“Now, I Go for a Walk with My Kids!”

Gwang-taek Kim, who lost both of his legs at age 19, is explaining how he was able to receive a new pair of prosthetic legs thanks to Happy Village.

It is not wrong to admit that you are struggling when things become difficult. Being an adult does not mean that you should not struggle. When you need something, you should openly talk about what you want.

Gwang-taek Kim, 41, exemplifies the case in which a man was granted what he needed as he was not afraid of voicing his own concerns.
When Kim was 19, he lost both of his lower legs below the knees. A rare form of disease has stripped him of a normal life.

“As I was reaching a point in my life at which I began preparing for college, I was walking to school on day and lost strength in both of my legs,” Kim said. “I collapsed there immediately without even knowing why.”

Kim had a crawl to a nearby hospital 200 meters away from where he had collapsed. He still had no clue as to why he collapsed. To protect the upper parts of his two legs, he helplessly had to opt for amputation.

It was after a while since then when Kim finally learned what had happened to him. It was a rare form of cancer that only occurred to one in every hundreds of thousands of people. The probability of an average person sustaining such an illness is close to 0 percent.

Even today, it is rare for an ordinary person to test their heart conditions without a noticeable symptom. Kim learned later that the cancerous cells in his heart was blocking the blood vessels that connected all the way down to his ankles. It was a devastating misfortune that was hard to take for such a young man.

“I donated my blood several times since I was a kid, but never knew that I was suffering such conditions,” Kim said. “There is no symptom for an illness like this. The only lucky part for me was that I didn’t find out even later than I did. It eventually could have stopped me from breathing all of a sudden one day.”

Kim recalls that the following weeks and months after the amputation surgery were indescribably painful. He had to inject pain killers every three days for three months after the operation.

After four surgeries, Kim was able to be completely cancer free, but that was obviously after he had to lose both of his legs.
“I was 185 centimeters in height and 100 kilograms in weight,” Kim said. “It was unfathomable for me to take that I’ve been disabled. I couldn’t even play basketball anymore. I had to take solace in the fact that I didn’t die.”

Fortunately, Kim recovered mentally throughout the three months of rehabilitation at the hospital. Afraid of the stigma against the disabled, he soon left Korea and arrived in the U.S. where he planned on studying. He wanted to launch a new career as a rehab therapist. Today, he is married with two children. His job is to help international students from South Korea settle in the U.S.

However, there was one thing Kim really needed—a pair of prosthetic legs. Before arriving in the U.S., he had been using the ones he brought from Korea.
“I still couldn’t run, but I can now walk without much discomfort,” Kim said.

However, the spacious streets in Southern California made it difficult for Kim to maneuver around outdoors. That is why he has been relying on a wheelchair rather than prosthetic legs.

As years have passed, Kim longed to show his 6-year-old son a sight of the patriarch standing on his feet. The wheelchair made it difficult for Kim to volunteer at his son’s school due to its limited comfort.

Kim finally reached a turning point in his life after speaking to Happy Village’s Mark Lee.
“The expensive prosthetic go for as high as $1.5 million, but even those are only good for about two years,” Kim said. “Realistically, it wasn’t possible for me to wear those.”

Kim initially contacted Happy Village with slim hopes, but got an answer that he was not expecting. Happy Village promised him to provide with the type of prosthetic legs that he had always needed. Lee, who spoke to Kim about his life experiences, contacted a Korean-American-run medical equipment company and was able to get a pair of upscale prosthetic legs.

Kim said that the new prosthetic legs are perfectly fitting for his feet size as his older ones were too outdated to wear regularly.

“A part of me was in doubt when I first contacted Happy Village,” Kim said. “But the Korean community here is a one big family. I’m also going to try to take chances on people who may need my help in the future.”

Many people do not admit that they need help when they really do. When in need, Kim picked up his phone and asked for help. That has now allowed him to show his kids that dad can also stand on two feet. He can also take a walk with them now at any time.
By Byung Chang