LIFE WITHOUT LIMBS: How Taylor Morris got back on his feet - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

LIFE WITHOUT LIMBS: How Taylor Morris got back on his feet

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Photo Courtesy of Tim Dodd Photography Photo Courtesy of Tim Dodd Photography
WATERLOO (KWWL) -

A Cedar Falls sailor is taking the next steps in his life and inspiring others along the way.

United States Navy EOD Technician Taylor Morris lost portions of his arms and both legs while serving in Afghanistan. In May, an improvised explosive device, known as an IED, detonated under the sailor's feet. He's been recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the Washington D.C. area ever since.

His family and friends are documenting his progress on a website TaylorMorris.org. That blog has now received more than 1.5 million hits from 20 different countries. But Morris, and his girlfriend Danielle Kelly, said they feel the most support from their hometown. That includes their friends and family in the Cedar Valley and a local company that's helping Taylor get back on his feet.

Morris and Kelly met with KWWL's Colleen O'Shaughnessy during a recent visit home. Morris said he's growing accustomed to life as a quadruple amputee.

"Kids are the best. Just without any filter at all. They'll just come up and look, and look at me, and look at my legs and be like -- ahh, his legs are gone! He's a robot," he laughed.

He and Kelly have a good sense of humor about the catastrophic injuries. But getting to this point has been a struggle. The highs and lows are well-documented on TaylorMorris.org.

"The biggest change was when I could start walking. When I was able to get up and do some laps around the track, that kind of made everything a whole new ball game. I wasn't restricted to my chair," said Morris.

His ability to walk alongside Kelly is the result of the world's most advanced technology. With each step, a microprocessor instantly makes thousands of computations. Sensing changes in ground density and incline, or the difference between a hardwood floor and carpet. It knows if he's stepping up on a curb, or getting into a car.

"They're doing things by sensing motion, by sensing movement, by sensing shifts in weight, that allow him to be very comfortable, very stable, and very sure that he can walk on uneven surfaces from point A to point B," said Dennis Clark, President of Clark & Associates Prosthetics and Orthodics.

Though most of Morris' recovery work is done at Walter Reed, the structure of his prosthetics come from Iowa. Specifically from Clark & Associates, based in Waterloo. The company, founded by Clark's father, works closely with Walter Reed to provide cutting edge prosthetic care for U.S. Military members.

"We were talking about it back in the hospital, and we never really knew they were here before," said Kelly.

Their visit with KWWL was the first time Morris and Kelly have visited Clark's office -- although they are very familiar with Clark. He's spent time with them at Walter Reed, and was among the first to reach out to the sailor's family after the explosion.

"He definitely put a lot of minds to ease. Because initially everybody was like, awestruck in that there's going to be some serious complications for the rest of my life. And he kind of explained all the possibilities and how much better he could make it," said Morris.

The technology available at Clark & Associates is second to none. For example, a machine which designs and constructs ultra-light prosthetic sockets is one of only two in the world. It also happens to be the one Taylor's legs were made on.

"That's cool to see, behind the door. To see how everything goes down. The steps, the people that do it. The hands that they put on it to make sure everything is working properly," said Kelly.

While Morris and Kelly studied the machine's intricacies, Clark reflected on the sailor's progress.

"What a wonderful sight to see. Doing more than just walking but running and doing other things people his age do," said Clark.

Clark said it's an honor to produce the sockets Morris will use to walk, run, even snowboard. Clark believes it's an ability Morris, and all wounded service members, "literally deserve. Not just require. We owe them this."

Morris said the care shown by Clark, and the experts at Walter Reed, is inspiring.

"Definitely is motivating when you have people that want to see you succeed," said Morris.

But above all, it's the strength from his community, his family, and especially his partner Kelly, which keeps him going. Even when the next step seems too difficult to take.

"You can't do it by yourself. And that level of support she's given -- she's risen to that task and I think that kind of dedication and that kind of understanding and that kind of growth is also remarkable," said Clark.

Morris and Clark returned to their regular routine at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this week. They plan to stay at the hospital as long as possible, to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge the center provides. When they do return to the Cedar Valley, they expect to spend a good deal of time working with Clark & Associates as Morris continues his recovery.

Tune in for the second part of the story Friday on the KWWL News at 10:00. You'll see an inside glimpse of the love, passion, and patience Taylor and Danielle have for each other as Taylor progresses in his recovery. It's what's getting the two through the most difficult ordeal of their lives, and bringing them closer than ever.

And on Friday, join us for a special live chat with Taylor's support team, including Dennis Clark from Clark & Associates, the photographer documenting Taylor's recovery and one of Taylor's closest friends. The chat starts at noon on Friday. Join us to show your support and ask questions.

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