MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) — Washington Township firefighter Joe Tadijanac energetically demonstrated how he can sit down on a chair with his electronic prosthetic legs, get down on the floor and get back up.
In this April 14, 2014 photo, Joe Tadijanac balances on his prosthetic legs in the living room of his home near Mansfield, Ohio. Tadijanac, who lost both his legs while fighting a fire in June 2012, has a new sense of freedom, having learned more productive ways of living at a three-day boot camp in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/The News Journal, Daniel Melograna)
The computer sensors in his legs move like real knees, his wife Andrea said, as Joe positioned himself on the floor.
"It's all about positioning," Joe said.
Tadijanac, who lost both his legs while fighting a fire in June 2012, has a new sense of freedom, having learned more productive ways of living at a three-day boot camp this month in Oklahoma City.
Tadijanac lost both legs in an accident while responding to a June 24 fire at 3695 St. James Road in Troy Township. He was helping to pump water from one tanker to another. He was trapped between the trucks when one of them rolled.
Tadijanac and his wife attended the 2014 Bilateral Amputee Bootcamp Workshop thanks to receiving proceeds from last year's Snow Trails' Hero Challenge.
"I can't thank everyone enough," Tadijanac said as he showed reporters how he puts on his legs, putting his head against the couch for balance.
Tadijanac said others in the class who lost their legs inspired him.
There were people from all over the world, including military service members injured in Afghanistan, children who had suffered from meningitis and lost their limbs and a man named Joel from Puerto Rico who came to the United States by himself with only what Joe called his "stubbys" and no wheelchair.
"It's crazy amazing what these people do," Andrea said. "I had a lot of anger toward the situation, like why him? I looked at it as a disability. He can't do anything. This is going to ruin the rest of his life. But being around all those people and seeing what they can do, I've finally let go of all that anger. It's a blessing to me to be able to be with him and watch him be able to inspire others like they inspired him."
Andrea said the workshop allowed her and others to be OK with saying no to their loved one.
"You can do this. You don't need me even though it's easier for me to do it," she said. "A lot of our training was emotional. It's taken a lot of time for me not to be so mama bear."
Joe said he also learned ways to fall safely. He fell in the Oklahoma airport going through security.
"He got up and walked into the body scan machine with his electronic legs, and they didn't know he couldn't see," his wife said. "They didn't tell him when you walk up you stand on the platform and then it goes down a small ramp. He's been taught how to fall. It was kind of funny because we are used to it. A swarm of agents were there, and I said just let him go, he's fine," she said.
"Other people were freaking out," she added as Joe laughed. "I'm just so proud of him."
Thanks to the training, Joe can now stand in one place because he is able to find his center of gravity and balance without moving.
He walked in his stubbys on a grassy hill and carried a chair above his head during training. He also got a lot of tips from classmates about how to put his legs on more easily.
Joe's ultimate goal, when the sensors are adjusted, is to stand without the assistance of devices, such as crutch-like poles.
Joe also wants to push mow his yard this year, using his stubbys.
Snow Trails has told him he will be this year's Hero Challenge's beneficiary again.
Nate Wolleson, Snow Trails spokesman, said the Hero Challenge will be June 21.
"We're excited to benefit Joe again. He's such as great guy. The Hero Challenge is a 5K obstacle run with 30-plus obstacles made to be fun and demanding as you want it to be," Wolleson said.
There will be multiple wave starts for people to sign up beginning at 9:15 a.m. and continuing through early afternoon.
Admission is free for spectators. Wolleson said there will be a DJ, barbecue and adult beverages.
"Joe is planning on heading out again this year and we hope we can get him to hit the Slip-and-Slide again," Wolleson said.
Joe said he plans to use the money to attend the workshop next year.
"As soon as I get my adjustments, the wheelchair will be stuck in the corner," he said.
In Oklahoma, Joe and his classmates walked at a large mall and even used the escalators and stairs.
He had a lot of fun that day at the mall and enjoyed the freedom.
"I learned that it can always be worse," he said.
Information from: News Journal, http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com