Road to recovery for Trooper

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New York State Trooper Matt Swartz, who was suffered serious injuries in an automobile crash last November, wants to become the first Trooper with a prosthetic. The State Troopers PBA applauds Trooper Swartz’s determination and his love of his job. Below is an article from The Daily Gazette newspaper of Schenectady on July 24 detailing Trooper Swartz’s recovery and his plans for the future.

BY BRYAN BUTLER Gazette Reporter

ST. JOHNSVILLE  –    After being seriously injured in an automobile accident last November in Oppenheim, Matt Swartz recalls thinking the helicopter flying him to the hospital was not headed in the right direction to take him to his home.

    Swartz, a state trooper who had his left leg amputated below the knee after the accident, knows where he wants to go now.

    After spending more than a month in the hospital, and the next several months rehabilitating his injury, the five-year veteran of the state police wants to return to his old job.

    “I want to be the first [New York] state trooper with a prosthetic,” Swartz said Saturday at a fund-raiser held at the H.C. Smith Benefit Club.

    The benefit, held to help offset his medical expenses, attracted a large crowd of family and friends, including many local police and fire department members.

    Swartz, who worked for the St. Johnsville Police Department and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department before joining the state police, and his wife, Alison, were in a car broadsided by another driver last Nov. 8 in Oppenheim. He took the brunt of the collision, which crushed the bones in his foot and ankle and severed the main artery in his lower leg.

    Members of local law and fire departments have rallied around Swartz, holding several previous fund-raisers and helping to com-
plete the construction of his home in Meco.

    Swartz, who was off-duty at the time of the accident, remains on sick leave. He said state police officials have left his return date up to him.

Swartz said he will not request desk or light duty, although where he will be placed upon his return will be up to his superiors.

He said he has been rehabbing, running and riding a bike, for several months in hopes of proving he can return to active duty.

“Every day I’m focused on getting better so I can get back to work,” he said.

Swartz, who walks without a limp, said he received his carbon-fiber prosthetic foot earlier this week. He promptly went out and ran a 9:45-minute mile on it.

    One of the most beneficial steps he’s taken has been working with a therapist who is also an amputee.

    “Who better to teach me than somebody who’s not only a physical therapist, but who’s an amputee?” he said.

    While Swartz knows of no New York State trooper returning to active duty following an amputation, he has identified 155 police officers from around the country who have gone back to work with a prosthetic. He said he has been in contact with eight of those officers, soliciting advice and support from them.

    Douglas Gee, a cousin of Swartz’s who helped arrange Saturday’s fund-raiser, said that no one who knew Swartz before the accident is surprised by his attitude.

    “When it first happened . . . we didn’t know if he was going to live or die. But I said, ‘If there’s anybody in the world that’s going to come out of this with flying colors, it’s going to be Matt,’ ” Gee said. “I can’t say enough about the guy.”

    Swartz, who sees no reason why he can’t return to the job he loves, remains upbeat.

    “There’s a reason for everything,” Swartz said. “It’s not a disability, it’s not a handicap, it’s a challenge. I’ve been given this challenge for a reason.”