Hamilton plumber strives to return to work after leg amputation

The former high school wrestler (Fairfield, Class of 1991), who won the Greater Miami Conference in the 171-pound weight class, is back in training, rebuilding his strength and planning his return to full-time plumbing.

Come March 1, Pater, who lives in Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood, plans to be again crawling under sinks and doing all the other maneuvers that plumbers must do in their physical profession.

On June 3, he fell 10 feet from ladder-like stairs while working at a Fairfield business and landed on his left leg, snapping his tibia and fibula, which broke through his skin.

After surgeries to reconnect the bones, he developed a bone infection that threatened his life, so he agreed to have his left leg amputated below the knee on Oct. 5. His medical bills so far total $439,000, including the $106,000 amputation.

Pater, 43, is five weeks into his rehabilitation, and is thankful to Rocco Prosthetic & Orthotic Center of Walnut Hills.

“I tell you, he’s a strong-willed individual who is determined to get everything back,” said Kim Nartker, owner of Stretch Physical Therapy and Total Wellness in West Chester Twp., where Pater is undergoing physical therapy. “He’s an inspiration to all of us.”

“He really didn’t have a choice, but it was to save his life,” Nartker said. “So he had the surgery, and as soon as he could get back on his leg to get back in here, he got back in here to start his rehab.”

“It’s just a matter of me getting more comfortable, being able to get up and down, and strengthen my body to be able to do it,” Pater said. “Optimistically, March 1, full-time.”

Friends held a 120-person golf outing and created a GoFundMe page that raised $5,000 to help with Pater’s medical bills.

“I had just got to where I had $10,000 in the bank for over a year,” he said. But: “Ten-thousand isn’t anything when something like this happens.”

Pater has been a plumber 20 years, and earned his state plumbing license four years ago. When the time comes, Ryan Pater Plumbing will again service the entire Butler County area.

“My tool bag now weighs probably 70 pounds,” he said. “I need a different tool bag — that’s what I used to carry. So I’ve got to readjust my life.”

The rehab goal is for Pater to be able to do things like get down on his knees and get back up, carry his heavy plumbing tools, climb ladders, and do everything a plumber needs to do without the help of assistive devices, like canes, Nartker said.

“We want to get him back to where he was before he had his initial injury,” she said.

“With the determination he has, two months,” predicted Stacey Harris, the lead physical therapist at Stretch. “Other patients, I wouldn’t be so aggressive.”

Two weeks ago, Pater had problems putting enough weight on his left leg to do tasks that he since has mastered again. On Monday, he walked on a treadmill for the first time since the amputation.

“The prosthetic guy came to my hospital room, and he said, ‘You can get 120 Percocets a month and watch TV all day, or you can put a leg on and go to work,” Pater said. “I want to put a leg on and go to work.”

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