VIDEO: I Lost My Leg, Not My Life - Amputee John Edward & Sonny Webster * 2024
VIDEO: I Lost My Leg, Not My Life - Amputee John Edward & Sonny Webster * 2024

John is aiming for Paralympic gold

John Edward Heath decided to get rid of his left leg. The veteran Marine underwent 12 surgeries after getting hit by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day 2016, and couldn’t fathom spending more time under the knife.

After counseling with many friends, including ex-NFL quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a gruesome leg injury of his own, Heath decided to amputate. With the help of Run Freely, a charity founded by former ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne that provides financial support for veterans with limb salvage conditions, Heath was able to secure a prosthetic leg.

It was the start of his new life. “I fell into a dark, dark hole of alcoholism, and I was doing recreational drugs, if I’m being honest,” Heath told me on this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki” podcast. “But one day I woke up, and I was so violent when I was blacking out and drinking, it was like, ‘I need to turn my life around.’”

Six days after Heath’s amputation, he went viral for landing a one-legged power clean. The race towards Paris 2024 had begun. Heath wants to compete in track and field, and take home the gold. Currently, he trains in Cincinnati, Ohio, alongside NFL players and other pro athletes.

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Every day, he works towards the gold

Heath isn’t afraid to converse about his many tribulations and tragedies, including the suicides of his best friend (2018) and partner (2020). Years ago, Heath, who’s gay, was outed on Myspace by another Marine. The outing was painful, and brought him nothing but hardship during the rest of his time in the service. Other Marines would torment Heath, and make derogatory social media posts about him whenever he changed units. One post said, “Don’t trust this faggot. He takes advantage of Marines.”

“I never really got to prove myself in service, because everybody had the assumption of ‘Oh, that’s the gay Marine,’” said Heath. “But it went even further. When I was in the process of stepping away from service — it wasn’t because of my injuries. I stepped away for my mental health.”

Some even spread rumors about Heath sleeping with his best friend, and said he had killed himself because he was gay. “I went ballistic,” said Heath. “My friend had seen what I went through in service. That’s how we became friends. Now you’re going to tell me you have other individuals who are in service that did not know this individual, and you’re speaking ill-will of him, and he’s no longer here to defend himself? It just kept adding up.”

Two years later, Heath lost his partner. “These last couple of years have been very, very traumatic, but they gave me the strength to just stop caring,” he said. “People would tag me on stuff, and my stomach would drop, because I would be like, ‘What are people saying about me?’ I was alone in service. I remember crying to sleep, and was afraid to show my face.”

It’s been a long and challenging road back for Heath, who’s also a mental health advocate. He knows first-hand about the power of the mind. With a new sense for life, Heath doesn’t want to stop at Paris 2024. He competes in Adaptive CrossFit, and wants to take part in the 2026 Paralympics, too.

“It’s been a journey, and I believe so much in what I’m doing,” he said. “I believe I can make it to 2024, 2026 and make it to the CrossFit games. If it’s wasting energy, and it’s not being conducive or productive for my athletic career, then you can go somewhere with that, because I don’t have the time for it.”

John is a passionate advocate for taking care of one’s mental health

Not surviving but thriving. John Edward Heath was born in Washington DC and spent a difficult childhood bouncing around foster care homes, and eventually fell in with the wrong crowd. In his senior year of high school, John realized he was becoming a statistic and had a choice to make, get it together, or go to jail. At age 17 John enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served nearly 10 years achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. During this time, he became a passionate athlete, coach, and mentor at the Naval Academy.

On January 01, 2016, John was hit by a drunk driver, and the left side of his body was shattered. After 2 weeks in the hospital, he was sent home with extensive follow-up care required. Ultimately, the surgery done on his leg was not successful and after 12 surgeries he was still suffering from excruciating pain. On May 21, 2021, John had his 13th surgery, an amputation below the knee of his left leg. Not willing to be deterred he immediately returned to the gym and on May 27, 2021, a video of John doing a one-legged power clean went viral. Now, not even a year post-amputation, John is on track to qualify for the 2024 Paralympics in Track and Field, 2026 Paralympics Snowboarding, and the Adaptive CrossFit games.

John is a passionate advocate for taking care of one’s mental health and works with multiple charitable organizations to further that mission. His tireless work with MVP (Merging Veterans and Players), Helmets for Hope, and Sierra Delta Service Dogs are just a few.

For the last year, John has trained all over the country with some of the best coaches and athletes to gain knowledge and experience. He is on a mission to focus strictly on training and ensuring he is in the best shape possible to qualify for the US Paralympics team. Currently, John’s coaches for Track & Field/speed are Danny Chaille and Shae Lynn out of Black Sheep Performance Center in Blu Ash Ohio, and His CrossFit Coach is CrossFit Games Athlete Zach Watts out of CrossFit Illuminate in Loveland, Ohio.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No, every day is adversity. From funding for equipment (a new prosthetic), training, facilities, and rehab. To issues with my residual limb or prosthetic issues. I get a lot of cuts and blisters along with trauma to my residual limb with training.

2018 I lost my best friend to suicide, and in 2020 I lost my significant other to suicide. My road has been extremely difficult, but I have managed to keep a high spirit and keep my faith on God strong.

John Edward Heath, after having his leg amputated, this former Marine won’t let anything stop him * Todo lo relacionado