Jorge Mendoza grew up in Los Angeles near Echo Park and his sports were soccer, basketball and track. He also grew up dealing with what was misdiagnosed as a skin issue on one leg that doctors told him would go away by the time he graduated high school.
Eventually he was diagnosed with Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), which led to occasional bleeding and kept him from participating in sports.
In 2010, he was asleep at home when he suddenly woke up. “I was totally exhausted and just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep,” he remembers.
When he turned the light on, he realized he was lying in a pool of blood. He tried to stand, collapsed to the floor, and crawled to the kitchen where his dad was making himself a late-night snack. Too weak to speak, Jorge pounded on the ground to get his dad’s attention.
“My dad woke up my mom and, when she flipped on a light, I could see a blood trail from my room to the kitchen that looked like something out of a horror movie,” he insists.
At the hospital, Jorge received three units of blood and in November of 2010 he went in to have his leg amputated below the knee. “I was on my computer googling ‘running prosthetics’ and The Challenged Athletes Foundation came up,” he continues. “My amputation was on November 23rd and I realized I needed to get my grant request to CAF by December 1st, so I did that from my hospital bed.”
In April he was told that he would be receiving a running leg from CAF. “When I hung up the phone I was ecstatic,” he continues. “I felt like a kid on Christmas morning who just received the one present they wanted most in life.”
By late June, he had his running leg and in July he ran his first 5K. That led to completing the ten mile run at CAF’s San Diego Triathlon plus a number of half marathons, two marathons and a Spartan Race. “I fell in love with obstacle racing,” he laughs.
Jorge Mendoza has now passed the physical and written tests to become an LA Firefighter. We chatted at 7 am on a weekday morning and he had already been in the gym at 5 am to get his workout in. “If I had gone back to sleep that night, there is a good chance I would have bled out and my parents would have found me dead the next morning,” he says. “Every day is a gift and I realize that.
I can’t imagine being at this point in my life physically, mentally or emotionally without CAF. They helped me realize that the impossible wasn’t impossible anymore.”