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Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: September 11, 3:38 PM ET
Josh Demuth's right leg amputated

By BJ Smith
ESPN.com

Josh Demuth
"Losing my leg didn't seem like a big deal when there was a chance I could lose my life," Josh Demuth says.

In late December 2011, less than halfway through the AMA Arenacross Championship, Josh Demuth decided to retire. A four-time champion, three with the AMA series and one with the BooKoo Arenacross tour in 2006, Demuth said he wasn't having fun racing anymore. "The Sheriff," as he's been nicknamed by his loyal Texas fans, is as well-known for his spectacularly long injury list as he is for his wins, which rank him second all time in arenacross behind Buddy Antunez. He was happy to retire by choice.

"I got out of it because I didn't want to take the chance of getting hurt," Demuth said. "I was moving on to a new part of my life."

Seven months later, surrounded by friends and family, Demuth made another, more difficult choice: keep fighting a spreading infection in his right leg, risking death, or amputate it.

"Losing my leg didn't seem like a big deal when there was a chance I could lose my life," Demuth said.

Josh Demuth
Josh Demuth, who ranks second in all-time arenacross wins, had just retired a few months before the accident that would change his life.

On Aug. 1, as a result of an injury nearly three months earlier, Demuth had his right leg removed below the knee. Because of the severity of the injury and the spreading infection, doctors wanted to go above the knee but Demuth urged them to try below the knee first. He is less than a month out of surgery and said he has a few more days before he is in the clear.

The amputation isn't the end of his battles. After nine surgeries, Demuth is still awaiting work on his right shoulder and left foot. Although he is retired and working in the Texas oil and gas industry, Demuth still rode for fun. These injuries all came from a practice crash in early May when the piston in a two-stroke he was riding exploded on the face of a high-speed jump. He was separated from the bike and landed on both feet. A rod in his left leg from a previous surgery drove into his foot, shattering it. His right tibia and fibula suffered severe compound fractures. He also separated his right shoulder.

"The hole in my leg was so big where the bone had stuck in the dirt, that's what caused the infection, the dirt in the bone," he said. "I was fortunate that the infection was in the bottom part of my leg."

When the leg refused to heal after three months, Demuth was forced to make the decision to amputate. While he battles phantom pains in his right leg, he is preparing for another round of surgeries to repair his left foot starting Sept. 7. He said he will be able to walk, but he's been told to expect little movement in the foot. He also has severe rotator-cuff damage in his shoulder.

"They're going to fuse my ankle and foot together to fix my supposedly one good foot. I'll be out eight weeks with that," he said.

Josh Demuth
Josh Demuth [No. 8] battled won the inaugural BooKoo Arenacross title in 2006, a now-defunct national title.

Demuth said he has lost count on his Evel Knievel-esque list of broken bones. He thinks the total is about 85-86, and he's had more than 30 surgeries and counting. Although he said he's been in the hospital for two-thirds of the summer, he's been able to spend a lot of time with his three children and girlfriend, Melissa, who is a nurse.

"Even though everything is down, I really haven't been down and out. I've had good people around me that made me smile. I've had a lot of people call and write," Demuth said.

Dealing with the other injuries will delay his getting an artificial leg, but he has already spoken with Baker Prosthetics, a company in Arlington, Texas, that apparently has prosthetics that can be used for riding motorcycles.

"It was good to hear that," he said. "It's nice to know that I could still be active even with a fake leg. I don't think you'll see me back on a bike in awhile, but I'm not ruling it out, either."

A benefit and raffle to help Demuth with his medical costs will take place Sept. 23 at Oak Hill Raceway. Go to www.oakhillmx.com for more details.

Josh Demuth
Josh Demuth, left, leads Chad Johnson in 2010 when Demuth won his fourth arenacross championship.