DARTH VADER: A NEW CHAPTER
Mudder Nation got to see the inspirational Darth Vader in a new light on the CW Network television show “My Last Days.” Since then, Vader underwent his long awaited below the knee amputation surgery on January 4, 2017. An elective procedure, Vader was in great pain from years of surgeries and injuries to his left ankle and leg.
“The surgery was elective meaning I made the decision to have the procedure done on my timetable as opposed to my leg getting worse without a positive outcome,” says Vader “After nine surgeries and procedures during the 21 years post-injury, I exhausted all possibilities and needed to regain my quality of life.”
In typical his never-quit attitude, Vader completed five triathlons within the first 10 weeks post-operation, all without a prosthetic. Yes, that means he used crutches or hopped during the run, and swam/cycled on one leg. Vader says it takes 6-8 weeks post-surgery before a below-the-knee-amputee can get fitted for prosthetics. In March, Vader traveled to Prosthetics and Orthotics Associates in Orlando, FL to get fitted for two prosthetics: one for walking and one running blade.
“A friend of a friend referred me to this charity called 50legs.org and they donate prosthetics to people who are in need of them,” Vader says. “I’ve been corresponding with them over the past couple of months, making sure that I was healing properly to be able to take that next step.”
THE 2017 BEAST LIST: PHILLY IS FIRST
Every year, Vader compiles his “Beast List,” or endurance event schedule, and in 2017, this list consists of 23 Tough Mudders, the first being May 20 at the Philadelphia Tough Mudder where he’ll complete his first Tough Mudder using a prosthetic leg. In 2016, Vader earned 25 Tough Mudder headbands, including one at Chicago where we captured this awesome video. The former Marine looks to return to Chicago in August, where he’ll participate in the full Tough Mudder on Saturday, the overnight Toughest, and the full Tough Mudder on Sunday. Ultimately, Vader has scheduled an epic return to World’s Toughest Mudder, where he competed in 2014. When asked if he’d hire a coach to help him adapt to training using a prosthetic, Vader defaulted to being able to conquer anything on his own.
“Since I’ve been a trainer for so long, I’m going to throw myself in the deep end and learn to adapt and deal with the prosthetic,” Vader adds. “It’ll be extremely challenging because when you’re dealing with obstacle courses, it’s about point of contact and now one of my four points of contact is the bottom of my stump contacting the prosthetics as opposed to having the toes and feet feeling the cargo net or slippery terrain. I’m going to have to include the eye contact with my left leg prosthetic because I have to make sure I have a proper foothold before I go ahead and put my weight forward.”
WINNING THE FIGHT
Since 2016, Vader has dissolved his gym business, largely due to the overwhelming work hours, and he now trains seven days a week at home or at a local YMCA. Just a few days away from receiving his new foot, Vader understands that the road to total recovery will be a long one. He plans to work on flexibility, balance, range of motion, walking while carrying weights and rebuilding the muscle mass he’s lost in his legs.
“As much as mentally I’m focused and ready to go, I can only move as fast as I can physically,” Vader says. “My expectation is understanding that it’s going to be a slow comeback but eventually I’ll work up to training twice a day.”
Vader says the social media reaction to his life-changing operation has been “overwhelmingly positive” and he’s excited to return to action.
“At first, I expect it to be weird, uncomfortable and challenging but that’s what I like about Tough Mudder: there’s no time limit, it’s just about doing your best.”