August 3, 2018 started like any other day for LA County Sheriff Deputy Garrett Rifkin.
The Santa Clarita native was on his way to work at the West Hollywood station when his life took a turn.
“It took me 3 hours to decide. I expected to wake up after the accident without my leg so I was already mentally prepared for it.”
Garrett was passing through an intersection on his motorcycle when a car broadsided his motorcycle. He remembers flying through the air and landing on the hot pavement a few feet away.
The driver of the vehicle took off, but many witnesses stayed and offered the 25-year-old officer a helping hand.
“I tried standing and my leg didn’t work, so I crawled over to the gutter,” says Garrett. “I remember somebody propping me up on his feet to help get me off the hot pavement.”
The collision crushed his left foot and lower part of his leg. In the ambulance ride to Cedars-Sinai, he asked paramedics if he was going to lose his leg.
“The medic said it didn’t look too good, but they were going to do the best they could,” he says.
Finally Garrett faced a choice: He could keep trying to save the limb—which would mean dozens of complicated surgeries and possibly a lifetime of pain and walking with a limp—or he could amputate.
“I’ve always wanted to be a cop and this wasn’t going to stop me.”
“It took me 3 hours to decide,” Garrett says. “I expected to wake up after the accident without my leg so I was already mentally prepared for it.”
Doctors amputated his leg about 6 inches below his knee.
Road to recovery
During surgery, doctors fitted him for a temporary prosthetic. It was later replaced by a long-term prosthesis made from carbon fiber and stainless steel.
With the help of a walker and moral support from his fiancée Michelle, Garrett took his first steps the day after surgery.
“Garrett was highly motivated and he had incredibly supportive family and friends,” says Dr. Moon. “We don’t always see that. Having that motivation and support can make recovery much easier.”
After a few days at California Rehabilitation Institute, Garrett went home to start his new normal.
Only 3 months after the accident, he returned to work.
Garrett comes from a family of law enforcement officers. His dad was a deputy sheriff, his brother is an LAPD officer. It was all he ever wanted to do and the idea of retiring at 25 didn’t sit well.
“I was bored. There’s only so much TV you can watch,” says Garrett.
“People were dumbfounded when I went to back to work, but I’ve always wanted to be a cop and this wasn’t going to stop me.”
Now he wants to inspire other people facing obstacles. He talks to patients waiting for surgery and does public speaking engagements about his life as an amputee.
In the Newsroom: Cedars-Sinai Amputee Patient Gets Bionic Leg
After adjusting to his prosthetic leg, Garrett is confident he made the right choice.
He still feels phantom pains from his amputated foot and he’s grappling with some anxiety from the collision, but he’s determined to not let his amputation slow him down.
“I have no regrets,” Garrett says. “Losing my leg has given me so many more opportunities to help people.”