Jeff Collins

K-9 Orthotics and Prosthetics Inc., CEO and President
TurningPoint: Healing his dog leads to international success

img“I was suicidal for three years.”

Jeff Collins is very honest when he talks about the motorcycle accident that caused the amputation of his leg and left his other limbs severely damaged. But he credits a strong circle of friends and his own determination for pulling him through the dark moments of his recovery.

“I was twenty years old and facing seven months in a rehab facility.” Doctors were unable to save one leg and it eventually had to be amputated. The other leg was shattered but they rebuilt it with steel plates and wire. He needed a custom prosthetic designed for his missing limb but all the technicians he went to couldn’t make him feel comfortable. Collins decided to learn how to make the devices himself.  He enrolled in a Prosthetic program in Toronto, packed up his belongings and left his home in Nova Scotia.

Excited about his future, Jeff was getting ready for college life when he was invited out by a few of his classmates for a night of fun. Trouble erupted at the bar and Jeff found himself in the middle when events spiraled out of control. He was arrested, injured and ended up back in the hospital. Labeled a troublemaker, he was suspended from school for two weeks. Collins says he was treated unfairly and it was only through the kindness of his friends that he was able to survive.

“I lived on their couch for a week.  A nurse in the building took care of me because I had a fever and was suffering the affects of the arrest. My stubbornness got me through but I still hit the bottom…the lowest you can go.  I abused alcohol and drugs and then I got to the point where I told myself, ‘Something has gotta give or something’s gotta change’. I’m a firm believer that you’re a creator of your own destiny and that you have to stay focused.  I did a lot of reading.”

Back at school, Collins began to learn the art of making prosthetic devices. He also joined Big Brothers and started working with a young man who proved to be a handful.
No one needed to remind Collins that life could be hard to deal with and he began to make a difference in the boy’s life. “I always told my little bother to aim high because if you don’t find what you want at least you’ll be close.  It’s better than giving up.”

Collins graduated and became a Pediatric Prosthetic Specialist helping young children adapt to their new mobility. His work was rewarding and he loved his new profession but he missed his life and family in Nova Scotia. After a few years of working in Ontario he packed up and moved back home. Collins was unemployed and he still didn’t have a prosthetic leg but he had a plan. He would open his own business.

“I had a meeting with the rehab specialists, nurses and doctors.   I was in a room with all these professionals. One of the doctors told me that I had unrealistic ambitions and that I should rethink them. He said that I should take it easy and not be as active as I am.”

Collins was angry that the doctors had put limitations on his progress.

“I was really bugged by the doctor’s comments. I thought he should inspire me and other patients. He used more colorful and diplomatic words. But I just say it the way it is.”

Deciding not to listen to the doctor’s advice, Collins enrolled in the Dalhousie Continuing Education program and started writing a business plan for starting a private orthotic company. Money was tight but Collins was making progress. Suddenly his beloved dog Stash, a black lab/mix he had rescued off the streets of Toronto, pulled up lame. With no income coming in he couldn’t afford surgery to fix her leg and Jeff was heartbroken.

Suddenly Collins came up with an idea. He could use the human techniques he had learned to build a device that would relieve the pain for his hurt dog.  Stash was soon walking around with a new knee brace.
There were other dogs that needed Collins’ help. Within a few months he had a stable of new four-legged patients and he followed up on their progress designing and adjusting orthotic and prosthetic devices for them. Collins put his business plan in action – he knew he was on to something. K-9 Orthotics and Prosthetics was in business. He made twenty devices the first year and his business took off.
“I have six employees and right now we’re going through a transition from custom application to pre-designed products. I have products all around the world from Australia to Europe.” 

Today, Jeff Collins commemorates the day that changed his life because it marked a turning point for him and the ground breaking technology he pioneered.

“Every year I celebrate the day of my accident and take my staff out. If I didn’t have my accident I would have all these wonderful people working for me in a prosperous company in a new market. I’m working with veterinarians to have my technology incorporated into new vet textbooks.”

“You are your own destiny and when you’re in a negative state of mind just remind yourself that this is passing phase of emotions. Expect challenges and hardship. The harder it gets the more inspiring it should be.”

 It’s his patients that give him the most joy. “They look up at me with eyes of gratitude and wagging tails. I’m so happy I can help these animals.”