From his own tragic experience, Peacock alumnus Steve Husome ’96 has set out to prove that disabilities don’t define people, but rather, people define disabilities. A near-fatal motorcycle accident hasn’t stopped the Cedar Falls man from playing his favorite sport and sharing his joy for life. After suffering a mini-stroke and having his right leg amputated due to the extent of his injuries, Husome turned to adaptive golf to satisfy his desire to play and now helps other people with disabilities experience the game he loves.
In explaining his long list of injuries from the 2014 accident, Husome said, “I suffered a mild stroke from a torn carotid artery. Several weeks into my recovery the doctors discovered I also had a brain bleed in the upper left lobe of my brain. I am convinced that the only reason I survived was because I was wearing a helmet, the fast actions of my riding partners — and someone in heaven was watching over me.”
Once extracted from the wreckage, it was also discovered the marketing graduate’s right leg had multiple compound fractures to the knee, tibia, fibula, ankle, foot, and toes. After several surgeries to try and repair the damage, he ultimately made the decision to have the leg amputated below the knee.
In addition to the injuries to his right leg, Husome’s left knee was dislocated so severely, the four ligaments that hold the joint together were torn away from the bone, along with permanent nerve damage to the leg. His right elbow was shattered and repaired with rods, screws, and pins.
“I had to regain range of motion before I could have the surgery to repair the ligaments,” Husome said. “It took me about two months to get my knee past 90 degrees flexion so the surgery could take place. In February 2015, nearly six months post-accident, I had the first knee surgery for ligament replacement.
Following surgery, he was in a brace for two months and placed on non-weight bearing status again. After several months of rehab, it was determined he would need total knee replacement surgery. The surgery to replace the damaged joint took place 14 months after the accident. Finally, after another three months of physical therapy, he was able to walk without an assistive device.
“Of course, my amputation is a lifetime injury that can never be reversed,” Husome said. “However, with the use of a well-fitted prosthetic device, I can pretty much do everything I used to do except go running. “When I started the rehab process, my goal was to be able to walk normal again. The best compliment I receive now is when people tell me they can’t tell I’m an amputee.”
While in the hospital fighting to keep his leg and knowing that amputation was a probable outcome, Husome began asking to speak with someone who was an amputee and knew what it’s like to live every day with the loss of a limb. To his disappointment, there was no such individual available. He later discovered that many amputees also have insurance coverage issues when regarding prosthetic devices.
“In my experience, there was nobody there for me to ask questions to find out what my life might be like moving forward as an amputee,” Husome said. “I was fortunate to have excellent insurance coverage and had all of my care paid for, but there are many people that are less fortunate with their coverage. I felt like I survived this accident for a reason, a higher purpose, if you will. This is why we started the Husome Strong Foundation.”
The Husome Foundation assists amputees in four key areas: education, advocacy, peer support and financial assistance. The HusomeStrong Foundation is a 501©3 non-profit organization that is 100-percent funded through donations and fundraisers throughout the year. Over the years, the Foundation has helped many people pay-off their out-of-pocket expenses for prosthetic devices, they have advocated for legislation to make high tech prosthetics more accessible and affordable, and the foundation has assisted many people adjust to living as an amputee through their peer support at local hospitals.
In addition, Husome started another initiative called Adaptive Golf Iowa as a part of the foundation. Where the HusomeStrong Foundation focuses on helping amputees, AGI uses the game of golf to create an environment of inclusion for people with any type of disability to feel like they fit in. Adaptive golf builds confidence and creates a path for those with disabilities to participate in the fabric of society.
Many times, AGI clinics are the first time that disabled people have an experience playing golf. Some participants have enjoyed the game for years but had something happen to them and thought the game they loved was out of reach. With the use of adaptive equipment and swing aids, people of all ages have found the joy of hitting a golf ball and finding progress in their game within a short amount of time.
“During our fist clinic in 2018, one of our participants was an army veteran who was paralyzed from the waist down,” Husome said. “He tried one of the adaptive golf carts that we borrowed for the day and after several swings, he launched a ball high in the air, down the range and the smile on his face was absolutely priceless.”
After the clinic, the man asked, “Where can I rent or use one of these carts so I can play a round with my buddies?” It was that one question that the idea to raise money to purchase an adaptive golf cart was born. In 2019 Husome raised over $45,000 to purchase four Solo Rider adaptive golf carts and donate them to the four public golf courses in the Waterloo and Cedar Falls communities. The Solo Rider carts are available to use at no charge for anyone with a disability.
In addition to operating the foundation, Husome advocates for adaptive golf to be added as a Paralympic sport. The United States Adaptive Golf Alliance (USAGA) and other government bodies across the globe are working to develop a level playing field and determine a classification system so that people with the same type of disability can compete.
“Currently there are 14 different disability classifications that are standardized across the world,” Husome explained. “After the disability classification, the USAGA has developed a point system where they will select the top two players in each of the fourteen classifications to comprise the US Paralympic Golf Team. The USAGA is working with other bodies in other countries to have an exhibition match at the 2024 Paris games.”
Husome acknowledges that he would find it very rewarding to one day see a Paralympic golf team compete and represent the United States on the world stage.
“For me, the game of golf became an important part of my rehabilitation,” Husome said. “Not only from a physical standpoint but also for my emotional well-being. I was motivated to improve my balance, strength, and coordination enough to be able to swing a club and play the game. I am a firm believer that you need to have goals and you need to take action to make those goals a reality. That was my motivation, and I became consumed with completing the necessary physical therapy to get back on the course. Golf gave me a purpose, a reason to get moving, get better and improve my abilities.”
Now, no matter how deep the rough, Husome is similarly inspired to help other amputees thrive and reach their lifetime objectives.