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Overcoming Adversity to Grow Taller — Learning to Thrive After Limb Loss

Roger Amaya and his family own a Mexican restaurant in Anthem, Arizona, and have been an integral part of the community for 28 years, where they also provide catering services. Roger participates in a variety of competitive sports, including racing jet skis and snowmobiles. His achievements have earned him corporate sponsorship throughout the years.

Roger Amaya sits on a boulder wearing a green beanie holding up a peace sign with his hand. His right prosthetic leg has the Arizona state flag just below the knee, and his right prosthetic leg, an American flag.

A Lifetime of Adaptation

At four years old, a drunk driver struck the car Roger was riding in, resulting in serious injuries, including the loss of his left eye. Due to difficulties with depth perception, certain sports proved challenging for him during his youth. However, Roger’s ability to adapt and press forward clearly began at an early age, as he excelled at photography.

Living with diabetes, his risk for complications from injury is greater than it is for others. In 2020, while hiking down Daisy Mountain in Arizona, he fell against a rock, causing a wound that subsequently resulted in an ongoing infection that wouldn’t heal. Ultimately, this led to a left below-the-knee amputation. A second below-the-knee amputation on the right leg occurred the following year, with Roger sustaining another serious injury while snowmobiling.

Roger, a double amputee, props himself up on the arms of a chair with his two prosthetic legs on the floor in front of him.

Within a year and a half, the effects of trauma were present in many areas. He experienced significant short-term depression following both amputations. Learning to do self-maintenance in a wheelchair, and managing not one but two prosthetic legs, proved challenging. With reduced sensation and subsequent impaired healing in both legs came the need for frequent adjustments to his prosthetics. Roger reports practicing walking outside at night with a walker so his neighbors would not see him. He fondly describes how his beloved dog was there for him, laying near him while he learned to shower and transfer by himself.

A shot taken from Roger's perspective as he sits in the grass. His bright green prosthetic legs from shin-level down and white Nike sneakers with a red swoosh are in the forefront, and his two brown dogs on red leashes lie in front of him.

Roger reports that his wife, ex-wife, son, and daughter were there for him in multiple ways to ensure his ongoing recovery. His son always stopped by for a brief visit, even after working long days helping to cover for his father’s absence at the family restaurant. The local fire department also visited him in their fire trucks to welcome him home. The community of Anthem, where he lives, also joined together to provide him with a walk-in shower. He describes these events as key to helping him return to his previous philosophy of gratitude and appreciation.

The town fire department along with friends, family, and neighbors, gather around Roger and pose in front of a red fire truck.

Team Amaya

Roger’s philosophy of healing includes his belief that first, he will do it for himself, then empower others by example. To push himself and establish his own sense of achievement, he decided to drive to Rocky Point in Mexico with his new jet ski by himself. In one day, he completed all tasks, including riding miles from shore and maneuvering the vehicle off and onto his truck, with only minimal help from some local visitors. For this accomplishment, he allowed himself to have a “happy cry.”

A selfie of Roger in the water on his jet ski wearing a black and green jet ski helmet.

Roger has always competed at a high level in sports, often racing in the Mark Hahn Memorial 300, a long-distance jet ski endurance race. Most competitors have one or two partners to complete this race. Prior to his injuries, his proud accomplishment was finishing in the Iron Man category without a partner. Following his recent health crises, he achieved an 8th place finish in this race against much younger competitors, achieving a very important personal goal. Roger’s team, Team Amaya, is sponsored by JSU Kawasaki, a company that has provided them with a side-by-side UTV with the latest technology.

“I sacrificed two legs to grow taller!”

Throughout Roger’s healing process, he navigated many changes, both physical and emotional. After accepting that he had become a double amputee, he experienced difficulties with his prostheses related to skin comfort and correct fit. Roger attributes his successful recovery to his limb specialist, Max Ronkos CPO. With both legs replaced, his prosthetist let him know that the height could be adjusted to make him taller if he preferred. After approval by his physician, Roger decided to extend the length of his legs by 3.25 inches. Having worked through all these challenges, he gleefully states, “I sacrificed two legs to grow taller!”

Roger and his daughter pretend to hold up a boulder surrounded by mountains and greenery.

Focusing on a Positive Approach

Roger prides himself in resuming his life with as few accommodations as needed. He drives a car without any modifications, uses no special equipment or adaptive devices other than his prostheses, and does not park in dedicated accessible spaces.

Roger does not identify as disabled. He loves connecting with people and allows curious children to touch his prosthetic devices to ease any fears or feelings of discomfort. On the Team Amaya Foundation Facebook Page, he posts about his recreational sports accomplishments from his pre-amputation time through the present. Roger is driven by his love of sports accomplishments, including the achievements of others. His connection to many friends has come from serving his community through his restaurant, Tortas Chano. He feels the key to his success is expressing gratitude and appreciation for what he can do. He credits the love of his family, who has always been there for him, for empowering him toward his future.

The front window pane of Roger's restaurant, Tortas Chano, showing newspaper articles and awards.

Roger’s favorite movie is “Forrest Gump” since he feels he has been in the same shoes as Tom Hanks' character. Overcoming many odds to preserve and protect the life he has built has become his goal. Not looking for financial success or personal gain, he finds happiness in family and community. Roger, with his perseverance and determination, provides a positive message to those he comes in contact with.

Recently, using that trademark perseverance, he was able to set up a visit to the White House for himself and his family. Following this successful excursion, his restaurant received a very large food order from the US Congress. You truly can never know how far-reaching the influence of someone like Roger can be!

Roger and his daughter pose in front of the White House.


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