By Sean Thomas
Hawk took his first steps Wednesday after receiving a free prosthetic leg from Mahaffey Orthotics & Prosthetics, 5507 S.W. Ninth Ave.
"I'm thrilled to death," Hawk said, taking his first few steps with the support of hip-level bars. "It is really hard to explain."
Cliff Mahaffey, a licensed practitioner orthotist, carefully fitted the $7,500 prosthetic leg for Hawk, a process that lasted several weeks. Mahaffey, who owns Mahaffey Orthotics & Prosthetics, donated the time, material and labor to help Hawk.
"It's just a great way, as a company, that we can give back," Mahaffey said. "It is gratifying."
Hawk, a Vietnam War veteran and tattoo artist, spent the past six months confined to a wheelchair after his leg was amputated slightly below the knee, a complication from poorly managed Type 2 diabetes. It started with a small callus on his foot that eventually became infected, and gangrene developed.
"I never took care of myself like I should have," Hawk said, claiming that stubbornness kept him from taking the medicine needed to combat his diabetes. "I kick myself in the butt for it."
He said his circumstances are his own fault and that he deals with depression.
Mahaffey, who has been in the business for more than 20 years, said the idea to give a prosthetic to someone who needed it but couldn't afford it started while he worked for months to get Medicaid funding for a man from Oklahoma who desperately needed a prosthetic limb. When he finally was denied, Mahaffey agreed to move ahead for free.
"He didn't have any other place to go. Leo showed up a few days later," Mahaffey said. "He doesn't have any means either."
Mahaffey said he can't do it for everyone and that he has two other patients he is working with to find grants or other funding for the prosthetics.
Hawk said that throughout his battle with diabetes and adjusting to losing his leg, he has maintained a sense of humor. He said he looks forward to simple daily events that others might take for granted, like playing with grandchildren or going to the kitchen for a glass of water. And he has a good idea of what to do with the newfound freedom.
"I'm definitely going to go dancing and chasing wild women again," Hawk said.