John Gardner, left, finishing the Peachtree Road Race 10K in Atlanta, July 4th.


In 2001, 57-year-old John Gardner of Knoxville was involved in a tree cutting accident that crushed his ankle and left him with one leg shorter than the other. Over the next thirteen years, Gardner fought with limited mobility issues and depression about how his lifestyle was being compromised because of his injured leg.

Then he met his friend Larry, who had a prosthetic leg and could easily outpace Gardner on the golf course. “He showed me that you can really enjoy life and be active with a prosthesis,” Gardner says, “And I knew it was time to lose the injured leg that was slowing me down so much.”

Gardner consulted with the prosthetist at Premier Surgical Prosthetic Center in Knoxville, and two years later, is running strong. “The key has been working as a team with my prosthetists, and doing the rehab exercises they said to do. So many people get a prosthesis and don’t do what they’re supposed to, but you’ve got to get up and do it. I’ve broken two prosthetic legs, but that’s ok because it means I’m using them.”

Premier Prosthetist Jason Hayden continues to work with Gardner so that he has the right fitting sports oriented prosthesis suitable for running.  “Jason is committed to giving me the time I need to get where I want to be,” he says. “It takes you working together as a team.”

“I’m pushing myself to get back to where I used to be,” Gardner says, referring to the peak shape he was in after serving with the Joint Special Operations Command with the U.S. military. “When I got hurt, I wasn’t able to do physical things like I used to do. I gained weight and fought depression, but now I’m going to keep pushing until I can achieve my physical goals.”

Most recently, Gardner completed the 10k Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on July 4th, and he has two more 10k’s plus two triathalons on his calendar this summer. A financial advisor at a large firm in Knoxville, Gardner’s ultimate goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2018.

“I would advise any new amputee not to compare their progress to others, because everyone is different and everyone’s goals are different. It worked for me to make big goals, break them down to smaller goals, and then do the activities that will lead me to those goals,” he says.

Gardner credits his wife, Donna, and his daughters, Amanda and Beverly, for being a driving force of his success and his biggest cheerleaders at every event. He’s also inspired by other world class athletes, such as double-amputee Scott Rigsby and Paralympic track athlete Sarah Reinertsen.

“They have failures as well as successes, just like me,” Gardner says. “I’ve had many failures, but I keep going. Amputees don’t need to hide in the shadows. I say get out there and show your metal! It’s important to get out and meet positive role models and move. Just keep moving.”

Premier Surgical Prosthetic Center patients partner with a physician and a prosthetist to accomplish a common goal – restored vitality. We offer patients in Knoxville and surrounding East Tennessee communities the latest in prosthetic technology to achieve their vitality goals, whether those be living independently at home, spending quality time with grandchildren, or pursuing sports interests.

If you are currently facing amputation, struggling with a poorly fitting prosthesis, or something in between call Premier Surgical Prosthetic Center in Knoxville today at (865) 474-7096 or schedule a free consultation online.