Life can change in an instant. It’s what we do with those changes that make up the rest of what life has to offer. For Dan Horkey at age 21, life changed forever for him in 1985. He lost the lower half of his leg in a motorcycle accident in Tucson, AZ. He struggled since then with the emotional and physical challenges of being an amputee.
Dan did what most would expect. Feelings of sadness and questioning the future filled many of his days. The rest of his time was spent learning to function again, to handle normal tasks. He learned to overcome the depression and move on, again, but it was all in good time. When he began his post-accident journey, he really just wanted to feel normal again, to feel like himself again, and mostly, to be treated by others as if nothing had changed.
The prosthetic leg he now depended upon he kept hidden under long pants, the foot covered at all times playing “the Big Cover UP.” The initial goal was to walk again, without a limp, so that no one would know that he was somehow different. Four years of working toward that goal, periodic re-fittings for his prosthesis, and lots of practice gave Dan Horkey the outcome he was looking for, he was a master at walking again, just like everyone else.
20 years post amputation, he moved on with his life leaving Tucson, AZ escaping the heat to the Pacific Northwest near Seattle, WA. When it came to be re-fitted with a prosthetic socket, frustration at insurers’ in Washington State refusal to cover the full $9,000 cost of periodic replacements of his artificial leg caused him to switch occupations so he could make his replacements himself.
In 2005, Dan Horkey started fabricating prosthetic sockets and braces through a position offered by Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics in Tacoma, WA. Within a week, he fabricated his own personal prosthetic socket and applied his first tattoo, thereby initiating the tattooed prosthetic concept.
In 2006, he tattooed his prosthesis again with artwork that reflects his personality. “The moment I put fiery flames artwork on my socket and the compliments from strangers made me stand tall and my self-esteem went through the roof,” Horkey says. “I wear my prosthesis with pride.”
What had once been a source of indignity was now one of pride. “My prosthetic became a subject of conversation, and from that, my self confidence went up. The way I felt made me want to bring the world of color and custom art to other amputees.”
Founded in 2008, the company helps others “Stand Tall” by applying personalized artwork onto Prosthetic Limbs, Orthopedic Braces and Pediatric Cranial Helmets, empowering fellow amputees to express their individualistic ideas through custom orthotic tattoo. The artwork is reflective of the person who wears it, much like someone’s tattoo, there is personal meaning, sometimes obvious in content, sometimes more covert, and of meaning only to the wearer.
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