This Ultrarunner Amputated His Injured Leg—Here's Why

by Brandon Topp

Outdoorsman and champion ultrarunner Dave Mackey recently decided to amputate his injured left leg—an elective decision that offers a new perspective on modern health and fitness.

Here's What Happened:

The story begins in May 2015, when Mackey accidentally stepped on a loose rock during a routine hike in Boulder, Colorado. The rock shifted, putting hundreds of pounds of weight onto his leg, pinning him underneath and creating multiple compound fractures.

13 Surgeries Couldn't Repair Dave Mackey's Leg.

Since that run Mackey has undergone thirteen surgeries to repair his leg. Each attempt to curb the painful side effects of his injury and the subsequent surgeries has only brought Dave more trouble. Finally this elite athlete came to a dramatic decision: he would amputate the leg rather than undergo any more surgeries. 

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The Decision To Amputate

His decision to amputate the leg may seem like a daunting and extreme one. But in the face of more emotional and physical pain and considering the advanced nature of prosthetics, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable. In fact, it opens up an interesting conversation about what it means to take control of your health, advocate for what is right for you, and what it actually means to feel whole.

But Why Amputate? Isn't That Extreme?

Mackey is quoted in this Runner's World article, saying, “There is another solution, the definite, non-reversible one, to be 100% to where I was before the accident and almost pain-free. There is a way to get here and I’ve decided to go this route. This [amputation] would mean the freedom, if I choose it, to walk the kids to school without a thought, ski, and run in six-to-eight weeks.” 

Considering downfalls of continued surgeries—skin infections, painkillers, and limited mobility—it seems fair that Mackey would prefer to take the route that actually means he can get back to being a healthy and active person. Recognizing the idea that we live in a day and age where medical technology makes letting go of a leg a possible better option than keeping one opens up a conversation about modern health.

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The Positivity of Prosthetics

The fact that prosthetics are becoming so available and advanced, that they have been elevated beyond a means of last resort is a positive move for those born with missing limbs and those who suffer life-altering injuries. Davey is helping to shape how people look at injury recovery and what it means to live a full life as an active person. Additionally, it shows that modern technology, even the wearable kind, is shaping a new world of health and fitness standards. 


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