EAGLE POINT, OR—Though local man Bret Kurtsin has had to overcome many personal obstacles since having his legs amputated seven years ago, it has been said that his greatest achievement may lie in what he has given to others: the inspiration not to lose any limbs of their own.
Many of those who have met him and heard his story credit Kurtsin, who became a double amputee after he was hit by a drunk driver at the age of 20, with motivating them to always retain the full use of both their arms and their legs.
“Bret’s story is really uplifting,” said Rebecca King, 17, who heard Kurtsin speak during an assembly at her high school Wednesday. “After learning how much he struggles every day of his life to do things the rest of us take for granted, I’ve realized how much I want, in my own life, to go through each day with my legs attached to my body.”
“And my arms, too, for that matter,” she continued. “He really helped me put all of that into perspective. I now know the loss of a limb is something I never, ever want to go through.”
Several community members told reporters that the grueling hours of rehabilitation and physical therapy Kurtsin has endured shows a determination and resilience they hope never to have to summon from within themselves, saying the 27-year-old’s necessary resolve has further encouraged them to keep each of their four limbs intact.
Others noted that Kurtsin has taught them a lot more than the simple value of never having both legs amputated a few inches above the knee. They said watching him has also inspired them not to have any part of a leg amputated, not to suffer an injury causing leg or arm paralysis, and not to be born with a congenital limb deformity that would in any way make it harder to move around and grab things.
“Bret has taught me that I enjoy walking quite a bit and that I would like to continue doing so in the future,” said family friend Leo Harris, 43, remarking upon how hard it would be to perform simple tasks such as getting into a car or putting on pants without the use of both legs. “I look at him and appreciate how much I don’t ever want to be an amputee or a paraplegic or bedridden or anything like that. It’s a lesson I really owe to Bret.”
“If even one of my limbs were amputated, I’d probably just give up completely,” he added.
According to teachers at Central Meridian High School, where Kurtsin spoke Wednesday, it wasn’t merely the double amputee’s story that resonated with the 200 students in attendance, but also his walk across the stage, for which he reportedly required the help of sophisticated prostheses.
“The effect he had on the kids was amazing,” said ninth-grade social studies teacher Therese Murray, adding that Kurtsin’s difficult daily existence made her thankful her own legs have never been cut off. “They look at this man who has no legs, then they look at themselves, and something clicks: They’re so glad they’re not him.”
Kurtsin, meanwhile, said he is just glad he can make a difference in the lives of young people.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than making that connection with kids,” he said. “That moment when you reach them and you can tell they completely understand how much it sucks not having legs.”