In 2007, Scott Rigsby made history when he became the first double amputee to complete what is considered the most difficult endurance event: The Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii.
This year, he was part of a darker point of history: He ran the Boston Marathon when at least 13 people lost limbs as a result of the bombings.
But if anyone is uniquely qualified to help those amputees, it's Rigsby.
"I'm like the bookmobile," Rigsby said, likening his knowledge to a book service from his childhood in rural Georgia. "It wasn't easy back then to find new books to read, but we had this great resource available to us called the bookmobile that would literally drive to our home with books to check out. That is the service what I want people to know is available to them. Just let me know."
He says he knows it may take time for victims to be ready to start competing in races again. After all, it took him 19 years.
In 1987, Rigsby was thrown out of the back of a pickup truck on a southern Georgia highway, and then dragged more 300 feet while pinned underneath a trailer. Total time: Nine seconds.
What followed was 26 surgeries in 12-year span. Both of his legs were amputated. "I was ready to give up," Rigsby said.
A prayer from his mother on Christmas Eve in 2005 for "God to open up a door for him to run through" changed his mind, he said. As a double amputee, Rigsby would be the first to admit that the word run was far from his normal vocabulary, let alone an actual physical activity. But two months later he found himself engrossed in an article about Sarah Reinertsen, the first female leg amputee to complete the Kona Ironman and become a world champion for her classification.
Suddenly there was purpose back in his life.
He wanted to do the Ironman: 2.4 miles of ocean swim, 112 miles of bicycling and the 26.2 miles of a marathon.
The Boston Marathon was just one of many that Rigsby had competed in since his Ironman debut. He was not having his best race this year. When the first explosion went off, Rigsby was battling dehydration, kidney issues and some discomfort with the brand new legs. He was one of the first runners held short at the 25.7 mark on Commonwealth Avenue and confused when told the race would not finish.
As his condition worsened, an alert officer was able to make contact with medical to transport him to Tufts Medical for treatment. When Rigsby realized what was happening around him as the bombing victims came through, he knew he needed to help.
His foundation, the Scott Rigsby Foundation, immediately started its own Aid for Boston charity giving site with funds used to go toward the prosthetics and rehabilitation of those affected.
"There is a lot of confusion, anger and frustration," said Scott Johnson, the foundation’s executive director. "Right now, all we want to do is let them know we are here for support, and will be in the months ahead."
While amputees need dozens of resources, prosthetic legs have given Rigsby an unparalleled form of freedom to live his life again. Earlier this month, he took off one of his legs to show a reporter. "Most people think they act like springs when you run, but that is not the case," he said. The leg, called the Catapult, has been created to match a traditional runner's gait pattern.
With this year's Boston Marathon jacket draped over his chair, his passion escalates as he explains the advancement in prosthetics allowing athletes to compete in some of the world's most difficult events.
A pair of prosthetic legs can cost between $5,000-$50,000 depending on the specialization and purpose.
Rigsby said he hopes, when the time comes, he will be able to help amputees from the Boston Marathon learn how to use them -- even if it's just for walking again.
He just hopes he can help others take less time than he did to start on the road to recovery.
"Fear is the biggest killer of our dreams," Rigsby said. "All I want people to realize is that they have someone available to walk them and their families."
--For more information on Scott Rigsby and the foundation go to ScottRisgbyFoundation.org.
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