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Daddy No Legs


Daddy No Legs

It happened to me - True story as told to Sandy McPhie 

As a kid, I was always getting into scrapes with my mates. My parents built a six-foot fence around our place to keep me safe, but I soon found a way to get out. 

When I was nine, my best mate Gary asked me to go down to the railway yard to help him Dad off-load some coal for the Lions Club. 

Gary and I carried empty sacks from the truck to the coal wagons. On our second trip, we were taking a short cut behind an engine and a flat-deck wagon when the engine suddenly shunted back. 

The wagon hit me on my shoulder, dragging me under it, and I felt an intense pain as the wheels ran over my legs. 

Gary's dad, Mick, and another man dragged me free. Mick was crying and people were screaming, so I realised that I must be badly hurt. 

I was rushed to the hospital where Mum and Dad were waiting. 

"Sorry, Mum. I'll be OK," I told her. After that everything was a blur. 

I woke up in intensive care. Mum and Dad were by my bed, looking terrible. 

My foot felt itchy but when I reached down to scratch it, Mum stopped me. "Tony, your legs are gone," she said. "They had to be amputated." 

She started crying and I lay there thinking: This can't be right. 

I was in and out of hospital for seven months. Everyone assumed I wouldn't get up to my old antics when I finally got home, but they couldn't have been more wrong. 

Tony Christiansen: Motor Racing Champion

Tony Christiansen: Motor Racing Champion

I could slide around on my bottom and I was pretty handy in the wheelchair. I went about with my mates and climbed trees and snuck up the stormwater drains, just like always. 

But at high school, things changed. My mates played rugby and soccer and I couldn't join in. 

"There must be something else you could do," Mum said. 

So I learnt how to shot put and throw the discus and javelin. I went to the National Disabled Games and, incredibly, was selected for the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Handicapped in Japan when I was 15. "I'm proud of you," Mum said. 

When I won a silver medal for the 100m wheelchair sprint, I thought life couldn't get much better - until I won gold in the javelin and 100m freestyle swimming. Sport gave me so much confidence that I realised there weren't many things in life I couldn't do. I learnt to drive a modified car, went out with girls and even became a lifesaver. 

At 16, I left school and got a sign-writing job at a museum, where I became friends with Jim Muir. I often dropped him home and one day, I noticed one of his neighbours. Her name was Elaine and she was divorced with a five-year-old daughter, Nikki. 

"You can forget about her," Jim said. "You can't afford her."

That didn't put me off. One night, I was at the pub with some mates when she walked in. I asked her to go to the bar and buy me a drink and one for herself, as it was hard for me in a wheelchair. It was a ploy, but it worked. 

We moved in together and the following year, our daughter Danie was born. Holding my baby for the first time, I couldn't believe this tiny creature was mine. I was besotted. 

Now I had two beautiful daughters - I'd always treated Nikki, now eight, as my daughter and she'd treated me as her dad. Elaine and I married and had a son, Lucas. 

As they grew up, the kids hardly seemed to notice that their dad didn't have any legs. I used to joke about it so they knew it wasn't a big deal. Danie called me "Daddy No Legs" and they even bought me socks for Christmas! 

I like the fact that it's not important to them. It certainly hasn't stopped me doing the things I want to do. I've toured the world as an athlete, winning 35 medals. I've been a lifeguard, driven racing cars and flown planes, and someone's even written a book about me. 

But most importantly, I have a wonderful family. 

Today, I'm 40 and live in Tauranga, New Zealand. I now work as an inspirational motivator helping other people realise their goals. "If I can do it with no legs, then you certainly can," I say. 

That's what life is about. Don't sit there waiting for your goal to come knocking on your door. Go out there and grab it.