'I lost my leg, but I didn't lose my drive'

Where there's a will, there's a way
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Story highlights

  • Max Gomez lost his right leg after a motocross accident when he was 18
  • Gomez was back on a dirt bike six months after his amputation
  • The 21-year-old competes in both adaptive and able-bodied races

Max Gomez, 21, just finished his junior year at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. The nursing major is considering working with patients with prosthetics. Gomez, an amateur motocross racer, also says he hopes to turn pro one day. The opinions are solely based on those of the author.

(CNN)Three years ago this month, my life veered off course.

I was a senior at New Rochelle High School in New York and heading to the AMA Amateur National Regional Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Pennsylvania.
The day started off well. I felt fast on my bike and was able to do well in the first couple of races. But on fourth race of the day, I got a mediocre start and had to work my way to the front of the pack. As I was making solid passes, I came up to a wet part of the track. I lost traction going up the face of a large jump. I decided to grab some more throttle and hoped to make it over. I didn't.
    I came down on the landing, flipped over the bars and flew off to the left. The jump was on a hill, so I essentially dropped from 30 feet up. The impact of the landing caused my ankle to shatter and my arteries to sever. I was in immediate pain, one I had never experienced before.
    After being rushed to the hospital, the doctors took some X-rays. I could see the looks on their faces as they came in and checked me out. It looked as though they had seen a ghost.
    I began to panic as the doctors came in with a Doppler ultrasound to check the blood flow to my right foot. They had a hard time finding a pulse.
    My dad and brother left the hospital to get my mother from home. While they were gone, I was brought in for emergency surgery to open up my lower leg to see what was going on inside.
    The doctors did not like what they saw. By the time I was out of surgery, my mother and father were there. I would later find out my parents were told I might lose my foot. Hearing this, my dad immediately passed out.
    Before long I was scheduled for another surgery to take an artery out of my left leg and put it into my right leg in an attempt to get some blood flowing. My right foot was beginning to lose signs of life.
    Max Gomez, with mom Doreen, recovers after his right leg was amputated following a motocross accident.
    After five surgeries, the doctors gave me a choice: I could either keep my essentially useless gangrene foot or amputate it. I felt like I really didn't have much of a choice, so I took the route to get my right leg amputated.
    When I was in the hospital, it crossed my mind that I probably wasn't going to be able to ride dirt bikes again. I started riding when I was 4, and I've broken the heel of my foot, my arm and my femur. Each time I bounced right back, but this injury was just too severe.
    I had a bunch of free time in the hospital, and I started looking up people on the Internet who rode with injuries. I came across Mike Schultz. He designed his own prosthetic foot and was able to move pretty fast on a dirt bike. As soon as I saw that, I knew anything was possible.
    I spent three weeks in the hospital before being released.
    Gomez wins the 2014 Extremity Games for athletes with disabilities. Mike Schultz, left, was an inspiration.
    After three months, I finally received my prosthetic leg and began to get used to it. Six months after my accident, I got back on a dirt bike. I was excited, but it was difficult for me at the same time. I was much slower and did not feel comfortable on the bike.
    It took me a couple more months and some adjustments to my bike and leg before I started to feel more comfortable. I decided I would give it a shot and race in the 2013 Extremity Games in Michigan. The competition is designed for athletes with disabilities. I later was invited to race in an adaptive moto at the 2013 Summer X Games in California, which was an awesome experience. In 2014, I raced in the Extremity Games again as well as some other local races against able-bodied competitors.
    My goals for 2015 are much bigger than they have been in the past. I plan to compete again in the Extremity Games and go for my third gold medal. Also on my list is becoming the first amputee to qualify for the Loretta Lynn's Amateur National in Tennessee. As of right now, I have qualified in the South East region at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Florida.
    I want to give a big thanks to all my sponsors and of course my mom, dad, brother and sister for supporting me through everything.
    I would definitely say my accident was a blessing in disguise, and it's given me amazing opportunities. I like to say I lost my leg, but I didn't lose my drive. I just live by that. If there's a will, there's a way.