A lively young man, John grew up with a love for sports and outdoor activities. In his home town of White Bluff, Tennessee, John was actively involved in wrestling and football. After graduating high school, he continued an active lifestyle working in both the construction field and as an auto mechanic. At age 23 John was ready for adventure and joined the United States Army.
After completing basic training at Fort Sill, OK, John received orders to Fort Richardson, Alaska for training as a Forward Observer. The physical demands on forward observers are extremely high; John met the challenges and excelled in his military training.
Six months into his military career, John was deployed to Mosul, Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqui Freedom. After an extended deployment of 16 months, John returned back to Fort Richardson, Alaska.
In 2008, John was deployed again to serve overseas, this time to the Diyala Province of Iraq. In January 2009, the vehicle that John and five others were travelling in encountered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). John took the brunt of the impact and sustained multiple injuries. After an emergency surgery in Iraq, John was sent to Germany and then to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for further treatment.
The impact resulted in breaks to both of John’s tibias and fibulas. In addition, both ankles were shattered as well as three frontal bones in his right foot; his left heel was shattered into over 60 pieces.
Although John’s recovery required many surgeries, his initial prognosis for recovery was good. However, five months after the event, John developed septic shock from an infection in his left foot. Because of the severity of the infection John made the decision to amputate his left leg below the knee. John’s right leg did eventually heal, but requires the assistance of an ankle-foot-orthotic (AFO) to provide ankle support.
Life after Amputation:
John’s injuries have resulted in over 50 surgeries and two years of intense rehabilitation. You won’t see John complaining though. His doctors and rehab team call him the “model patient” who always has a smile on his face.
John says, “I won’t let [amputation] slow me down. I can do anything I want, I just have to figure out a new way to do the things that I love.” And John does continue to do all of the things that he loves including hunting, fishing and golf. He recently even participated in a Reebok Spartan Race!
John maintains a variety of specialty prosthetic devices to accommodate his active lifestyle. His collection includes a climbing leg, swimming leg, pivoting golf leg, and even a bionic ankle. Reach prosthetist, Matt Zydron, recently fit John with a new prosthetic socket, resulting in better comfort and reduced risk of injury to his residual limb. Matt also fit John with the Arizona AFO, providing improved support for his right ankle.
John recently began a new career as a lab technician working with prosthetics and foot orthotics at Reach Orthotic & Prosthetic Services. In addition, he serves as an amputee peer mentor, providing advice and encouragement to others facing amputation. His advice to others: “Keep your head up! There is nothing you can’t do, and keep a positive attitude. Put your mind towards doing it every day.”
Way to go John! You inspire!