restricted access Tackling Adversity
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Tackling Adversity

As a very active and athletic 21–year–old I was involved in an accident that would change my life forever, but not necessarily for the worse. I was hit by a drunk driver in a pick–up truck while riding my motorcycle. Ironically, I was on my way to sell the motorcycle but never made it that far. I suffered a broken hand, femur, multiple lacerations and the most severe injury of them all, the loss of my right leg just below the knee. I kept the fact that I owned a motorcycle from my parents by storing it at a friend’s house so I knew the news of my injury would be twice as surreal to them. I remember telling the ER nurse that I needed to be the one that called them to tell them what happened. She said she could not do that, but I told her that she did not know my mother and I was able to talk her into accommodating me.

It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college and I had had just made Indiana University’s football team as a walk–on linebacker (without having played HS football) so life was good and there was pretty much nothing holding me back or anything I felt I could not do.

In an instant the life I once knew would never be the same and I truly wanted to die but little did I know that life would get better, not worse. After keeping my lower leg attached with surgical tape for a week, the inevitable could not be avoided. It was devastating news. At first I refused to sign any papers authorizing the amputation surgery but I was told if I did not, I would surely die as gangrene had set in. I remember scribbling my signature and then throwing the pen—a doctor’s dream I’m sure but I have to believe they’ve seen it all before. I was in traction for the first six weeks and had lost 60 pounds. Two weeks after being removed from traction I was able to get upright but was extremely weak. The emaciated and ghostly white image of me was tough to look at in the mirror, especially with half my right leg missing. That really took some getting used to. At that point, it was like a bad dream and I wasn’t sure what to make of all of it but one thing for certain was that reality had sunk in. Surprisingly, it was at that point that I quit feeling sorry for myself and instantly knew what had to be done.

I knew I needed help and I could not do it alone so with the help of my family and friends, I started to put goals in place for myself. First on the list was to gain some weight back so I resumed working out (mostly weightlifting) and turned to my mother’s [End Page 192] great cooking. There were some highs and lows during that process particularly with my first prosthetist (also an amputee) who told me my days of any type of sports activities “were over.” That was pretty devastating news to me but it didn’t take me long to realize he was only telling me things that he himself was never able to accomplish as an amputee and that just created more of an incentive for me because I knew deep down it was possible because I already had the drive and determination. Just under a year later I was back to a regular exercise program, my “pre–accident” weight and feeling healthy and in shape again.

I have since become more appreciative of what I have. I used to box in college and in 1991, entered the Chicago Golden Gloves Super heavyweight (senior novice) division. Senior novice means you’ve had five or less fights at that time and that you were at least 21. I lost my first fight in 1991 on a controversial decision and came back in 1992 and had three fights. Just shy of 35 years old, my first opponent...