Walking with NO LEGS
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At 32, Joseph Chessari is learning to walk again.

He was doing cleanup in a machine at a paper fibre factory in March 2009 when it severed his legs.

Since then, he’s been in a wheelchair and is now training himself to walk short distances using prosthetic legs.

His tenacity to push himself has spawned his Walking With New Legs event on Saturday where other amputees, friends and supporters will walk from Dundas Square to Bay St. to inspire them to use their legs more confidently.

“Now I’m walking without a cane, crutches or help from anybody,” Chessari said.

“With the exception of going down stairs and slopes, I’m pretty close to being independent. It’s very hard. I was all of a sudden in a wheelchair, something I wasn’t used to.”

But that independence wasn’t an easy road to accomplish.

After his surgery, Chessari was confined to a wheelchair until February when he was introduced to Hanger Orthopedic Group in Las Vegas, which helps amputees and individuals with musculoskeletal disabilities and injuries regain their self-confidence using prosthetic legs.

“They taught me to walk again on short legs — stubbies,” he said. “By walking on short legs, you’re able to build muscle in your legs because you’re out of the wheelchair. Three months after that, I’m using my full-length prosthetics.”

There are roughly 40 people expected at the walk, of whom 20 have leg disabilities. People are to meet at Dundas Square at 2 p.m.

Chessari pushes himself to go out each day — to Kensington Market, Yorkdale and downtown — from his apartment at College and Yonge Sts. He also goes sailing using his short legs.

“I’m getting used to it and if I don’t feel confident the only thing to do is walk more,” he said. “I can walk about five blocks before getting tired. The times you’re tired, those are the times you want to give up. You have to tell yourself to go the extra mile.”

The sockets, which double as thighs, are made of carbon fibre with silicone attachments to his limbs. From there, he can attach computerized leg extensions that sense muscle pressure so they’re able to bend at the knee in order to walk heel-to-toe.

But walking isn’t enough. Skiing, snowboard and swimming are some sports Chessari wants to tackle in the future.

“Can I ride a bike or drive a car again or get a job?” he said. “I want to be able to do the normal things I used to do.”

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