay a step ahead of what I'm doing."
Since then Riffe will admit it hasn't always been easy. While he struggles with stairs he knows his limits and works well with his partner to make sure patient care is never compromised.
"Working with him is just an inspiration because knowing you can overcome something so tragic, so physically, mentally, and emotionally," said Christy Skaggs, an emergency medical technician.
Less than 60 above the knee amputees in the U.S. are actively working as paramedics.
"There's not very many of us," said Riffe. "Public safety is something they think they can't do as an amputee, so it is good to prove those things wrong."
Riffe continues to defy the odds and never allows the past to change the present.
"It's just part of what God had planned for me, so I'm happy to take it and go and there's no point in looking back," said Riffe.
Riffe said his next goal is to become a flight medic.
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