My name is Richard Herskovitz. I am
56 years old, married, and the father of 3 beautiful children. I am also
fortunate enough to be considered one of the top Amateur Natural Bodybuilders in
the country. I am also an amputee.
In October 2005, I contracted a disease called Necrotizing Fasciitis, also known
as “The Flesh Eating Bacteria”. I spent a total of 6 weeks in the University of
Maryland Hospital’s Shock Trauma Center. I underwent 15 surgeries and spent
hundreds of hours in a hyperbaric chamber, trying to save my leg. For the next
15 months, the doctors and I tried to save what was left of my leg. I went
through 4 different skin graft surgeries during that time. After consulting many
foot specialists, they all agreed that I would never again regain use of my foot
and ankle. The disease had caused too much damage; I would never walk again
using that disfigured foot.
In December of 2006, I had my right leg amputated below the knee. I had been a
competitive bodybuilder before, but I had retired from competition in 2000.
Before my amputation, I had set some goals for myself. One was to get on stage
again as a bodybuilder. In May of 2007, I achieved that goal. I took home fifth
place in Baltimore's Silver Cup Bodybuilding competition. Doing that show
inspired me to keep training in order to improve my physique, and to become,
once again, a top level bodybuilder, one who is confident enough to compete with
any able-bodied person.
My original motivation to compete again was purely self-serving. I needed to
raise my self-esteem. I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror and
focus not on what I had lost, but on what I still had. I wanted my children to
see me not as a father who had lost a leg, but as a father who could rise above
a tragic situation and continue to move forward.
When I stepped on stage for the first time after my original amputation, I could
not believe the reaction of the crowd and of my fellow competitors. I realized
for the first time that what I had achieved was not just about me, but something
larger. People came up to me to say that they admired my courage, and that I was
an inspiration. Their support motivated me to continue my quest to become a
truly competitive bodybuilder.
In 2007, I was happy just to be back on stage. In 2008, I wanted to be
competitive in the sport, and fortunately I have been successful. I have placed
in the top 4 of every division in every competition that I entered in 2008.
After my amputation I did well from a
functional standpoint. I always had some pain in my stump when I was walking
with my prosthetic leg. However, by the end of 2008, the pain in my stump
ultimately became unbearable because of the lack of muscle and tissue covering
the bones at the end of my amputated leg. In April 2009 I had a revision
surgery to amputate more of my leg to try to cover the bones with more tissue
Unfortunately, that surgery was not
successful. It left me with a stump that was more painful than before. I now
had a leg that I would never be able to walk on. After numerous consultations
with other specialists, they all agreed that the only way I would be able to
walk with a prosthetic leg again was to amputate my leg above my knee.
It was a very difficult decision for
me to amputate a healthy knee, but it was the only chance I had to walk again.
In July 2009 I had my leg amputated above the knee.
I was in and out of the hospital for
the next 4 months due to infections in my leg. Once my stump was finally healed
I was fitted for a new prosthetic leg.
Once again I am at the beginning of a
journey... I am learning how to walk all over again. I am slowly but surely
finding my way around the gym. I am trying once again to develop a competitive
I am achieving my personal goals, but I have not yet fulfilled my mission.
I want to inspire people who face physical obstacles to believe that
Nothing Is Impossible
I want to demonstrate that a fine
level of fitness and mobility can be achieved by those who face challenges. One
just has to go out and do it --- perhaps in a different way, but -- go for it! I
started this journey alone, but now I am traveling down a much wider path with a
larger goal. I realize now that I am not alone since I have inspired so many
others along the way. Thanks to bodybuilding I now have a positive self-image,
and I know that achieving this is possible for anyone!!!