When he lost his leg to cancer at age 12, it wasn’t the first thing on his mind:
Will I still be able to become a cop?
Since he was a kid, Robert Ram had dreamed of following in the footsteps of his father, Ravi, a retired deputy with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
But there were more immediate concerns when Ram, of Rancho Santa Margarita, had to have his left leg amputated above the knee after Ewing’s sarcoma had attacked the marrow in his tibia.
What kind of prosthetic should I get? The one with flesh-like covering that makes it look like a real leg?
“I wanted it to look at robotic as possible,” said Ram.
In other words, Ram wanted to own it – to proudly walk around in shorts and not let his status as a single-leg amputee serve as a crutch to prevent him from doing what he wanted.
Such as pursuing a career in law enforcement.
And this Thursday, Oct. 29, Ram, 20, will take a first but significant step toward that goal when he becomes the first amputee to graduate from an Orange County Sheriff’s Department academy.
Ram isn’t graduating from the grueling academy for sworn deputies — that’s his next goal — but he’s one of 24 graduates in the 16th class of the OCSD’s Correctional Services Assistant Academy, a 10-week, 400-hour training ground for civilians who work in county jails assisting deputies.
CSAs carry pepper spray to assist with the movement of inmates.
They are somewhat of a breeding ground for future deputies, however.
In fact, several CSAs have successfully made the transition to full-fledged law enforcement officers by graduating from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Regional Training Academy in Tustin, said Deputy Sheriff William P.C. Griffin, Ram’s tactical officer at the academy.
Ram wasn’t given any special treatment at the academy, which included more than 50 hours of physical training, Griffin said.
Which is how the Tesoro High School graduate wanted it.
“I’m just living my everyday life,” Ram said Monday as he chugged on a 32-ounce container of water, the back of his white T-shirt smeared with grass stains from pounding out sit-ups and other exercises with classmates.
“I didn’t sign up for this to get the media attention,” Ram said. “I sighed up for this because I wanted to pursue this career.”
But media attention he’s getting.
Ram was all over local TV last Friday when the OCSD held a news conference to announce his graduation.
Monday, he woke up at 1:30 a.m. to make it to an early living feed for the “Fox & Friends” show in L.A., insisting that he get back in time by 7 a.m. to report to the academy — even though his superiors likely would have cut him some slack.
Soon after that appearance, the online version of People magazine published a write-up based on that and several other TV spots.
And then Behind the Badge OC came calling.
“My classmates are now joking, ‘Oh, you’re going to be on the Wheaties box next,” Ram said with a laugh.
Ram never let losing a leg slow him down — although it took a while to get used to wearing a prosthetic.
“It hurt at first to put it on,” he said.
He likened the experience to walking around without socks in uncomfortable shoes all day – day after day, until callouses developed.
Ram credits his parents for insisting he wear the prosthetic and not rely on a wheelchair and on continuing with his athletic life.
Baseball, swimming, water polo, wrestling — Ram did it all.
And he never gave up on his dream.
“I kind of realized, ‘Why not?’” Ram said. “I’m able to run and do other stuff, so I’m just going to try it.”
A county medical doctor had to clear Ram (and other recruits) before allowing him to join the OCSD’s Correctional Services Assistant Academy.
“He basically looked at me and said, ‘What can you and can’t you do?’” Ram recalled.
Ram told him he could do everything.
“But when I run,” Ram told the doctor, “it looks a little different, and when I go up and down stairs it looks a little different, too.”
During the academy, Ram had to run sprints, walk a balance beam, drag a dummy and hop over walls, among other forms of “P.T.” (for physical training).
“He’s good,” Griffin said. “He’s probably in the top 5 physically in his class.”
Ram starts working at the Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana on Nov. 5. He said he wants to become a deputy so he can help people.
“In what other profession can you help more people than that?” he asked.
In his spare time, Ram — who has a girlfriend of four years, Mary, 21, who is studying to become a nurse — speaks to young patients at CHOC Children’s in Orange who face the prospect of losing a limb.
“A lot of them have the feeling that they won’t be able to do stuff and just want to stay at home,” Ram said.
He tells them otherwise.
“Limitations?” he said. “I don’t feel I have any.”