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8 years after losing his leg, Randolph County's Boatwright proves you can always get back up

(WDTV)
Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 10:19 PM EDT
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Former Elkins all-state safety and cornerback from 2011, Tanner Boatwright, is entering his second season as an assistant coach at his alma mater.

A lot has changed since Boatwright last took the field at Weimer Stadium, and he hopes his story will rub off in a positive way on the younger Elkins players.

"I want them to be able to look back at me and say 'whenever he was our age he went through something very traumatic and he was able to push through it, stay confident and do something with himself,'" Tanner said. "I'm lucky to be in the position that I am to be able to spread that little bit of influence that I have on people."

In November 2011, Tanner and his dad went on a hunting trip with another father-son pair to Tucker County's Pheasant Mountain. They were celebrating Tanner's sophomore season with the Tigers, in addition to his 15th birthday. But the celebration was short lived.

"My buddy had loaded a rifle and walked behind me. While he was walking behind me, he just happened to stumble. When he stumbled, he happened to pull the trigger and it caught me in the back of the leg. It was a ballistic tip bullet so whenever it exploded, I just hit the ground and rolled."

Boatwright was flown to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh where his right leg was amputated.

"It reset the whole course of my life...My plan was to play college football." he said.

After he graduated from Elkins High, Tanner attended college at Sheperdstown University with the intentions of being a prosthetic practitioner. However, during required community service one day, he took a ride in an ambulance. There, he finally got a feeling that he had been missing for so long after his hunting accident.

"On the very first call that we went on, I got an adrenaline rush. I finally got that adrenaline spike again and I got to help someone so I was like 'wow,' this is something I want to do."

He then transferred to Pierpont in Bridgeport to complete his EMT and paramedic certifications and has been working at the Randolph County EMS for four years. Although he is confident in his abilities to do his job as a paramedic, sometimes he has to convince others to get on board.

"I've had patients be like 'are you going to be able to do this?' and I've been like 'oh yeah...absolutely. After I show them, they have more confidence in me."

Tanner has also become an ambassador of sorts for the prosthetic community. He just returned from a trip to Duncan, Oklahoma, which was the final stage of his year & a half long testing of a new high tech prosthetic leg developed by Ottoboc, the world's leading manufacturer in prosthetic limbs.

The leg, which is called the X3, can hold six to seven days of battery life and is controlled by a cellphone app called Cockpit. There are six different modes to the leg including driving and snowboarding.

"I need something that's going to be a little more durable and to be able to stand up to the things that I do everyday like lifting a 300 pound patient and moving them."

8 years removed from a night that changed his life forever, Boatwright has more than just adjusted to life as an amputee, he's owned it.

"I want to show people that regardless of what I've lost, you could still do this."

You can find more information on the type of prosthetic that Tanner is wearing at ottobockus.com.

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