In 2008 Jeff Waldmuller was 24 and a successful musician who loved motorcycles.
After being run over by a semi-truck in Wichita Falls, Texas, everything in Waldmuller’s life changed.
Doctors who told him he would never walk again didn’t know the willpower Waldmuller had.
In December of 2008, he was on his way home to Wichita Falls for Christmas break from the University of Houston when a truck crossed into the lane where Waldmuller was riding his motorcycle.
“The wheels grabbed my right foot and broke it over and kind of sucked me in,” he said. “My leg was demolished.”
Waldmuller never thought he’d be faced with the decision of whether to keep his leg or not.
Using crutches, he eventually regained the ability to walk but remained in tremendous pain. After nine months and 20 surgeries, his infected leg was causing problems throughout his entire body.
At the recommendation of his doctor in Texas, Waldmuller made an appointment at Scott Sabolich Prosthetics & Research in Oklahoma City where he was introduced to Paralympic gold medalist Roderick Green.
Until that day Waldmuller had never met an amputee, but he was so inspired by the gold medalist’s story that he elected to have the surgery in September 2009 to remove his leg and be fitted for a prosthesis.
Four months later, after being fitted for a prothesis, he immediately began roller blading.
A month later Waldmuller was competing in the University of Central Oklahoma’s Endeavor Games where he earned a gold medal in the 100 meters. Now for the sixth year, Waldmuller will participate in the games, which are taking place Thursday through Sunday in Edmond with most events taking place at UCO.
Although Waldmuller said his life is better than ever, it was almost taken from him. He was resuscitated twice in the hospital after significant blood loss.
“Once you’ve faced death, inability to function, then overcome that despite all odds against you, you have a new respect on life and it really affects how to go about your days,” Waldmuller said.
“For me, I try to live each day better than the last. I remember what it was like to live with both of my limbs,” he said. “It was great. I remember what it was like to live for awhile without the ability to walk, that was not so great. I now am able to do anything I want to do and that’s awesome! I may have to do it a little differently, but that makes me unique.
“I have a speaking engagement for a national conference in South Carolina that will put me at the games on the closing day. My primary focus now is the triathlon, but hopefully I will get to do some track and field events and maybe volleyball.”
Waldmuller has been selected as a Team USA member and is working to earn and maintain a certain level of performance and promote himself in order to get to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. He’s now married and working at Scott Sabolich Prosthetics as a certified prosthetist.
Jeff met his wife Mary in Bricktown when they were on dates, not with each other. They met, married, and fell in love. He was unable to compete in the Endeavor Games last year because of their wedding.
Waldmuller medaled in many competitions, but his focus is on triathlons which include swimming, running and biking. He has even completed the Ironman triathlon challenge which covers a total of 140.6 miles.
“It is a 2.4-mile swim, a 26.2-mile run and a 112-mile bike ride. The first year I entered the Red Man I just wanted to complete it,” Jeff said.
“The Endeavor Games gave me a start in athletics and has inspired me to go above and beyond in every aspect of life. You never know how fortunate we are to simply be alive,” he said.” I attribute my successes as an amputee to the experiences I’ve gained at the Endeavor Games.”
The 17th Annual UCO Endeavor Games is a nationally recognized competition that allows all athletes with physical disabilities to participate in a multisport event. The UCO Endeavor Games offer more than 10 sports. Hundreds of athletes from across the nation come to compete.
“Endeavor Games has given me an opportunity to have a venue,” Jeff said.
Jeff was a music education major with guitar making as a hobby before his accident.
When Scott Sabolich with the Scott Sabolich Prosthetics saw Jeff playing one of his handmade guitars, Sabolich suggested Waldmuller start looking at a new vocation working with prosthetics. Jeff is a prosthetist at Scott Sabolich Prosthetics at both locations in Oklahoma City and Dallas.
Waldmuller admits, “I would be telling a much different story had it not been for the support, opportunities and outlets that Scott Sabolich Prosthetics & Research and the Endeavor Games have so generously provided me. Many thanks to them for the life I have.”
He added, “Whether you are disabled or able-bodied, I think everybody should attend an event like the Endeavor Games at some point in their lives. Witnessing the strength and courage of the athletes will make them a better person.”