A Day in the Life of Katie Gazzola

“I went on a boat with some friends on the Fox River in St. Charles, IL. It was a beautiful night and as it got dark, the river had just us and one other boat out. We were coasting in but decided to take our time to sit on the boat and watch fireworks. The other boat on the river decided to take a turn they couldn’t cut and crashed into the back corner of my boat, exactly where I was sitting. When the other boat hit me, my leg was severed and partially amputated. I was then brought to a hospital. I had lost over half of my blood volume. I was not stable enough to fly me out to a level-1 trauma hospital. I was brought to emergency surgery where they completely amputated my right leg above the knee.


I handled my amputation well because of what could have happened. I had drowned. I had 7 broken ribs and a cracked sternum. I almost bled out. I had 2 blood clots in my lungs that could have taken my life away. I escaped death numerous times in a short period of time. For me, the choice was between life or limb. I was just happy to still be breathing.


There have been hard times and moments that I was sad. I knew it was normal to grieve. So I would let myself get sad. But for only a minute. I would take a deep breath and remind myself that I am lucky. I am still here. There is still life after limb loss. I also found myself talking to other amputees on groups online. The amputee community is strong. Within moments of saying a simple “hello,” I had hundreds of other amputees willing to support me through this life change.


I know it is hard to think that things happen for a reason, but in my case, I believe it is true. My accident made me appreciate life in a different way. It showed me how much good is in this world and this hard work to continue to enjoy it is worth it. My biggest motivation was to show my appreciation for my support system by never giving up. “Be stronger than the Storm,” I tell myself often. Life is what you make it. Happiness is a choice. You choose to dwell or you choose to move forward. You either get bitter, or better. I chose better.


When my accident happened, my son was upset thinking I would never be Mom again. He was happy I was alive. We talked often about how he felt about my accident. One day while crying, he looked at me and said: “You could have lost all your limbs and I would still be happy that I’m here with my momma.” This broke my heart. I knew that I had to show him how strong his mom is. I knew that if I showed him how strong I could be, one day when he faces hard times, he’d know that being strong and not giving up will help him achieve his goals.


I was told about Scheck & Siress when I was a patient at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. I was having a hard time finding a socket that was comfortable and gave me the range of motion I was looking for. My sister introduced to me a member of her church who was also an amputee. He told me about Scheck & Siress Practitioner Ryan Caldwell, CPO/LPO, at the Schaumburg location. I knew I wanted a lower socket but I also knew that not many prosthetic companies can make this specific socket. Came here only to find out that Ryan was an expert! As soon as I was fitted in one of Ryan’s sockets, my progress was very rapid. This was a game-changer. This gave me hope that I can achieve my goal of returning to work and school 6 months after my accident. I was given the tools to work toward my goals. I truly think that finding Ryan wasn’t a coincidence. I met the right person at the right time. There is no way to show my gratitude in words. Ryan along with Scheck & Siress gave me the chance to get my life back.


I’ve worked as an Emergency Room Tech for the last 6 years. When my accident happened, I was in the middle of a nursing school program. Six months after my accident, I was able to go back to work and school. With the support of my coworkers, I was able to make it through 12-hour shifts on my feet.


I get told that I’m inspirational. We all are inspirational. My hardship is just visible. You are as strong as I am. People just may not see it, but I do.


You never know how strong you are until you don’t have a choice.”