Four days after he received his second prosthetic leg, John Boag was hitting golf balls. People in his rehab team were so astonished they took pictures. Amazing, maybe, but par for the course for John. His policy has always been, if life deals you challenges, power through them.
“I’ve always looked forward, not back, and never spent much time feeling sorry for myself,” says John. “I’ve met lots of people who get down and ask ‘why me?’ and that’s never been my thing. I just believe in accepting what happened and moving on.”
Over the course of his life, John has moved on from a lot of things. Now 60 years old, John has battled diabetes since the age of 10. A workplace accident nearly blinded him. He’s had acute kidney disease, which resulted in dialysis and ultimately a kidney and pancreas transplant. He’s also had three strokes, a triple bypass, and in 2016 a diabetes-related infection led to the removal below the knee of one of his legs. Two years later, another infection cost him the other leg.
Which brings us to the story about him hitting golf balls just four days after getting the new leg. No question, John is an unusual guy, very motivated, with an uncommonly positive attitude. But he also credits his rehab team at Providence Healthcare for making that golf session possible.
“Providence was so great. I had been rehabbing there since losing the first leg, and they knew I wanted to keep playing golf. So when they heard that the second leg had to come off, they designed my entire therapy program around golf. Everything I was doing, stretching, twisting, balancing – it was all getting me ready to swing a golf club.”
John has had many interactions with the health-care system over the course of his life. Some have been less than great, others have been really good. And his theory is that it comes down to communication. People talking to you. People listening to you.
“From the first day I went to Providence, the care has been fabulous. The nurses and doctors are great. Not once, ever, has anyone put me off, or ignored my questions. And they talk to me, not just about my therapy. They ask about my golf game, how my driving is going. They make me feel like they love working with me.”
Today, John is channeling what he has learned about patient care into helping other amputees. He discusses what they’re going through, how they’re feeling, the challenges they’re facing. And he pushes them a bit, to help them work through a problem. Just recently, he met an 82-year-old farmer who had lost his legs and was worried he’d never drive a tractor again. “Yeah, you will,” was John’s answer. He helped the man design a moveable set of stairs to climb into the tractor, and then back down again.
“Within three months, the farmer was spending the day on his tractor. At 82. I’m kind of proud to have helped with that.”
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