Former firefighter on prosthetic: I felt like someone gave me my leg back

Posted at 5:08 PM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-08 17:10:29-05

To some taking a few steps inside a community’s clubhouse, or scaling a few rocks behind the building, may not seem like much.

If you walked a mile in Dave Dunville’s shoes, you’d feel differently. In fact, you’d notice a lot of differences. Dunville lost his leg nearly a decade ago.

“I can still remember one huge surgery,” said Dunville, thinking back to his four year-long fight with an infection in his leg. “I spent the week of Christmas in the hospital. I don’t even remember Christmas! My wife was by herself with a child that wasn’t even 1-year-old.”

It’s situations like that, that led Dunville to a bold decision. He asked doctors to amputate his leg. After an injury on the job as firefighter in 1999, he got an infection in the bone of his leg which led to a fight that didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

“I said, ‘Please, just let me have my life. Let me go out with my son.”

Dunville and his wife didn’t even keep the pictures from the years worth of hospital stays. He said it was a hard time for him, but equally hard on his family. His son didn’t get to play outside with his Dad like the other kids, his wife had to help him. A big change for a firefighter who could no longer work.

This isn’t a sob story, though. Dunville, in all truth, is an inspirational figure. He’s re-taught himself to run. He even does Tae-Kwan-Do, however, he’s never felt the same as he did before the injury.

Over the years Dunville has tried a variety of prosthetics.

“Modern medicine moves quickly,” said his wife, as she watched Dunville try on his newest prosthetic.

Dunville found success a few years ago with a prosthetic made by Bionx. On Thursday, he tried their latest product called “emPOWER.”

“When I got to have the (old prosthetic), I thought somebody gave me back my leg,” said a tearful Dunville. “I feel like someone gave me back my ankle, my foot, today. That’s how much it means.”

Dunville, with tears in his eyes, continued to explain the feeling he got while he tested out the product for the first time. A Bionx employee was busy adjusting it as Dunville made test walks around a clubhouse in Hartland, Michigan.

He’s then first person in a four state area to receive the “emPOWER” prosthetic ankle. Dunville said it could be a life-changer.

As an active person, Dunville was used to needing four batteries to get through a normal day. His new product will cut that in half, and the batteries are small enough to fit in his pocket.

Perhaps four years before his decision to amputate his leg, Dunville wouldn’t have thought today sounded like such a big deal — but with the wisdom gained from years of living as an amputee he now knows how rare it is to find a fit that feels “normal.”

Dunville said he’s excited about his new ankle, but noted that insurance rules and laws make it difficult for others to receive products like the one he’s now using. It’s one of the many reasons that he’s involved with the Amputee Coalition as a scientific and medical advisory committee member.

- If you'd like more information on the Bionx emPOWER prosthetic you can visit
- Details, help from the Amputation Coalition: