James Nix, 58, was an employee of the power company 28 years ago, when he encountered some high voltage that left him with serious burns and internal damage, and resulted in the amputation of parts of both of his arms.
After more than 4 months in the hospital, Nix spent most of the next year "in and out of the hospital, having surgeries..."
...a total of more than 30 surgeries, he believes.
While his left arm continued to heal, he was fitted with a prosthetic right arm. The conventional body-powered design allows him to grip, lift, carry, and manipulate objects.
Nix began visiting Snell's in 1979, shortly after receiving the arm, when it needed some repairs and adjustments. He traveled to the Duke University Medical Center to have a left arm prosthesis fitted, and received extensive training and practice in working with both arms.
"I could have either gone to Duke or to Northwestern in Chicago; I chose Durham because a man who had burns similar to mine had just gone through Duke Rehab, and had good success," recalls Nix.
"When I came home and needed work on my arms, I went back to Mr. Snell, because I was satisfied with their service and work."
When Nix needed his next set of arms, Snell's made them for him, and they have been replacing and updating his prostheses for the last 25 years since then.
Nix usually requires a new set of upper-limb prostheses every two years or so, and maintains a second set as "spares."
"I wear one set every day and I call the second set my Sunday set. I wear them if I want to go out to eat, or to church or somewhere special. They perform just the same, but one set-the newer ones-look nicer, without so much wear and tear on them as the everyday set," he explains.
If he encounters a problem with one set, he can wear the others until repairs can be made. "My wife can do some repairs on them, but for any major adjustments, I take them back to Snell's."
"I'm very satisfied with the service that I have received from Snell's over these many years," says Nix. "The people that work on my arms-Russell and Derrick-do very good work."
He continues to keep himself active and capable. "I can basically do just about anything with these arms," he claims. "They had to adapt my truck, but now I can drive it with ease. I do chores around the house because my wife works, and I help her out any way that I can."
That includes laundry and managing the dishwasher, among other tasks. And, since Nix enjoys being outdoors, he also does the yard work, using a lawnmower that has a driving bar to make steering more comfortable for him.
He enjoys spending leisure time with his two daughters and especially his five grandchildren, playing with them and babysitting like other fond grandparents the world over.
To others facing a limb-loss situation similar to his own, Nix offers advice: "Basically, do what you think you can do, and don't take no for an answer. When somebody tells you that you can't do something, prove them wrong! I have had physical therapists and occupational therapists tell me that I wasn't going to be able to do certain things-and I've just gone ahead and done it.
"For one thing, they told me I wouldn't be able to wear blue jeans-but they hadn't heard of Velcro! I have Velcro on all my clothes."
It might take a little creative problem-solving, he admits, and sometimes it takes a little longer for him to perform a simple chore than someone with a natural hand and arm, but it can be done.
"It all just depends on you and your positive attitude about things. Just prove them wrong."
Among Nix's abilities is the gift of generously helping others.
"Anything I can do to help somebody, I will try. I have gone to visit with other Snell's patients who are in a similar situation to mine; I try to help them to keep a positive attitude. It's hard going through something like this-on you and your family.
"I don't mind doing it," says Nix with quiet strength. "If it helps somebody, I'm glad to do it. I just want to say that I don't think I would be here today if it was not for the prayers of my church."