John with his two amputee rescue dogs.
In 2000, as a senior in college at Baylor University, John Mabry found himself in a tragic car accident that left him with a horrible leg injury. Over the next year he had 14 surgeries in an effort to save his left foot. Eventually, due to constant staph infections he began to consider amputation. While researching this option, he began to reach out to the amputee community and was amazed at the positivity and strong responses he received. Mabry decided to go through with the amputation, and 6 weeks later, he walked at his college graduation and received his degree while using a temporary prosthetic.
After graduation Mabry felt a strong calling to help other people in similar situations to his own. Mabry enrolled in a Master’s program in Rehab Counseling that focused on helping people with disabilities get back to work. For the first time in his life, he decided to leave Texas and move to California to pursue the master’s program.
Mabry’s desire to help people is truly remarkable, yet, he soon came to realize, it was at his own expense. He was so focused on helping others with their struggles that he never paid attention to his own.“I kept running from my trauma and my fears. I covered it up with trying to accomplish things… I thought, I am going to go skydiving, I am going to run triathlons but I was just running from myself.” At the end of his Master’s Program, Mabry realized,“I couldn’t go help people I needed to help myself”.
In 2008, it all came crashing down and Mabry and his family made the decision to return to the South to begin focusing on his personal healing. “The biggest part of my journey is addressing me, and working on myself emotionally and mentally, the physical part is what is easy.” Addressing oneself does not come naturally. Whether you are a mother, father, friend, or partner, it is innate to want to care for others. We are taught selfishness is ugly and it is better to be selfless. But in order to be truly successful, we must remain most faithful to our own being in order to then help others. Mabry says, “The point I like to tell people is to get support for whatever you are doing so you don’t have to do it alone, and ask for help. That is okay.” Mabry relies heavily on his support team, including other amputees, his physical therapist, and his family.
Once he addressed his own identity and trauma as an amputee, he and his wife began to address themselves as a duo, as parents, and as a family. Through self-examination and revelation he realized we both have, “goofy, quirky personalities, and a big sense of humor. We don’t fit in the mold of suburban family.” Mabry said to his wife, “I think it would be really therapeutic to be who we are and quit caring what the neighbors think of us.” So that is what they did—they began to be their truest selves.
Mabry, his wife and their three kids spend weekends creating skits and YouTube videos. Their days are filled with family bonding, face painting, and being creative. You can read about their latest adventures, such as driving through a drive-thru dressed as a cartoon character or spicing up date night with prank wars, on their family blog, https://mabryliving.com/.
Ever since Mabry began to “address me” he has felt his life get back on track, he volunteers at the Vanderbilt Trauma Center as a member of the peer support group, and he plays around with the idea of writing a book. He now sports the Alzette UNYQ cover in blue and white and says, “it is part of my new identity…it’s like my tattoo and I am proud of it.” UNYQ is thrilled to be part of Mabry’s journey and grateful that he took the time to share it.
Huge thanks to John and his entire family, they are truly filled with love and laughter!