Former Ogema man tells story of overcoming arm amputation
Twenty-three pages into a book he wrote before he forgets the details, Larry Kaiser begins the story of his life-changing accident.
"Facing the World Single Handed" tells about the 1949 incident when Kaiser, who now lives in Texas, was 14 years old and lost his arm. It also tells about how he's recovered and gone on to play football, golf, pool and do woodworking, just like anyone else would.
"I learned to do lots of little short cuts and adjustments," he said.
About 60 years ago, Kaiser, his brother and their dad got up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday and drove east of Ogema to go hunting. He was walking with his group on a drive through the woods toward other hunters in the group.
"I got near my cousin and I saw him and he saw me," he said. "And then I was standing there, waiting for the other hunters to come and gather at the end of this drive. I was watching this mink climb around on a brush pile and I heard a gunshot."
The shot knocked him to his hands and knees and he couldn't move or talk for a period of time.
"At that point, of course, I didn't know what had happened. It took me a while to figure out what was going on."
Finding his voice, he started yelling that he had gotten shot and the hunters in his party helped him up and to the vehicle. They drove to a small hospital in Ogema to "patch it up and give me painkillers," and then he was transported to St. Mary's Hospital in Detroit Lakes.
They took a look at the wound, and decided to wait until Monday to see how the blood circulation was doing. When Monday came, they decided they would have to amputate his arm above the elbow.
"Most of this was going on and I was not informed very much what was happening. I was pretty much under sedatives and other medications. A few days after Monday I woke up and realized that it was missing.
"I thought at first, 'gee, maybe this is a dream.'"
According to the Nov. 17, 1949, issue of the Detroit Lakes Record, fellow hunter Ray Krause, about 30 yards out, mistook him for a deer and shot.
He said when he was shot, he thought he'd have his arm in a sling for a few weeks and be the same as ever.
"It didn't turn out that way."
After his arm was amputated, the community hosted a fundraiser to help pay for a prosthetic arm.
He went through a hospital in Minneapolis for his arm, where he returned for some training with his new limb as well.
"It was not comfortable," he said of the artificial arm. "I did not like it, but I know I had to wear it and learn how to use it. But I didn't like it. It was restrictive. Sometimes it felt like it was torture."
As he got older, he got his degree in teaching and taught junior high social studies for 20 years. And as he went along in life, he learned to use his artificial arm as needed.
He also practiced everything one handed and became more versatile that way.
One summer he wanted to play golf, so he went out, talked to a pro and took a lesson -- he said to swing right handed and use women's clubs because they are lighter -- and he did lots of practice.
"Like anything, if you practice enough and try hard enough, you can do it."
Since 1982 though, when he retired from teaching, he also retired his prosthetic.
"I found that I could do everything that was necessary for me without it and it was more comfortable and convenient without it."
Kaiser worked two more jobs before finally retiring for good.
He said his motivation to write the book came not only from wanting to get his memories down on paper for generations to come, but also as an inspiration to other amputees.
"I thought I wasn't a perfect example, but a pretty good example of a guy who went out and tried to do everything. Some of the things I succeeded at and some I did not, but at least I tried them."
Kaiser worked on the book from September to February when it was sent to the publisher. It took about two months to get the published book back, and it's now for sale.
The book starts at his birth, near Ogema, and talks about what life was like in 1935 and after -- where he lived and experiences growing up.
"The book is an easy read. Entertaining, kind of amusing at places."
The book is $11.50 and can be ordered from Kaiser at Larry Kaiser, 2213 Colby Lane, Wylie, Texas 75098.