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Legless Man Considers Himself Lucky

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When I first interviewed John Tartaglio years ago, he had just been on The Opray Winfrey Show. He went on to appear on her show two more times. Soon, he will appear on the Fox News show Hannity as the first person in a special segment entitled Great Americans.

On August 22, 2004, at age 17, Tartaglio contracted an extremely rare bacterial infection that resulted in the entirety of both his legs being amputated. While in school at Fairfield University, he started using a special running prosthetic that enabled him to compete in triathlons, road races, and cycling events. He ultimately became the world's first double, full-leg amputee to run and finish 5k, 10k, and marathon races without using a wheelchair. Today, Tartaglio is a motivational speaker and recent author of the book, From Tragedy to Triumph: The Story of John Tartaglio.

In a telephone interview, Tartaglio of Milford, Connecticut, said about the process of writing his book, "There were definitely points where (in writing) I had to think back in depth about what had happened. For example, I had to think more about the importance of what running a marathon (using a prosthesis) meant to me. Achieving that goal meant I had overcome my disability. It was a big moment in my life."

He said at other times during the writing process, and while looking at his life objectively, he was amazed at all that had happened to him. But never in the process did he ever ask himself the question, Why me?

"I won't ask myself that question," he said. "As horrible as it was for me to go through (the amputations), I still have been so much luckier than so many other people. The positive in my life has outweighed the negative by a long shot. I have received so much support from people, both in my home state and nationally. I've been lucky to be able to share my story and help others. As for my first meeting with Oprah, in 2005, it was a great experience. It's one of those things not many people get to do."

He added, "I'm surprised all the time people are interested in my story. It's just me being your normal, everyday Joe Schmo. As for my book, hopefully people can take away something positive from it." His book is available through most any online bookstore.

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Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.

Daniel J. Vance may be reached at

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