Local volunteer firefighter fights fire with prosthetic leg

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GHENT, WV (WVNS) — What started out as a dog bite, turned into an amputation. For years, Donnie Epling struggled with his left leg and his diabetes.

“I couldn’t get it in the boot. I couldn’t walk, it hurt,” Epling said.

After multiple toe amputations and eventually a foot amputation, Epling decided to completely remove his leg in 2018.

“I wanted to have the amputation. I was tired of hurting and I was ready to be mobile. And he agreed. We took it off below the knee. It ranks in the top 8 or 10 best things I’ve done in my life,” Epling said.

But he still felt he had a calling to serve his community as a volunteer firefighter. So, the group at West Virginia Orthotic and Prosthetic Center took on the challenge. Alan Lett owns the center.

“I would rather make a 100 of them that get used to the max, than just three that would just sit there,” Lett said.

Although Epling’s story is unique, he’s not alone in his battle. According to the WV DHHR, more than one in 10 West Virginia adults have diabetes. A lot of times, that comes with pain in their limbs.

“Diabetes being the leading cause of amputation,” Lett explained.

But Epling has a message for anyone struggling with that pain in their life.

“There’s no need to live in pain. There’s cures for it. I’m a walking example,” Epling said.

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