“I tell people that there are three things I want them to remember. The first is that it’s ok. The second one – it’s ok, and the third is one is just as important as the first two – it’s ok.”
A caring, giving spirit, and an Arkansas Native, Foster has found his way through life via unexpected opportunities and a staunch work ethic.
He remembers an engineer who graciously started an after-school job program at Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority for high school kids, and he happened to be one of the teens to take advantage of it. “Once I graduated from Little Rock Central High School, I got a job with them, and it skyrocketed from there,” he said.
An operator at Fourche Water Reclamation Facility, Foster managed a system of machines to transfer and treat wastewater. Over the years, he became highly skilled at the lab work involved – so much so that he began to travel for operation competitions all over the country.
“It was huge for me,” he explained, looking back. “I look at all the things I’ve experienced that I wouldn’t have been able to do without that job.”
It never occurred to him that he might not one day be able to continue his calling.
“I was getting a pain in my foot, and I was under the impression that I had maybe broken a toe or fractured [something],” he said. However, after a visit to the doctor, he learned that he had Charcot, which affects bones, joints, and soft tissues of the foot or ankle.
This discovery turned out to be life-changing. Usually, if caught in the early stages, amputation can be avoided, but that wasn’t the case for Foster. He was prescribed a CROW boot which led to decreased mobility and a multitude of changes – including leaving his job.
“That was pretty devastating. Psychologically that was a lot for me to have to deal with.”
Over a period he adjusted to wearing the boot but eventually reached a turning point where amputation was his best option.
“I was quite in the dark about what life consisted of after becoming an amputee. I was honestly under the impression that [I] would be in a wheelchair.”
Luckily for Foster, his ability to warm up the hearts around him as Uncle Craig propelled his life in a different, unexpected direction.
“When I was going through my rehab at Baptist Hospital – there were stroke victims, there were other people who were amputees, people who had been in car accidents – all on my floor,” he said. “I was checking on them and talking with them every day, and the staff noticed.”
The staff connected Foster with an individual who ran a nonprofit responsible for coordinating meetings and counseling new amputees.
“[He] came up to my hospital room and visited with me,” he recalled. “And I just happened to be having one of those bad days and he walked in and had some very encouraging words. Through our one-on-one, he felt like I’d be the perfect individual to help counsel other amputees.”
Foster currently serves as an ambassador for the Amputee Coalition of Arkansas (ACA), and he is dedicated to counseling and meeting with new amputees.
“They’re usually about three or four days out from their amputation, and you can imagine the fear and the questions in someone’s mind being that new to a situation.”
He believes that having a conversation with someone who has made it past that dark place themselves is very powerful.
“When they see someone walk in with a prosthesis – it makes them more free and open to talk.”
Beyond his experience as an amputee, Foster inspires those around him with his weight-loss journey and his determination to continually set new goals.
“I was approximately 450 pounds,” he said, “and I had exhausted about all of my weight-loss options.”
His doctor suggested a gastric bypass, and six months after his procedure in 2020 Foster was down nearly 100 pounds. This not only allowed him to get lighter equipment for his prosthesis, it also opened up the space for him to explore tackling new physical activities.
He set his sights on cycling, namely because he wanted to train for a competitive ride with his sister who lives in Indiana. He went all in and bought a bicycle and all the necessary equipment.
“My first ride was a little scary,” he said with a laugh. “It was a little nerve-wracking – I haven’t been on a bicycle for 30 years, and it took a little practice, but the more that I got on that bicycle and the more I kept going – [the] more stable I got.”
Foster believes he wouldn’t be where he is today – cycling and beyond – without Snell Prosthetics & Orthotics.
“I had the goal of riding a bicycle or getting into cycling and through Snell and my weight loss I was able to accomplish that,” he said. “Frank Snell goes above and beyond. I have never met anyone like him, and with his help, I am sitting here before you today.”
For Foster, Snell has become family.
“When we talk about Snell and we talk about the service and the reputation and everything that they’ve done for me – it’s second-to-none. The staff from the front door to the lab in the back has just been exemplary. What they have done through their technology and their willingness to help me has allowed me to make all of my dreams come true and have helped me 100 percent in reaching those goals that I set up for myself.”
One of those goals Foster continues to pursue is his work as an ambassador for amputees, even amidst the pandemic. While some in-person meetings have resumed, he has relied heavily on Google Meet to connect.
“I have a webcam and a desktop computer and a microphone set up. My coworkers mess with me that I’ve got a radio station going,” he said, laughing, “but I really have thrown my whole heart into it.”
Truthfully, his coworkers aren’t too far off the mark. Foster hopes to one day soon get a podcast focused on supporting amputees locally and beyond off the ground. He feels he has something to share with this growing community.
“I want to tell them that life goes on. Nearly 185,000 people a year become amputees. I want them to know that they have just become a part of a big family that they more than likely weren’t aware even existed. The mind is a very very powerful thing, and with your mind, you can do anything.”
Foster continues to let his positive spirit reach new heights daily and takes joy in helping not only the amputee community but anyone who’s lucky enough to call him Uncle Craig.
“I literally can not get enough of helping people.”