Most people would be devastated to have both legs amputated above the knee when barely a teen-ager.
Not Reggie Showers, a lifelong Philadelphia, Pa., resident who's among the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racers competing today at the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals at the Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway.
"I never once shed a tear about what happened to me," Showers, 36, said Friday from his trailer's lounge in the CBIR pits after the final round of qualifying. "It was kind of like I was conditioned for this accident. I was happy to be alive."
Showers' accident happened at age 14 when he was climbing taller-than-normal train box cars in the neighborhood train yard.
Reggie Showers pushed his Pro Stock Motorcycle bike away from the tech area Friday at the Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway. A double leg amputee, he said, "I can definitely do whatever I set my mind to. It's just a little different." (Dispatch Photo by Clint Wood)
"That posed a new challenge for me to climb the taller cars, jump from car to car," he said.
However, he inadvertently came too close to the overhead power wire.
"And we never really knew the danger that lurked in those wires over top," he said. "We would see birds sitting on top of those wires all day long but they weren't grounded so they could sit on them."
As he was running on top of the cars, he got too close to one of the wires and was jolted with about 13,000 volts of electricity.
"The electricity arced out of me and it knocked me right out, knocked me out cold," he said.
He woke up minutes afterward and felt numb. His body was in shock and he couldn't move.
Showers was taken to the hospital and airlifted to the Chester Crozer Burn Center in Chester, Pa. He was told the electricity exited through his feet because that was the ground point.
"They couldn't save my feet, burned beyond saving," he said.
His legs were amputated from the knee down the next day.
"They told me about it. I didn't cry when they told me they were going to do it," he said.
Showers spent two weeks in intensive care, four weeks in a general burn unit and more time in the Magee rehab center.
He received an artificial pair of legs and learned how to walk on them at the rehab center. The accident happened on Memorial Day, but he didn't miss a day of his freshman year in high school
Showers went on to study communications at Temple University in Philadelphia for four years. During that time, he owned a motorcycle and raced on local dragstrips without his parents' knowledge. He kept the motorcycle in his friend's garage.
Once he told his parents, who thought just owning a motorcycle was dangerous, they asked how he would make enough money to survive.
In 1988, he formed a team to race the International Drag Bike Association circuit. That was the same year he set several track records and earned Pro Competition Rookie of the Year enroute to winning the class' championship.
He didn't originally buy his motorcycle to race.
"I just wanted to be a recreational rider, but I got talked into a street race actually, 'My friend can beat your friend. OK, here we go,'" he said. "I got talked into racing a guy and I ended up actually beating him and that's how it started."
Though he didn't know anything about racing, the winning feeling he received knowing he defeated an able-bodied person empowered him, Showers said with a smile.
Showers didn't tell anyone of his disability until after he won the championship.
"I didn't want to be viewed one, as an oddity, and two, I didn't want them to shoot me down before I could prove myself," he said. "I didn't want them to tell me that I couldn't race this motorcycle.
"As I grew, got older and more mature, I started to see the benefits and the importance of talking to the public about my disability and trying to educate the public about the power of the disabled," he said.
Showers began racing for a team in the NHRA in 1995. Last year he formed his own team. This year he has another new team and is sponsored by Prosthetics Design Inc. and Damp Rid of Orlando, Fla.
Showers wears specially designed "racing legs" manufactured by PDI. The struts are made of carbon fiber, the leg is made of thermal plastic and all connecting components are made of titanium.
The actual dynamic foot can move left to right, sideways and 360 degrees. A silicone sleeve fitted with a locking pin bolt is fitted over Showers' thigh and then fastened to the leg.
"I can hang from the ceiling upside down and it will not come off," he said.
Showers' artificial legs have been adjusted to ease his racing a motorcycle. Because racing a motorcycle is "cramped," he had problems getting his feet up on the cycle's foot pegs. He stands 6 feet tall.
He can shorten his prosthetics to reach the foot pegs more easily. He stands about 5-foot-8 inches tall then.
"It has just been great. I don't have to think about trying to find the foot pegs down," he said. "I throw my legs up and concentrate on racing."
He said the NHRA has been supportive of him.
"This is my calling in life," he said. "This is why God spared me ."
His advice to the disabled as he put on his non-racing left leg was this: "You're only disabled if you think you are."
Showers also has a pilots license and at one time owned his own Twin Cessna.
"I can do whatever I want to do," he said. "I can definitely do whatever I set my mind to. It's just a little different."
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