Deputy Garrett Rifkin, of Santa Clarita, lost his left leg below the knee after being a victim of a hit-and-run collision on his way to work. Almost three months later, he is returning to duty, after conquering challenges and rehabilitation.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Rifkin said. “If you would have told me on Aug. 22 that I would be going back to work on Nov. 4, I would have laughed in your face and told you I couldn’t do it.”
On his way to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station on Aug. 3, his life flashed before his eyes, — a vehicle cut across traffic and collided with his motorcycle, injuring his left foot.
The doctors tried to save his foot, but after five surgeries they gave him a choice— save his foot and never run again, or amputate below the knee and be able to run after rehab.
“If I can’t run, I can’t be a deputy, or run with my future kids,” Rifkin said.
Rifkin grew up in Santa Clarita and graduated from West Ranch High School. After going to College of the Canyons for a few semesters, he was accepted into the Sheriff’s Department’s Training Academy, completed the program and was sworn in as a deputy about five years ago, at age 20. His father, Bob Rifkin, is a retired captain from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and his brother Justin Rifkin is an LAPD officer.
With support of friends, family, other amputees and his department, Rifkin has conquered many challenges he has faced.
Every two weeks, he’d visit the doctor, and three days a week he attended physical therapy, he said. “My dad went to every doctor’s appointment with me.”
He also stood beside his son as they were honored at the Dodger game on Sept. 18.
His girlfriend Michelle Furnari, his brother and his parents say he has inspired them and so many others.
“He is showing people you can get through the hardest times in your life,” Furnari said.
Rifkin explains the support his family has been “above and beyond.”
The department has also showed their support by holding fundraisers for Rifkin’s medical expenses, he said. “Prospects aren’t cheap and the department has been unbelievable.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to help out with his medical bills.
Rifkin believes he can’t thank everyone enough for their support, he said.
As of today, Rifkin is on his second day without using crutches, and he has found a prosthetic leg that works best for him.
“I just got fitted for new prosthetic,” he said. “We had to find the right fit and try out a bunch of different feet.”
Other amputees who have been through this have reached out to Rifkin to support him through this process, he said. “You never think of it ‘til it happens to you.”
Wednesday, Rifkin picked up the phone to hear the doctors say he was approved for light duty.
“It’s like getting hired all over again,” he said. “I have pushed myself more than I thought I ever could.”
When he got the call, he wanted to cry, he wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post.
“I still got a long road,” he said. “It feels like I’m closing a book and opening new one.”
On Nov. 4, he will dawn his uniform once again, and go back to light duty.
He will have to learn how to be a sheriff with his prosthetic, he said. “There will be a lot of work related rehab.”
Taking it day-by-day, Rifkin will return to work in just under two months since the hit-and-run collision.
“There will be days where it will seem like its not gonna get better,” he said, “but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.”