Medical miracle walks, competes after being told he couldn't

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by Mike Colombo

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 25, 2012 at 1:13 AM

Updated Saturday, Feb 25 at 1:22 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – He walked when doctors said he wouldn't, and became a Division One pole vaulter when coaches said he couldn't.

That special former UofL athlete is back in town on a mission to bring better health care to the state.

“I don't know how to quit. I haven't quit a day in my life. I wasn't raised to fail," said John Thomas Hall.

But there have been a few moments in John’s life where it would've been easier to throw in the towel. July 7, 1993, was one of those moments.

"I was an avid water skier. I was out working on a move that I'd seen on ESPN. I bailed really hard and broke my neck. C6, C7 fractured relocation. There was a severe bruise to my spinal cord," he recalls.

At 16-years-old, John could only use his right arm. Told he'd never walk again, he powered through rehab one grueling step at a time.

John graduated in 2000, and decided he wanted to establish a foundation to support those suffering from paralysis. Named Team Walk On, the foundation started to thrive. Then John had another one of those throw in the towel moments.

"I found out I had contracted leukemia through a routine physical test. They found it in my left testicle. They removed that and I went through six months of treatment in the state of Indiana," said John.

The man who beat paralysis would go on to beat cancer. But just five months later, the cancer returned.

"Death’s knocked at my door three times now. I know what it's like and I've seen it up close. It's no picnic," said John.

Cancer free now for almost a year and a half, John's journey has come full circle.

"I'm so optimistic I'm probably considered insane, but so was Bill Gates, so was Steve Jobs," he said.

Like Microsoft and Apple, John is ready for Team Walk On to take off.

"I just want to inspire. I want to repay the University of Louisville for allowing me the chance to have my dreams come true here and I want to bring the best healthcare in the world to the state of Kentucky, the city of Louisville."

John Thomas Hall will be at the UofL women’s basketball game Saturday and the men’s game Sunday representing Team Walk On and introducing "I am on the team" bracelets.

For more information about Team Walk On, visit their website here.

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