SOUTH CAROLINA — Overcoming a physical disability is difficult under the best of circumstances, but imagine facing the choice of an elective amputation. That was the decision John Kinder faced when he was just 15 years old.
But Kinder, a Waco, Texas, transplant to the Upstate for eight years, made the difficult decision while being treated at Shriner’s Hospital in Houston to amputate his left leg as a result of a birth defect that would have left him incapable of physical activity at some point in his life.
It was a decision Kinder made with an eye on a better life, with goals in mind, including one he surpassed July 19, making what is called a century ride in the cycling world — 100 miles in the saddle.
Looking back, Kinder remembers how difficult the choice was.
“It was not an easy choice at all and was completely circumstantial. Ask any 15 year old and just about every one would say no,” Kinder said. “I struggled with making a decision for quite awhile and eventually talked with another amputee and was able to see there could be life after the surgery which did make it less scary.”
Now imagine creating a lifestyle under these circumstances and embracing the challenge.
“I have always been active and actually had my first job as a DJ at a local skating rink and rode a mountain bike in Texas until I got to South Carolina where I met some people who rode road bikes, and that’s how I got started,” Kinder said. “I started riding with a group from Brookwood Church and fell in love with it. That’s also where I found the Ride to Remember, and unfortunately because of work was unable to ride last year, but I made a decision I was going to be involved in this year’s ride.”
The ride Kinder is referencing is a fundraising event covering 252 miles over three days from Simpsonville to Charleston with the final day being a tortuous 100-mile grind.
Kinder was proud to say he had accomplished the century mark on the event.
“It was more difficult than I anticipated it would be and I didn’t get to train as hard as I would have liked, which showed on the first two days as I lost some miles,” Kinder said. “To be able to go out that third day and complete the entire 100 miles meant a lot to me personally, but the cause we were riding for was the real winner.”
Overall the event raised over $312,000. Donations will be accepted through July 31.
Although Kinder might not say so, one of his biggest accomplishments is being an inspiration and resource to other amputees, especially those who are facing the prospect for the first time.
“The biggest thing I do is work with a peer support group at Greenville Hospital System, trying to help others realize there is life after amputation,” Kinder said. “The bottom line in coping with the loss of a limb is you can’t compare your former life with your current one, especially comparing to life of those with no limb loss.
“I see a lot of veterans come back after losing a limb and see them jump back into life with the proverbial both feet, so it’s important to understand you can do the things you want to do,” he added. “You may try things and fail but you move on and never stop making your quality of life better by staying active.”
Now Kinder is in the process of helping develop and implement a virtual support group for amputees along with the Amputee Coalition, making it easier for others to find the knowledge and insight following limb loss and also as a venue to inspire others to push themselves. This project goes along with his work at Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics, manufacturers of artificial limbs.
As concerns his extraordinary feat, for Kinder, the reasons go beyond the thought of completing the course.
“This is one of those situations, dealing with Alzheimer’s and a loved one, where there is literally nothing you can do and there’s nothing worse than feeling helpless. Ten years ago I watched my mother pass after battling cancer and know how that feels,” he said. “To go out and ride for three days over so many miles is a small thing to do to show support, but if the money raised goes to find a cure every single mile is well worth it.”
Maybe the best response Kinder could ever provide was in the form of a question: “If you could help someone else with their life, why wouldn’t you?”
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.