“One Step Closer,” a new Houma amputee support group, met last night for the first time. Stories were told, tears were shed, and encouragement was unlimited.
Local restaurant owner and chef Kenneth “KJ” Townsend has been an inspiration to those who cross his path and hear his story. His passion is cooking and began while learning from his grandmother. After high school, he moved to Atlanta to hone his cooking skills, later returning home to cook at local restaurants. Then, in 2015, his life changed while shopping with his wife. A shopping cart struck the back of his heel, and what he thought was a sprain, turned out to be a fracture. Being on his feet while cooking left him in pain and a great deal of swelling. His wife attempted to help keep down the swelling for him with compression socks, but the pain never went away.
After going to a Doctor, his foot was placed in a cast for the fractured heel bone. After a while, the bone became infected and he was later diagnosed with osteomyelitis. He underwent six surgeries, and after believing he had the flu in December of 2018, he revisited the doctors to find out his blood cell counts and kidneys were at dangerous levels. Just that quick, they had to rush him to the emergency room, and a couple of days after New Year 2019, the lower half of his leg was removed.
Townsend said he heard a doctor say ten percent of people get up and physically walk after an amputation, and being the confident persistent person he is, he was determined to be a part of the ten percent. It’s his positive attitude and support system that has propelled him to where he is today. His health journey didn’t stop his passion for cooking. Being motivated to support his wife and son, Townsend transitioned from take-out only to opening Quizine Quarters in October of 2020.
Townsend has had a dream of starting a local support group and it has now come to fruition. The local food enthusiast has partnered with Orthotics & Prosthetics Solutions (OPS) to move the ambition forward, “We always talked about it, but it was time to take action,” said Townsend.
Townsend and OPS’ Patient Care Manager of the Houma area Marsé Walker collaborated to make the dream a reality. Walker then approached D’Andre “Dre” Mostella, CP, MSOP, and owner of OPS, who said he was all in for the launch, “We do it in all different places, so with the Houma area that we serve so much, what better way than us being accompanied. We don’t want to just take, we want to give back to the community because it’s something that we really believe in. We believe in helping people.”
The three sat down only a few weeks ago to plan how they will go forward with the group and how they want to give back to the community. Mostella said they wanted to make amputees the focal point which is a scarce aspect. He said the group is for people that need that push and since COVID affected the support group that was being held at Terrebonne General, Houma needs a group to support the many amputees the area has.
The group is open to not only amputees, but family, friends, and those who are within the amputee community. The first meeting consisted of staff from Adaptive Prosthetics & Orthotics, LLC, community members, and family members. Amputees ranging from over 20 years to just three months of what Townsend calls “handi-capable,” everyone left the first meeting feeling inspired and lighter.
They anticipate the growth of the group. ‘One Step Closer’ aims at not only creating a network, family, and support group, but also a safe place. They look forward to fundraising, going on group activity trips, community outreach, creating awareness, promoting overall health, and much more, “We want to have a place that is comfortable, a safe space for people to ask questions, and to get a good push,” Mostella said. Townsend agreed, “I just want to bring all amputees closer. It’s a lonely world you’re in being an amputee. You see the reaction just being around each other. I think it’s really necessary.”
Although the meetings were originally scheduled for the first Tuesday of every month, they are rescheduling the nights due to conflicts of overall schedules. For those interested in being involved with One Step Closer, reach out to “Dre” Mostella at 225-316-5444, email@example.com or Marsé Walker at 225-615-0129, firstname.lastname@example.org