From the battlefield to the ice: Veteran uses advancements in prosthetics to become Paralympian

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A Purple Heart recipient is sharing how new advancements in orthopedics and prosthetics are bringing him back to the life he loves.

Rico Roman served in the U.S. military for seven years before he hit an IED in 2007, during his third tour in Iraq.

He worked for more than a year to try and save his left leg, but it was just too painful. That’s when he made the decision to do an above-the-knee amputation.

“We take for granted every day just being able to walk around, and I had to relearn that all over again,” said Roman.

For Roman, getting a prosthetic leg was bittersweet. He said he misses the military and those he served with. But as time went on, he knew he had to build back up again, learning how to walk with his new limb.

“And then eventually being able to run and my son calling me out saying he wanted to race me,” said Roman.

He then took it a step further and started competing in the Paralympics, becoming a gold medalist sledge hockey player.

“It was something I picked up during my rehab. I had no clue it was even a Paralympic sport, but so happy I did,” said Roman.

Orthotist Tim Nelson with Audubon Orthotics and Prosthetic Services said this is exactly what he works for.

“With Colorado Springs, it’s a big military town, it’s a great privilege to work with the patients and the veterans in our community,” said Nelson.

He said in the last 20 years, prosthetics has come a long way.

“With the advent of microfibers, or carbon fibers, and microprocessors which make the device much lighter, much easier to use,” said Nelson.

Roman said he has three different legs, allowing him to adjust depending on the day. He said getting back to what he loves is important.

“That sense of camaraderie, the teamwork that goes involved and again being able to represent my country is definitely something I cherish,” said Roman.

Roman said he plans to keep on playing, hoping to bring home gold once again in 2018.

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