Amputation, nerve damage won't slow Aiken man



True to form, Jules Morgan didn’t sit around after he was fitted with his first prosthetic for the below-the-knee amputation of his left leg.

“I hopped in and walked out,” he said.

The same went for the running prosthetic, which he promptly trotted out into his backyard.

“I probably took about three steps and fell flat on my face,” he said. He looked up and saw his three dogs watching him.

“You could tell they were concerned,” he said, laughing.

Morgan, 31, has hardly slowed down since then. He lost part of his leg and suffered serious nerve damage to his right arm in a motorcycle accident 13 months ago. He later had a nerve transplant to try to overcome the damage to the arm, which still appears a little withered as he strains through his rehab for three hours a day three times a week at Walton Rehabilitation Health System.

In an age when prosthetics are becoming better and athletes in the Paralympics dream of competing in the Olympics, Morgan is entertaining thoughts of athletic excellence again.

His immediate goal is to try again for something the accident nearly took away from him – competing in the NPC Palmetto Cup bodybuilding contest. Morgan had been training for a year and a half before his accident a week before the competition.

“I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life before the accident,” he said. “Now I’ve got to start all over again.”

He has thick scars covering his arms and his back, but doesn’t think that will hurt him.

“It will probably wind up helping me,” he said, by showing the judges what he has overcome. Walton occupational therapist Paula Myers called them “battle wounds,” and Morgan grinned.

“I think they look good,” he said. “I like them.”

The biggest obstacle will be the right arm. Myers gently helps push and guide the arm through a range of movements, providing resistance as Morgan presses against her hand as he tries to turn his arm over. His face contorts, and sweat pours onto his shirt.

“Every time I lift my arm up, it feels like there were 100 pounds on it,” he said.

Added Myers: “This is where he spends a lot of his time trying and trying and trying to get back as much as he can.”

After the accident, it was apparent the arm was dead, and he spent a week just trying to move his thumb.

“The first time I wiggled my thumb, I cried like a baby,” Morgan said.

The rest has been the nerve transplant and hard work.

“I have never in my life seen somebody with so much determination,” said Myers, who has worked with him from the beginning. “He’s got a lot more to do but he’s come a long way.”

Morgan used to run a couple of miles a day when he was bodybuilding and now figures he can probably go about a mile and a half before the muscles tighten and the pain in the knee becomes too much. Still, he smiles when he thinks about it.

“When I run I just feel so good,” he said. “I’m more into it now than I was because I think before I took it for granted.”

He plans to watch the 2012 Paralympics after the Summer Olympics because he has an even bigger plan.

“One of my goals is to do the 2016 Paralympics,” Morgan said. “Whatever they let me do, I’ll do it. I just want to push myself. I like the competition.”

Myers has gotten used to Morgan’s bringing in videos of people with prostheses performing cartwheels, and her caution about further injuring the arm doesn’t seem to deter him.

“If this kid can do it,” Morgan said, “I can do it.”