Ormond-by-the-Sea resident Todd Sicilia has spent the better part of his life out on the water. Surfing is addicting, he said. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.
But for two and a half years, surfing — along with his other active hobbies, skateboarding and mountain biking — were put on hold after a drunk driver crashed into his motorcycle at the top of his street on Dec. 10, 2008.
“That’s when things changed,” Sicilia said. “I was just carrying on with a regular evening, and a drunk driver changed that.”
For the two and a half years after that moment, doctors worked to save his left leg. But when he got a bone infection, doctors gave him an option: undergo more surgeries, or amputate.
“So I asked the doctor, ‘What day is good for you to amputate?’” Sicilia recalled.
During the time he was in a wheelchair, he’d remembered watching on TV how veterans from the Afghanistan War ran marathons on prosthetic legs. To amputate, Sicilia said, was an easy decision to make.
That’s how he met John Jump.
Helping the amputee community
Jump, prosthetist and clinical director of Unity Prosthetics and Orthotics in Daytona Beach, has been helping amputee patients for about 25 years.
He started working with prosthetics when he was in high school after a friend lost a leg in a car crash. Jump knew the family that made his friend’s prosthesis, so when his friend had an appointment, Jump went along.
At the time, Jump was working summers as a gravedigger, and one day, he was offered a job helping to make prosthetics — for an extra 25 cents an hour and the promise of working under air conditioning.
And when it came time to decide what he wanted to do for his future, he decided to apply for prosthetic-orthotic school because he enjoys helping people get up and get going after crashes or illnesses change their lives, he said.
“It’s just a huge setback, obviously,” Jump said. “... But you’re helping out people.”
Since March, Jump has been revamping his clinic at 1320 Mason Ave. to better serve his patients.
He formed a vision a couple years ago that went beyond the standard clinical space to fit prosthetics. He wanted a place where amputees could hang out, meet each other and create a support system, since prosthetic appointments often last several hours.
“I think what I realized was that I wanted it to be more of a healthy, or holistic or a wellness-type environment,” Jump said. “And I was in what this building used to be, and it just felt like confinement.”
Once completed, his new practice will have a gym, kitchen, resource room, onsite fabrication lab and a room specific to upper extremity prosthetics.
“There’s other people that do this in the community — we know that,” Jump said. “... But the goal is we want to be accessible to the people who need our services.”
Aside from having a full clinical staff, to Jump, that also means creating a space that is pleasant for amputees to spend time in.
Jump hopes to complete the renovations this month and hold an open house for the community on June 23.
Living their best lives
As soon as he was fitted with his prosthetic, Sicilia was walking with crutches. He soon graduated to a walking with a cane and within a month was able to walk on his own.
About six months later, he was back on his surfboard. He stood up and rode a wave right away, he said. He’s now been surfing for 52 years. He also still rides a motorcycle and skateboard.
“I am living my best life with my new normal,” Sicilia said. “These are the cards I was dealt. This is the hand I’ve gotta play.”
Sicilia said he can’t say enough good things about Jump and Unity prosthetics — and he’s looking forward to the renovated facility.
“In my opinion, John is just fantastic,” he said. “He’s very personable. He knows what he’s doing. He listens if you have issues.”
Jump said he appreciates when clients like Sicilia send him photos of themselves doing activities they enjoy — whether that’s surfing, riding a motorcycle or going on vacation with their families.
“They trust you enough they want to share these exciting moments in their life with you,” Jump said. “It’s kind of cool.”