"There were 10,000 pounds of steel on a cable. It unraveled and came down on my leg, it almost severed the leg entirely. I passed out, and when I got to the hospital, the doctors wanted to cut it off. Luckily I knew one of the doctors, and he gave me a chance."
In face, Przyojski said he fought doctors for a year and a half to avoid an amputation. "I was dead set against it," the 42-year-old said. "I wasn't going to have a plastic leg."
The steel had not only crushed nearly every bone in Przyojski leg, but also it had ripped muscles and tendons from the bone, destroyed a large artery, and tore up his skin. A large pin held the upper and lower bones together. He was in a wheel chair for a year and missed three years of work. It was two years before he walked on his own again. After three years of 11 operations of bone and skin grafts and untold pain, Dan's perseverance paid off - the leg was saved.
"Years of lifting saved my leg."
"The doctors told me the only reason why the leg was saved was because weightlifting had thickened up the bones in my leg and hip. They took bones from my hip to repair the leg," he said, "Years of lifting saved my leg." "I've always - for some reason - had to work against the odds. I've always been too small," said Pryzojski, who wrestled in the 98-pound weight class at Woodward High School as a freshman but never played other sports for lack of bulk.
"When [the accident] came along, I set in my mind that one day I would walk back up to the stage and compete again. It didn't matter if I won," he said. Yet last spring, Dan did just that. After 15 years of daily rehabilitation and conditioning, Przyojski won the masters division (40 years and older) at the 2001 Mr. Michigan Bodybuilding Championships in Dearborn last May.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "My family was there, and they went through it all with me. It was great to get recognized for it at the show." Przyojski, who runs Power Health Personal Training in Toledo, said he developed his own exercises to rehabilitate his leg. "I started doing simple exercises and progressively building up to heavier weights," he said.
Przyojski started weight training in mid-1980, and it took four years before he could get to squatting more than 300 pounds as he did when he had placed third in the 1986 Great Lakes Bodybuilding Contest. By winning the 2001 Mr. Michigan title, Przyojski qualified for the American National Bodybuilding championships in New York last weekend.
"You don't want to be a scared person, but at the same time you want to be safe. My wife and I both would have had to go, and we have a baby at home."
Instead, Przyojski plans to travel to New York for another event in February. His ultimate goal is to win the national event to earn a pro bodybuilding card. The certificate would allow him to compete for money in events that are strictly drug free. "This has been a 10-year process, and most people would have quit," he said. "I feel like I defeated all the odds."
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