Overcoming: Local man inspires others after losing both legs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - 61-year-old Felix Rodriguez rides around the Kempsville Recreation Center in Virginia Beach, helping others with their workouts and health.

He is a diabetic and lost his leg years ago. Then, an accident at a construction job took his other leg.

Rodriguez said he was 85 pounds heavier than he is today, was depressed and even suicidal.

But losing both legs hasn’t stopped him.

"I do a mile without my legs. Just all upper body," Rodriguez said.

Felix Rodriguez

The New York native served in the Navy for four years and then worked commercial construction. He says he stepped on a sheetrock screw and got gangrene.

Then, years later, he had another accident and lost his second leg.

"You’re so embarrassed of it. You don’t know how people are going to see you," Rodriguez explained.

Felix says he was depressed, and he spoke with a friend over the phone who told him to get out of the house. "He said, 'Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You were military, right?' and I was like, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Well, start acting like it.'"

That’s when he went to the Oceanfront and started to ride his wheelchair up and down the boardwalk. Now, he’s planning a half marathon in October.

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"I would like to do the Boston or the New York [Marathon]; that’s the goal," he said.

Rodriguez also had to reteach himself how to swim. He got help from Brittany Waltz, who now works at the Kempsville Rec Center.

"He is unstoppable. There could be anything he could go through that he wouldn’t overcome," Waltz said.

She helped him overcome his challenges and encouraged him to volunteer at the rec center before offering him a part-time job. Although Rodriguez wasn't looking for a job, he took it and now motivates others.

He encourages people with disabilities, veterans or anyone else to do what he has done.

"You have to let people help you. It’s not about you," he said.

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