38-year-old Justin Radcliff of Clayton, North Carolina is a husband and father of three kids (two daughters and one son). Justin works as a personal trainer at a gym during the day, and makes deliveries for USA Today during the night.
An athlete all his life, Justin lost his right leg, below the knee, in an accident in November 1999, when he was 23. Justin was the passenger in a car, when the driver lost control of the vehicle on wet roads. The car Radcliff was in, was struck by a truck, which sent Justin’s vehicle into the guardrail. While the guardrail did not sever Justin’s leg, his foot was severed down the middle. Over the next few days, Justin spent most of his time in and out of consciousness in a hospital bed. During this time, Justin’s foot became infected. Doctors suggested that amputating his foot would likely be the best solution for Justin’s recovery. In a moment of semi-consciousness, Justin remembers saying, “Do whatever you have to do.” leaving his wife with the agonizing decision to have Radcliff’s right lower leg amputated.
Upon waking and realizing that his leg had been amputated, Radcliff remembers thinking, “What in the world just happened? I boxed for 8 years. I wanted to be a walk-on for the Ravens in 2000. Suddenly, I have to start over from point A again, only it’s not even point A, it’s further back than that.”
Radcliff began the hard task of rebuilding.
“Left to my own devices, my life became self destructive. Most people don’t understand how angry an amputee can get.” Radcliff explains, “It wasn’t easy – it’s still not easy. Mentally, it’s a mourning process. Like the loss of a loved one – suddenly I’m mourning the loss of something that was a part of me, and no one else understands.”
Justin knew that something had to change.
“We’re all responsible for our own lives. At some point, I realized that I needed to take accountability or nothing would change. So I started by refusing rides to my gym, which was only 300 yards away, but it required that I use my wheelchair through the snow. I knew I couldn’t rely on excuses – I had to go above and beyond in order to overcome.”
In a struggle to regain control of his life, Justin began focusing on fitness again. He tried a few prosthetic legs, but was having limited success with them. Then Justin met prosthetist Dennis Haun. “As far as I’m concerned,” says Justin, “Dennis is the Michael Jordan of prosthetics. He cares more, and takes more time to understand every thing that I need.”
“Justin has the will and strength to succeed.” says Haun. “With fitness and powerlifting as his passions and lifestyle, he has very unique and specific needs that have to be addressed. Our job was to focus on finding the correct design for his prosthesis, then making sure that we created the best fit possible. In this instance, we manufactured a prosthetic leg using a foot made by Ossur.”
Haun works for Metro Prosthetics in the Baltimore and DC Metro areas, and while Radcliff no longer lives in the area, he continues to rely up Dennis and Metro Prosthetics for his prostheses needs. “Previously, companies felt corporate and impersonal. Dennis and Metro’s personalized service is the difference. Dennis believed in me, and that allowed me to believe in me again – to believe that I could get there.”
As Justin began to believe in himself, he focused on his personal training and fitness, getting stronger and more focused. He began working out with his teenage daughter, and Justin entered his first power lifting competition. He won the competition by deadlifting 550 pounds.
Always passionate about his training, Justin got the opportunity to fly to Ohio, to meet and train with his hero and powerlifting legend Louie Simmons. “It was an honor to spend some time and learn from a legend. Even more, it was a blessing to share that experience with my daughter.”
Now, Justin continues to powerlift and coach his daughter who will soon be competing in a teen competition. Justin’s goal? To deadlift 700lbs by the end of the year.
Justin deadlifting only 4 weeks after receiving his new leg.
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