Monday, August 31, 2009

Third time lucky! Mosha the miracle elephant is fitted with another prosthetic leg after landmine tragedy

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 7:07 PM on 15th August 2009

Comments (1) Add to My Stories Victims of landmines come in all shapes and sizes and Mosha the elephant is no exception.
Mosha, a baby elephant from Thailand, became the world's first pachyderm to be fitted with a prosthetic limb in 2007.
But the three-year-old has been growing so quickly she's outgrown two previous artificial legs and is now on her third.
Enlarge Record breaker: Baby elephant Mosha is the first elephant in the world to be fitted with a prosthetic leg - and she's now on her third artificial limb

Enlarge Victim: Mosha lost her limb after stepping on a landmine, but has managed to cope perfectly on her artificial leg
Amazingly, Mosha is not the only elephant to be fitted with an artificial limb.
Another landmine victim, Motola, will also receive a prosthetic leg this weekend - 10 years after losing her left leg.

'I do hope she will accept the new leg. It would be wonderful to see Motola and Baby Mosha walking together side-by-side," said Soraida Salvala, secretary general of the charity Friends of the Asian Elephant.
Motola was injured in 1999 while she was working at a logging camp along the Myanmar-Thailand border. The area is known to be covered in land mines.
Her badly injured foot was amputated and the elephant managed to hobble along on three legs after the operation.
Prosthetics for pachyderms: Artificial leg expert Terdchai Cheevakate holds a cast of Motola's injured left leg as they prepare to fit her with her new limb

Trunk-tastic: Motola, her injured foot covered by canvas, has learned to use her trunk to lean against the bars of her enclosure. With her new leg being fitted today, she can afford to give her trunk a rest!
She was fitted with a canvas, shoe-like device two years ago, but will receive her own tailor-made artificial leg this weekend.
'It has been 10 years now, but in all these long years Motola enjoyed a happy life, walking out of her shelter for a sun bath,' said Salvala.

Experts in Thailand have already made casts of Motola's injured left foot for the permanent plastic leg. It must be strong enough to support the 48-year-old's three-ton weight.
Although Motola is the second elephant to receive an artificial leg, she has already been in the record books following her injury.
During the operation to remove her left foot, she received enough anaesthetic to knock out 70 people - a fact that put her into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2000.

Motola's new leg is being constructed by the Prostheses Foundation, an organisation that usually makes cheap but effective artificial limbs for human amputees.
Forever friends: Soraida Salvala comforts Motola before she is fitted for her new leg. Salvala says Motola's story is just one of many injured elephants in Thailand
The injuries of the two elephants have highlighted the difficulties facing the majestic creatures in Thailand.

Both are now being cared for at the Elephant Hospital in Northern Thailand. The hospital was set up by the FAE and is the only elephant hospital in the world.
It has treated thousands of elephants for ailments ranging from eye infection to gunshot wounds.
A number of elephants have also been injured by land mines, but the charity says this is just one problem facing the animals in Thailand.

They say the number of domesticated pachyderms has dropped from 13,400 in 1950 to today's estimated 2,500, while the number of wild elephants has also dropped dramatically.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Amazing Maynard lives the MMA dream

By Mike Chiappetta

Kyle Maynard has made a living out of going above and beyond expectations.
At just 23 years old, Kyle Maynard has his own business, owns a three-floor townhouse, has written a New York Times best-seller and is one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in the country. He played football in middle school, became an excellent wrestler in high school and is a certified instructor in CrossFit, a popular strength and conditioning program.

He is also a congenital amputee, with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end near his knees.

By this point of his life, you would figure that his history of success would have served to quiet every last doubter. But for the past two years, Maynard has been stopped from participating in one of his new passions: mixed martial arts.

On Saturday at Auburn Fight Night in Auburn, Ala., Maynard will make his long-awaited amateur MMA debut before what is expected to be a crowd of several thousand fans. The event will also be available online at

The prospect of Maynard fighting has drawn differing opinions in the MMA world. In 2007, Maynard was denied a fighter's license by the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission. That attempt drew debate on online forums that continues to simmer today, but after battling for a chance to get in the cage, Maynard and promoter David Oblas decided to circumvent any bureaucratic red tape by fighting in Alabama, a state in which MMA remains unregulated.

"Frankly, I haven't had anyone provide a rational reason [why] I can't fight, including the [Georgia] athletic commission," Maynard said. "The commission has a lot to lose and nothing to gain by giving me a license. My intention was not to turn this into a court battle. I didn't want to make this a civil rights thing. I just wanted to fulfill a dream."

The central debate over Maynard's participation lies in whether he has the ability to adequately defend himself. His training résumé suggests that he does. On the heels of his wrestling success, Maynard began training four years ago, and in the period since has spent time on the mat with a host of accomplished pro fighters, including the legendary Pat Miletich, Rory Singer, Robbie Lawler, Josh Neer, Spencer Fisher and Brian Bowles.

These days, his primary jiu-jitsu trainer is Paul Creighton, a onetime UFC fighter who fought BJ Penn in 2002. Creighton thinks Maynard is ready for the challenge, and it's worth noting that he speaks from an educated opinion: He has a master's degree in health and physical education and holds black belts in jiu-jitsu, karate and judo.

"Kyle is very good," Creighton said. "He submits a lot of guys. People wonder 'How does he do submissions?' Well, I can tell you, he's very proficient and he's very strong. He's a bull."

Maynard's parents are also on board with his fighting dreams. His father, Scott, who wrestled in college and did some boxing, often talks strategy with Kyle. His mother, Anita, is like most MMA moms: supportive but looking forward to the match being over.

Because of his condition, Maynard will be considered a downed fighter, and therefore cannot be kicked to the head, but he will fight under the same rules as the other eight amateur bouts on the card, which disallow elbows to the head of grounded opponents. Striking, wrestling and submissions are all fair game.

"It's the biggest misconception to think I can't strike," Maynard said. "It cracks me up how many people think that. I'm not going to be an Ernesto Hoost kickboxer, but I can strike."

Given the attention being paid to the bout, the identity of Maynard's opponent is being kept under wraps until the official weigh-ins. The fighter is from Wisconsin and has a 1-1 record. Oblas also has two backups on alert should they be needed. The fight will be contested at 135 pounds.

Oblas, who has been promoting events since 2002, has been friends with Maynard for several years and can still remember the day when Maynard called to inquire about fighting an MMA bout.

Oblas had the same questions everyone else is asking now: "How are you going to defend yourself?" "How are you going to strike?" "How are you going to wear gloves when you don't have hands?"

"We went out and talked to trainers, and they all felt this was an OK idea for him to fight," Oblas said. "No one felt more uneasy about his risk of getting injured than any other amateur fighter."

Maynard has always been a sports enthusiast. Growing up in Indiana, he played football and street hockey and wrestled with his neighborhood friends. After moving to Georgia, he briefly felt out of place but used sports to integrate himself into the community, playing nose tackle on his youth football team at 11. Since then he has set weightlifting records, won an ESPY award and modeled for Abercrombie & Fitch.

His whole life, he has been amazing people with his refusal to believe in limitations. In the process, he has touched millions. He's had people tell him that his story stopped them from committing suicide or that it motivated them to live healthier lives, and he hopes to continue that impact in the future.

But Saturday isn't about anyone else. It's not about setting an example or being inspirational or proving the doubters wrong. In the close quarters of combat, there is too much at stake for that.

"This time," he said, "I'm doing it for me."

Mike Chiappetta is a freelance writer who has written for and FIGHT! Magazine. He can be reached at

Monday, August 17, 2009

The inspirational story of Andover Pee Wee Sam McPhillips

By Glen Andresen

The ice rinks throughout The State of Hockey produce some of the most interesting, compelling, and inspirational stories found in Minnesota. Case in point is the story of Sam McPhillips, a Pee Wee in the Andover association.
The ice rinks throughout The State of Hockey produce some of the most interesting, compelling, and inspirational stories found in Minnesota. Case in point is the story of Sam McPhillips, a Pee Wee in the Andover association. Sam has had a prosthetic leg for more than 11 of his 12 years of life. Putting on his leg every morning is as habitual to him as hitting the snooze button a couple times in the morning like a typical seventh grader would.

“It’s just like an everyday thing,” claims Sam matter-of-factly. “When I go to bed, I take it off. When I wake up, I put it on. I have it on all day.”

Sam enjoys sports, spending time with his friends and playing video games, just like a typical seventh grader does.

Passing a puck, swinging a bat and catching a lacrosse ball come as naturally to Sam as they do to any typical seventh grade athlete. Despite his prosthetic leg, there is really not a challenge he hasn’t been able to take on in his short life, except for maybe one.

In 12 years, Sam still hasn’t quite mastered the pronunciation of the affliction he was born with.

“Febilino?” he wonders aloud while looking to his father, Tony McPhillips, for help.

Actually, as Tony points out with a smile at his son’s latest attempt, Sam was born with Type 3 Fibular Hemimelia, which means he was born without a fibula bone (or calf bone) in his left leg. When he was nine months old, Sam underwent a Syme amputation and was fitted with a prosthetic leg at 10 months.

Sam hasn’t known anything other than having one composite leg, which attaches just below his left knee. He hasn’t let it affect him in any aspect of his life, especially sports.

Just last month, Sam made the Andover Peewee "A" team, which to many might seem like a remarkable feat. To Sam, it is just another step toward what he hopes is a future career in the National Hockey League.

Sure, it’s a lofty goal, but Sam has also accomplished a lot in his brief hockey career, perhaps the most important of which is having earned the respect of his teammates, who frequently forget that Sam is built a bit differently from them.

“He’s just one of the kids, that’s the best way to say it,” said Mark Manney, one of the co-head coaches of the Andover Peewee "A" team. “The subject of his leg never comes up with the other kids. I think sometimes Sam may be a little self-conscious of it, but I’ve never heard another kid even mention it.”

“It’s his effort that allows him to be one of the kids,” he continued. “If he took a night off, or started feeling sorry for himself, maybe the kids would treat him differently. But he doesn’t.”

In fact, Sam doesn’t take a night, a day, or a shift off. During preseason peewee skating sessions, Sam asked the coaches if he could participate in the early and late sessions. The coaches obliged, and were blown away by his effort in both.

Sam is that player that opposing players can’t stand to contend with. He’s not the biggest kid on the ice. In fact, he’s one of the smallest. He and his dad also can’t point to blazing speed or extreme muscle as the reason, either.

“He made the “A” team because of his heart, and his effort,” said his dad. “Every shift, he tries real hard. He has a big heart.”

When trying to gather a puck out of the corner, Sam is going to be the one pestering the opposing defenseman from behind with his stick, constantly jabbing at the puck. He’s the little water bug that hops to whatever spot the puck is going to be, not giving the opposition time to think about what to do with it. He’s the kid that will poke away at a rebound until one of three things happens: a goal is scored, a whistle blows the play dead, or he’s is pulled off the pile by every opponent and referee on the ice.

“He goes hard from whistle to whistle…and sometimes after,” joked Manney.

“He’s very, very competitive,” adds Tony, who was asked to be an assistant coach after Sam made the team. “He likes to win.”

Neither coach, nor dad will get an argument from Sam on that assertion. “I love competing, and being out there with my friends,” says Sam. “I hustle a lot.”

A spectator would have to be told that Sam has a prosthetic leg to know his affliction when watching him compete. The leg is hidden by shin pads and socks, and there is certainly no evidence in his skating ability.

“I found out about Sam’s leg after about five or six practices when one of the other coaches mentioned it to me,” said Manney. “I was amazed, because I think part of the reason he gets treated like all of the other kids is because he outworks all the other kids. He shows up and goes hard from beginning to end.”

“I don’t think there is any doubt that he is the hardest worker. I don’t think any of the other kids would argue with that.”

Almost as impressive as Sam’s work ethic and accomplishments, is the way his teammates have responded to his situation. Sam is open about his leg, and in turn, his friends and teammates rarely, if ever, bring it up.

“They just ask me how it happened, and then they just accept it,” said Sam of both his teammates, and classmates. “I just tell them it’s a disease with a really hard name to pronounce.”

Tony admits that there was a bit of concern that kids may not be as accepting of his son because he is a bit different from them below one of his knees.

“I don’t know if it’s because we treat him like anybody else, or if kids these days are different from when I was little,” said Tony. “His friends all accept it, and they treat him like anyone else. It’s nothing that they’re afraid of.”

While Sam would probably prefer to have two legs like anyone else, his affliction hasn’t stopped him from having fun every day on the playing field. Because he is so active, Sam gets fitted for a new leg every three or four months at Shriner's hospital. Each time he gets one with a cool design, showcasing favorite teams like the Twins, the Wild, and currently, the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota.

Sam can have fun with it off the playing field as well.

During elementary school, Sam’s parents worked through his teachers to make the first day of school a show-and-tell day for Sam. That way, he was able to get the subject out there for discussion right after the bell to open the school year. Each time, he would take off his leg, pass it around the room and tell them why he has one prosthetic leg. Of course, one year he got a little carried away and said that he was bitten by a shark.

“I’m sure he’d rather have two legs, but that’s the way it was meant to be for him, and our family,” said Tony. “We’ve been waiting for the ‘why me?’ conversation, but we haven’t had it. He hasn’t had that kind of attitude, ever.”

Sam has never had a hesitation about anything. He plays sports with reckless abandon, and he doesn’t hide his prosthetic. Every summer, he’ll be wearing shorts on a daily basis. He’s got nothing to hide, and his situation has inspired those around him, including his proud father.

“I’m not the best communicator,” admits Tony. “I used to have to get up in front of 100 people for my job, and I would think about Sam before I went up there. If he can live life and not be shy, what do I have to fear in getting up and saying what I know in front of these people?”

“So I’ve learned some things from him.”

Sam is likely not aware of his inspiration to his dad, and now others. After all, he’s only 12, and he’s had his detachable leg nearly his entire life. It hasn’t made him different from any other kid.

He’s just your typical seventh grader, with one fake leg, and one enormous heart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Double Amputee Skydives

Updated: Friday, 07 Aug 2009, 7:33 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 07 Aug 2009, 6:35 PM EDT

BETHESDA, Md. - A tragic military skydiving accident took his legs and the life of his friend, but it didn't take Dana Bowman's drive.

The former Golden Knight soldier is still inspiring others from thousands of feet in the air.

With his Purple Heart parachute and American flag in tow, Bowman jumped from a plane, hitting his mark at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Friday.

Bowman says it was awesome. He lost both his legs in a military skydiving accident back in 1994 that also claimed the life of his skydiving partner. He was brought to Walter Reed for treatment, and has never forgotten those who helped make him whole again.

"They took great care of me, just like their doing for our soldiers here today," Bowman said of the people at Walter Reed.

Every year, Walter Reed helps more than 150,000 active and retired personnel from all branches of the military. Bowman wants his fearless flight to serve as a message of hope.

"The message is for the old, the young, the new, the disabled, the physically challenged -- especially our wounded soldiers-- no matter what happens to you, whether you're civilian world or military, you can still continue on," Bowman said.

Army Private 1st Class Brendan Marrocco, a quadruple amputee, was injured in Iraq on Easter Sunday by a roadside bomb. He's says he was inspired by Bowman's jump.
"It's fantastic," said Marrocco. "I love it. I wanna, he's setting me up so I can do it myself, that would be absolutely amazing to me, to be able to do that."

"You know you can't give up," Bowman said. "We show people, my motto is it's not the disability, it's the ability. We have to give back. We're only given one chance in life. I'll tell ya, we have to do the best of it."

Bowman is now a motivational speaker who has dedicated his life to inspiring wounded soldiers, and all Americans with disabilities.

Bowman is now training for his new adventure, which he says will happen in 18 months when he will skydive from what he calls "the edge of space."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Young Amputee Inspires

Wesley Hughes lost his leg after
skiing accident

Updated: Thursday, 06 Aug 2009, 5:59 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 06 Aug 2009, 5:59 PM EDT

WASHINGTON - Nineteen-year-old Wesley Hughes can handle pretty much anything that comes his way.

Back on January 11, 2009, he was racing down a slope with his college ski team when he ran off the trail.

Wes told Fox 5, "I saw that I was gonna go off and it was almost like time froze. And then it was like - fast, fast."

He broke both bones, severed the main artery in his left leg, and lost a lot of blood.

Doctors told Wes he came close to dying that day. He survived, but he had to have his left leg amputated.

"I have been an adventurous type of person and always wanting to do this and that. I'm just taking this like a new challenge and learning how to do everything I can again," said Wes.

Three-and-a-half weeks after his accident, Wes was already walking on a prosthesis. He's posted his progress on You Tube and strangers message him for advice.

"I just wanna get back to normal as quick as possible and just go on with my life. And the fact that I am an inspiration is great. But I don't feel - I don't brag about it or anything," said Wes.

He has been out of the hospital for months, but returns often to Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital. He's there, not as a patient, but as an inspiration. Wes's doctor remembers the first time he saw him show up with a guitar.

Dr. Terrence Sheehan told us, "All of the sudden I saw him walking into the dining room where the patients are with his guitar and he said I'm coming up to play for them. It wasn't that he was asked or that it was scheduled or that it was planned. It's what Wesley wanted to do. He knew what they needed."

Wes says these days he doesn't need anything. He says his life will be a full one, nothing missing. Wes plans to return to West Virginia Wesleyan College this fall.

Remember his accident happened just six months ago. It may be a little while, but he is hoping to eventually get back out on the ski slopes.

He was a physics major all along. Now he knows he wants a career in biomedical engineering.

He's determined to build the perfect prosthesis, with no limits on what people can do.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Veteran Helps Other Veterans

Written by Andres Chavez, Sun Staff Reporter
Wednesday, 05 August 2009

Marine Corp veteran, and Arleta resident, Larry Foster, 50, is a man who enjoys competition and winning, but not as much as he enjoys helping other disabled vets see that life is still full of possibilities. He lost his right leg in a daredevil accident in 1981. A true Marine, Foster coped, adopted and over came.

As previously reported in the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, Foster won a Bronze medal in the Slalom event in the 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games last month. That's the 17th medal Foster has won in the 12 years since he first began competing in the Games.

Foster's life began to change in the winter of 1996 when he was referred to Dr. Suzan Rayner, director of rehabilitation program at the Sepulveda VA in North Hills. For the previous 16 years, his thoughts dwelt on the things he couldn't do because of the amputation.

Dr. Rayner rejected Foster's notion that the amputation put limits on him. Rayner convinced Foster to join 300 other disabled veterans and go skiing at a winter sports clinic in Colorado. Seeing so many active disabled vets inspired Foster and when he returned, he began training for the Wheel Chair Games. He entered the 1997 San Diego Games and won the gold medal in the air rifle competition. He was very happy and as Foster said, "It was a life changing experience."

In 1999, Foster joined the staff of the Sepulveda Veterans Administration facility. Today he is a Volunteer Service Specialist. He works on some of the disabled outreach programs. One of his current projects is to get Vets involved in Ride-On, a horse facility in the Valley that teaches disabled kids all about horsemanship and getting along with animals. "We're trying to get some of our disabled vets enrolled in the program," Foster said, "We have waivers they have to sign." The Vets also need clearances from their doctors.

Whether on the job or off, Foster makes a point of talking to disabled vets, especially those returning from Afghanistan or Iraq, and letting them know there are possibilities open to them.

As he stated in a previous interview, "That's why I think that I'm still here - to help other people who are going through what I went through," Foster said. "I'd hate for anybody (else) to waste 16 years of their prime in a wheelchair not knowing that there are things out there that they can be doing."

Foster said that self confidence is the key element in helping the disabled live happy and productive lives. "Knowing when the chips are down, you've got that fire inside of you that's going to keep you going. Don't let the fire go out. As long as you keep that going in your heart, you'll be all right."

Through hard work and good timing, Foster has had some extraordinary experiences. He's played at Staples Center during the halftime of a Lakers game and played an exhibition game in Times Square. He's been an extra in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War". In this way, he's been an inspiration to others.

Foster grew up in Quincy, Illinois and graduated from the local high school in 1977. He went to work at Quincy Soy Bean. He was living at home, had a new car, a girl friend, and a great job: A teen's dream. But Foster thought, "It seemed like something was missing."

Some of his friends had gone to college but Foster wasn't ready for that. Co-workers, who were former Marines, talked about life in the Corp. "It just seemed really intriguing," Foster said, "So on my way home from work one day I stopped by the recruiter's office and signed up for six years."

Foster, right, with his bronze metal and unidentified friend.
He went through boot camp in San Diego and was stationed at Camp Pendleton before volunteering for duty in Okinawa. He became part of the famed 1st Battalion 9th Marines (the Walking Dead). He joined the elite SATA (Surveillance and Target Acquisition) Team, graduating 3rd in his class from the Marine Sniper School. He traveled to Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Phillippines, Hong Kong, and served on the SS Tripoli. His battalion rotated back to California and he was out in July, 1981.

He went home and that's when tragedy struck. He was in the car with some of his friends waiting for the train to pass. Recalling their youth, they decided to go "train surfing." After the train had passed, the friends returned to the car but Foster did not. He believes that a ladder on the side of the train gave way and he fell underneath the train. It cut off his right leg above the knee. Foster has no memory of who called the ambulance or how he survived that night. The doctors had to restart his heart twice. He would eventually get 50 pints of blood and survive nine operations.

Foster said his Marine Corp training helped him survive, "It was one of the factors that saved my life after the accident. The determination, the willpower to survive something like that you have to have a little help." He spent a year undergoing rehabilitation, being fitted for a prosthesis and more rehabilitation. When that process was completed, he went to college to learn graphic design.

He moved to L. A. in 1985 and worked in a Hollywood Ad agency for four years in graphic design doing typesetting until he was replaced by a Mac. The art director came up to him one day and said "'Sorry man, we got to let you go. This does everything that you did and I can do it myself.'So, I went back to school and learned how to do computers and I've been doing that ever since," Foster said. He "hopped around" from job to job, and started his own business, before joining the VA in 1999.

Another project Foster is also working on is the welcome home celebration scheduled for Sept.12 the returning veterans of America's two ongoing wars, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom, (OEF/OIF in military abbreviation ).

"It seems like a lot of people have forgotten about the war," Foster said. Foster, and the other VA personnel working on the celebration, want the returning veterans to see that they haven't been forgotten. Local dignitaries and the media will be attending, entertainment and food will be provided, there will be a flyby and most importantly, the vets families will be involved. "Getting the families involved is very important. It's a big part of what we do," he said.

The VA tries to help vets in big ways and small. One program will pick up the tab for the vet and his family to out to a nice dinner and then go to Disneyland, or a movie, or a Laker game or a Clipper game, whatever is going on at the time. It's a gesture that makes vets feel good. "I really feel like we're making a difference in our department," Foster said.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chris Ridgway to defend his X Games gold in Moto X Super X amputee event

10:47 AM, July 29, 2009
Chris Ridgway has become an unintentional inspiration to many.

But don't remind him of that. He's just doing what he enjoys, and if it motivates others, so be it.

It's not just his riding abilities that inspire people, but also his positive attitude.

Chris is an amputee, and competes wearing a prosthetic left leg.

The Apple Valley resident will be defending his title in the Moto X Super X Adaptive event Friday at the Home Depot Center as part of X Games 15. The final will be televised on ESPN between 5-8 p.m.

Sustaining severe injuries to both legs in 1995 after a motorcycle malfunction during a practice session, Chris was rushed to the emergency room.

"The doctors told me that they would have to amputate the first night I was in the hospital, and I begged them not to; to give me a chance because I heal well," Chris, 38, said.

He left the hospital with both legs, but still suffered.

"I was in tremendous pain and still racing," he said. "In 1999 I had the points lead in the U.S. Hot Rod Off-Road Series and my leg broke again. I ended up finishing third in points."

Chris was confined to a wheelchair for the better part of two years, except for when competing and wearing the riding boots that helped stabilize his leg. But he stayed positive.

"I never got down. I was racing and knew what I was getting into."

Doctors told Ridgway that he would have to change his lifestyle, as every step he took caused agonizing pain.

"I was sitting with a fellow racer and we saw this Budweiser delivery guy. My buddy points to him and says, 'That's what you need.' I thought he was talking about the keg of beer until I noticed he [the delivery man] was wearing a full prosthesis. It woke me up when I noticed that he was walking better than I had been in five years."

"I started asking doctors to amputate and they wouldn't. I basically was on the last doctor and threatened to take it off myself by shooting myself in the foot in their parking lot, because I didn't want to spend my life on pain medication."

The doctor agreed to do as Chris requested, without his resorting to the drastic measure. His left leg was amputated in 2002.

Ridgway continued racing, even though he didn't have the money to buy a prosthesis, landing a job racing cars for Emory Motorsports in Oregon. Team members did some research and told Chris about Limbs for Life, a nonprofit organization that buys prosthetic limbs for amputees who can't afford them.

"Thanks to Limbs for Life, I've been able to reach my goals both personally and professionally," Ridgway said.

"I spend time talking to people on the fence and try to help them out. I'd like to be more of a counselor to those who have also lost limbs. It's a very big mental hurdle, but motocross prepped me pretty well for it because it's like just another injury and not that big a deal."

Chris certainly sounds like a motivational speaker, but doesn't like lofty titles thrown his way.

"I get a little tired of the word 'inspirational' directed toward me, because I don't feel I should be put on a pedestal. I just want to help people get through it. My goal is to show doctors and others that it is a quality of life issue, and that they shouldn't be so hesitant to amputate."

Chris continues to be successful in his racing career. He just won the Extremity Games for the third consecutive year, and after the X Games he'll be racing for the Trent Fabrication team in an off-road truck race in Grand Junction, Colo.

Chris doesn't let anything slow him down, nor does he have any trepidation.

"Showering is the most dangerous thing I do these days."

--Kelly Burgess

Photos: Top: Chris Ridgway on his way to victory at last week's Extremity Games in Michigan. Credit: Corey Bixby. Bottom: Chris after winning gold at X Games 14. Courtesy of Limbs for Life