Double Amputee, Father of 7 Starts Shoe Company: ‘I’m Not Ready To Sit In A Chair’
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — When a hard-working father of seven faced the horror of losing one of his legs, he nearly gave up. When he was then devastated by the unimaginable reality of losing his other leg in an accident, he had abandoned hope.
However, through the help of a Newport Beach clinic and with the prospects of an inspiring undertaking, Dwight Johnson has come through, and is using his condition to encourage others.
Johnson, who made a living as an inspector for skyscrapers, was making regular trips to Hong Kong for work, when he developed a staph infection.
Three days later, his foot was dead, and his only option was amputation.
“I was laying in the hospital bed and I asked the nurse, I said ‘Give me the red button and leave it on; I’m done’,” Johnson said.
However, having recovered with exceptional speed, Johnson ended up returning to work on the high-rise buildings, with the use of a prosthetic leg. It was not long before he began inspections on well-known projects, such as the Red Building at the Pacific Design Center.
“I basically had to learn how to walk all over again, like a child,” Johnson said. “All your balance, you learn your core, and where your balance is, and then you go from there.”
Then tragedy struck again.
About 18 months ago, while working on skyscrapers in New York City, Johnson was struck by a transit bus while crossing the street.
His only option was to amputate his other leg.
“The second time it was like ‘Really?’ ” Johnson’s wife Debbie said. “I think we were both in shock that it happened again.”
After the devastation of the second accident, Debbie was unsure whether or not her husband would pull through, since he initially refused to see a surgeon, knowing very well that another amputation was imminent.
“We went through a couple nights where he wasn’t going to go, and I kind of had to give him an ultimatum that he had to go,” Debbie said. “Otherwise, he would have died on me right in the house.”
Ultimately, Dwight gathered his strength, and soon after, began life with the challenge of a second prosthetic.
Having cheated death twice, Dwight and his wife have emerged from double tragedy with new strength and an unprecedented positivity.
“Something just told me I could do it,” Johnson said. “With the seven kids and my wife, I wasn’t ready.”
One of the foundations of their support has been Tom Nomura, Clinic Manager at Hanger, the Newport Beach company that created Dwight’s new legs. Nomura has been by Dwight’s side since the first accident.
“He had to go through rehab each one of those times,” Nomura explained. “So it was his perseverance and his determination that really made it work for him.”
Continuing to work regularly with Nomura, Johnson is working to be able to walk, run and even get back in the water with the use of special legs.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Johnson claimed. “Yes, it’s tough, I’m in pain every day. I take medicine all day long, but still, I’m not ready to sit in a chair.”
In addition to demanding recovery and his role as father of seven children, Dwight has started a shoe company with the idea of attracting eyes to the shoes, rather than staring at his legs.
“It’s like, when I get on an airplane, the stewardesses say, ‘Well, great shoes, who made them?’,” Johnson said. “I say, ‘Some guy with no legs,’ and it’ll take them a while to think, ‘Maybe he did it.’ ”
Dwight and Debbie also began work with Amputee Empowerment Partners, to assist other amputees in their own transition into new routines.
“It’s a lot of sacrifice, but the best things come hard,” Debbie said.
Meanwhile, Dwight says his goal is to inspire amputees who remain in their chairs to work with their prosthetics.
“I meet a lot of people that are still sitting in their chairs, and they have prosthetics and they won’t put them on. So, I’m hoping this will entice somebody to get up off their rear and get up and go.”