I wanted to do a post on my good friend Buddy Elias who has been a huge inspiration to me since I met him with Chief at the Adaptive USASA National in at Northstar a couple years back. Needless to say he has gone through a lot over the years but he is still out there snowboarding and skating like a mad man! That perseverance is my inspiration any day that I get down on the world I always think of Buddy and how strong he is and it fires me right back up to take life head on and never give up! I normally steer clear of this type of thing but please vote for him at Fast Company 2010′s Most Influential Person Online the link will take you to his page and make sure to peep his videos and read his story, he does what he does cause he loves board sports to the core!
Feature Story February 1, 2006 The Amputation That Freed the Inner Athlete
For years, Buddy Elias lived with painful wounds, shunning medical treatment for fear of becoming an amputee. What he never realized was that inside his injured bones lived an extreme athlete just waiting to come out.
By Tim McManus
Every night for 8 years, Buddy Elias stole into the bathroom in the middle of the night to complete a grisly ritual. With the door locked, his daughter and wife sleeping peacefully down the hall, Elias would gingerly unwrap his bandages and look at the feet he never let anyone else see. Elias would painstakingly clean and dress the open wounds and ulcers that were rotting the flesh from his feet, inch by inch. Occasionally, he would use suture scissors to trim the bone sticking out from the dead skin on his toes. Over 8 years, Elias amputated six toes using that gruesome method. His feet tightly wrapped, Elias would hobble on his heels — the only part of his feet he could bear to have touch the ground — back to the bedroom of his Fresno, Calif. home. The man who would later complete 360s on his snowboard and become an extreme sports athlete as a left transtibial amputee was dying a slow, painful death because he didn’t want to have his foot amputated. And because, he admits now, he was more than a little stubborn. A habit that’s tough to kick In 1992, when he was 21 years old, doctors diagnosed Elias with Buerger’s disease, a rare autoimmune response to tobacco use that causes acute inflammation and clotting in the arteries and veins leading to the hands and feet. The first symptom is numbness. Over time, the affected extremity is ravaged by ulcers and gangrene. The only way to combat the disease is to stop smoking. Elias couldn’t accept that or something else the doctor said: if he didn’t quit smoking they were going to have to amputate part of his foot. Elias had smoked since he was 14. He hobbled out of the hospital and didn’t return for 8 years. During that time he got married in shoes so painful he almost passed out during the ceremony. He stayed home to raise a daughter and tend to the house without ever taking a painless step. No one — not his wife Andrea, not his parents, not his closest friends — knew the extent of his pain. And through it all he kept smoking. Finally, in June 2000, Elias found his rock bottom. Home alone, he filled the bathtub up to the brim and climbed in. He dunked his head under the bracing water and screamed. It was the only place he could go where his neighbors wouldn’t hear his howls of pain. That day, he went to University Medical Center in Fresno. The doctor, who was the first medical person to look at Elias’ feet in 8 years, was stunned. What he saw was most of the left and right feet ulcerated and gangrenous. He told Elias that a virus could send the infection in his feet throughout his body and kill him. “My whole world stopped,” Elias said. “I thought ‘oh my god I’m dying.’” Elias asked for time to run errands and get his life in order. He never planned on being in the hospital. They called him back in 20 minutes. A transtibial amputation in 2000 finally freed Elias from years of pain. Elias went outside to smoke a cigarette. “But I knew this was my last. A transient came up and tried to bum a smoke and I gave him the whole pack. That was it. I never touched them again.” A week later, Elias’ left leg was amputated 4 inches below the knee. Facing something he had feared for so long, Elias felt, ironically, free. “It was like having an abscessed tooth pulled. I woke up and looked under the sheet and the pain was gone.” Not for long. In order to save the other leg, Elias had to undergo a lengthy and difficult bypass surgery in which veins from his thighs were grafted into arteries to replace those irreparably damaged through the years of infection. Losing the leg freed Elias to pursue things never possible before. Elias adjusted rapidly to his prosthesis because of the balance he learned walking on his heels for 8 years. “It felt natural,” Elias said. “The first real step I took in years was with the prosthesis.” Always a good athlete — he had been a varsity wrestler in high school — the rock solid 5’6”, 140 pound Elias stumbled into extreme sports. Elias hadn’t been on a skateboard since he was 14 years old. By chance, he ran into a friend from his childhood who asked him if he still boarded. That was just the spark he needed. “I thought, ‘why not?’” Elias said. He bought a board and took his wife and daughter to the Monterey skate park to test it out. Before he left that afternoon he was already trying to grind his board on the coping of one of the ramps. Before long, he was skating three times a week and snowboarding with a group of friends he could never accompany before. “Once I lost my leg, I looked at it as a low wall — one I could overcome,” Elias said. “Other amputees, they just build it up in their minds as a tall wall. If you build that wall super tall, you lose your confidence. If you think of it as a low wall, like I did, your confidence level is boosted; you can overcome it. It is the way my parents brought us up. Growing up, there was no ‘can’t.’ ” Elias worked with Gavin Tablada, CP, at Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics in Fresno, Calif., who created three different prostheses for him. For skateboarding and all-around use, Elias uses an Ohio Willow Wood Pathfinder Low Profile. For snowboarding, Elias’ favorite and best sport, he uses a College Park TruStep, specially fitted with a thigh lacer that absorbs shock and allows him to torque his leg on jumps without rubbing his residual limb raw. Stepping up to the next challenge Late last year, Elias became the first person to sign up for the O&P Extremity Games sponsored by College Park, an extreme amateur sporting competition for individuals living with limb loss to be held July 28-30 at the Orlando Watersports Complex. Competitions include skateboarding, BMX riding, rock climbing and wakeboarding. Elias will compete in skateboarding. “I knew this was my last. A transient came up and tried to bum a smoke and I gave him the whole pack. That was it. I never touched [cigarettes] again.” Elias, now 34, made the decision to participate despite a serious injury from which he is still recovering. He suffered a spiral fracture of his left femur in a fall at a skate park. Ten months before that, Elias broke his patella and tore tendons in his knee in another fall. His chart at the hospital is so thick that the nurse can pull it out by sight. Still, he wants to compete to prove that there is no wall he cannot jump. “If I did not do this, I would wake up 15 years from now and regret it,” Elias said. “My goal is to show everyone that there are no limitations other than those you put on yourself and those you allow others to place upon you.”
Tim McManus is a correspondent for O&P Business News
Read more: http://www.myspace.com/buddy_adaptiveactionsprts#ixzz0vlNKinqr
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