Former paramedic, triathlete to race following devastating injury

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Three years after an accident nearly took his life and his ability to walk, an Indianapolis man is set to take part in the 500 Festival 5k.

Before 2010, the Mini Marathon was just one of many races John Miller competed in. In addition to running, he was a triathlete who qualified for the IronMan in Hawaii, but now he likes to brag about his new favorite metal.

“I have enough titanium in me that I think it will make up for anything I bring in (to the race),” Miller joked with 500 Festival volunteers on Thursday.

Though he now simply hopes to walk a 5k, for years Miller’s life revolved around speed. As a paramedic he worked for 20 years at the Speedway and traveled with the IRL.

Miller saw some of the most horrific crashes on the track during his career, but nothing could prepare him for his own crash on I-65 in April, 2010.

As he headed north on the interstate from downtown, a tie-rod broke on his SUV and it slammed into a cement median.

“The truck veered up into the median and, even wearing a seatbelt, I was blown out of the window,” Miller said.

After he slid across the pavement, Miller’s vehicle rolled over his lower legs.

“My feet were backwards,” he said.

Dr. Brian Mullis, the orthopedic surgeon who treated Miller at Wishard Hospital, called his legs bad jigsaw puzzles.

“I think most people have heard of an ankle fracture where you twist your ankle and break it, well imagine taking a sledgehammer to your ankle,” Mullis said. “That’s the equivalent to what (Miller) had on both his ankles.”

It took seven days of surgeries and lots of metal to reconstruct Miller’s ankles.

“He’s probably got twenty screws or so in that leg and then another 20 or so in his other leg,” Mullis said.

Friends call him the million dollar man.

“I just joke back to them and I say, ‘It’s not a million, it’s just a million and a half,'” Miller said with a laugh. “Thank goodness for insurance.”

John says his sense of humor helped him pull through the most difficult experience of his life. He couldn’t walk for a full year, but he gradually regained his step. Now he’s walking for exercise every day.

“I have to be careful, because if I jam my toe or jam my foot into something, I can feel an unusually sharp pain up my leg,” Miller said.

Despite arthritis in his ankles that make them swell, Miller says he lives relatively pain free, and he’s begun jogging very short distances.

Despite his progress, he says his return to racing on Saturday, isn’t about speed.

“I hope I can just set an example for everyone else,” Miller said. “I just feel like I’ve accomplished a great feat. No pun intended.”