Amputees play exhibition volleyball match to raise awareness

By Rick Portier Updated: Sep. 21, 2018

By Rick PortierUpdated: Sep. 21, 2018 at 12:44 AM EEST

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – Dick Empson pulled a long sock over his thigh before hitting the floor for warm-ups. He and the rest of the Cajun Crushers were preparing for a pick-up game of volleyball. Two years ago, Empson never thought he would be here.

It was the summer of 2016. Empson and his family had spent the weekend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast surf fishing. When he got up Monday morning to return home, Empson says he could not put any weight on his right leg.

Instead of going back to Baton Rouge, Empson had his son take him to Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis. After a few tests, doctors delivered the bad news: vibrio bacteria, a flesh-eating-bacteria, was inside his leg. Within 12 hours, the situation went from bad to worse. “The surgeon said, ‘Life or limb.’” said Empson, “So I had to make a decision.”

Doctors took his right leg just above the knee. They got the bacteria, but Empson had a long road to recovery.

After a couple of weeks in Mississippi, Empson returned to Baton Rouge and entered Baton Rouge Rehabilitation Hospital to learn how to live without a leg. “It was training,” Empson said. “Working to get my muscles back in tone, to get my ability to pick myself up, to exercise.”

Now, two years later, he’s a member of the Cajun Crushers sitting volleyball team. “It’s a lot harder than playing volleyball standing up, I guarantee,” Empson said with a chuckle. “You have to scoot!”

He and the rest of the Crushers are playing their therapists in an exhibition game to give hope and inspiration to new patients and their families. It’s part of the the hospital’s recognition of National Rehabilitation Awareness week.

“These injuries are life-changing,” said Empson’s occupational therapist, Allison Cutrer. “When they see others who have come through their injury, their recovery, and are living life on the other side, it gives them hope that there is more than what’s going on today.”

And what’s going on today for Empson is life. “Don’t ask me, ‘Can you?’” he said. “Tell me what you want me to do. I’ll try.”Autoplay1 of 10