MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. — With houses side-by-side on Briggs Road in Middleville, Austin McKian and Erand Smith describe themselves as typical neighbors.
“I’ll be out doing yard work and stuff and he’ll just come over and he’ll just help,” said Smith.
They try to help each other out whenever they can, doing yard work, cleaning gutters, or shoveling snow.
“I love helping people,” said McKian. “If I can help anyone, when the time is there, I’ll try to do it.”
Their latest act of service though is taking it a step forward.
“We just took a bad situation and made it into something good, something funny,” said McKian.
Smith, a sculptor, created a one-of-a-kind, monster-esque prosthetic cover for McKian.
“An alien, bug type thing is what I went for,” said Smith.
After complications from an ankle injury in 2018, doctors decided a below-the-knee amputation would be the best option for McKian to ease his pain, but within a few months of that surgery, he faced another obstacle.
McKian is one of the 27.5 million Americans uninsured and he cannot afford a new, properly-fitted socket, which is making his recovery difficult.
“Phantom pains, neurological issues, blood flow issues, right now my stump is getting very cold to the touch,” said McKian.
McKian plans to apply for coverage next year, but while he waits for that, Smith decided the prosthetic cover would be a unique way to deal in the meantime.
“We took a tracing of his leg basically, and just made a cardboard cut out of the shape and then I laid that out flat sculpted it all then took a mold of it and then cast it with that material,” said Smith.
Smith finished it this month.
“I felt like I was 12 again,” said McKian. “I loved it. It made me laugh instantly, I was like this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It keeps my mind off of the pain quite a bit, makes people laugh, they love seeing it.”
Both men hope the creation not only raises awareness about limb loss, but encourages people to treat everyone like their neighbor.
“If you can take some of the good stuff that’s happened to you and pass that on to someone it doesn’t take anything away from you,” said Smith.
“Lend a hand when people need a hand because there’s going to be a day when everyone needs a hand,” said McKian.