Our LFL Board Member John Shelton shares his story. John is a tri-athlete, veteran and amazing volunteer. We are honored by his service on every level.
On September 17, 1985, I was traveling across Classen Blvd. in Oklahoma City on my bike and was broadsided on my left by a car. The guy stopped and looked at me briefly, hopped back in the car and starts dragging me, and the bike, down the street. People were hollering for him to stop. A nurse who was on her way to work at Saint Anthony helped me. The damage to my foot would lead to 13 surgeries to try to save it. The 14th surgery was my amputation.
While in the hospital during the surgeries, I was watching the Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii on Wide World of Sports. It was a 2.2 miles swim, 112 miles on the bike, and a full 26.2 mile marathon. I called myself a runner at the time, not a triathlete. However, they introduced an amputee during the Iron Man and the tears came. I knew that was something I wanted to do. Seeing him, motivated me to tell the doctor to amputate my lower left leg. The early years after my amputation were difficult with self-doubt, feeling unworthy, and drug addiction. In the early 90’s I tried a couple of triathlons. The first was at the Westside YMCA. I felt like a Pro! On December 27, 1995, I got sober and began running in preparation for my first marathon.
I knew I needed a running blade to complete that task and participate in an Ironman. Once I was able to convince the VA to give me a blade, my life and self-esteem has changed and improved. I consider myself a marathon runner and have run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. The route passes the place where I was hit on my bike. The OKC event is very uplifting and always provides such a warm welcome at the finish line. After every finish, it is always amazing to be an amputee and know I have completed that feat. In countless marathons, triathlons, and other runs, I’ve grown to appreciate the invention of the running blade as an adaptive device. Through swimming, biking, and running, I found a new lifestyle. God has guided me and I have listened. I am so fortunate to be a triathlete and a veteran. Being asked to serve on the Board of Directors of Limbs for Life has reinforced how far I have come in my life’s journey after going through so much. This group of people has made me feel welcome, important, and loved. I am so fortunate to be part of this organization.