West Hollywood Sheriff’s Deputy Garrett Rifkin was determined to return to work as soon as he could after a traffic collision left him without a leg in August.
He had been driving to his station when the original hit-and-run left Rifkin, a Santa Clarita resident, without full use of his left foot. And soon he realized he’d have to have it amputated.
The prosthetic leg he received after five failed surgeries would have to do, even if it meant he’d have to work twice as hard to be able to run again with it.
He returned to duty in November, praying that rehab would also go by fast and he’d have full use of his legs again soon.
On Tuesday, he received the best surprise gift possible: “the gift of running.”
During a surprise presentation at orthopaedics equipment company Össur’s U.S. headquarters in Foothill Ranch, Rifkin learned of what had been a hush-hush collaboration with the company. He would now receive a fully-configured Össur Flex-Run with Nike Sole prosthetic foot.
Rifkin, 25, was so shocked he couldn’t believe it.
“It feels really good to have this much support,” he said. “It’s been a long recovery, but all things considered it was already going faster than I thought it would. Now this is going to help me get back to my ultimate goal of being on patrol even faster.”
Rifkin said he was still taking “baby steps, no pun intended” with his current leg, but the running leg would help him get back in shape even faster.
From day to day, it’s been hard, but he had not lost faith that the best is yet to come.
“The hardest part is trying not to feel defeated, because you’re literally falling and getting back up with things that used to be easy like walking up and down stairs,” he said. “I have a long driveway that’s uphill where I live (in Castaic), and it’s a lot of little everyday tasks like that that have taken getting used to.”
The weirdest part now, he said, is having cut off tattoo designs on his leg.
“It’s actually weirder now to look at old pictures of myself with legs,” he said with a chuckle. “The top part of my leg was salvaged, but now there’s weird stitching and half of the old tattoos I have are gone. It’s pretty funny though.”
Rifkin has been going to physical therapy three times a week, doing leg presses and hamstring pulls as best he can.
Already nicknamed “Baby Face” by his fellow deputies due to his early graduation from the sheriff’s academy at age 20, he has nevertheless had a lot of support since the accident, he said.
The West Ranch High School graduate is looking forward to the future, thanks to his Christmas gift of a new leg.
“Still doing great,” he said. “Now even better.”