Amputee personal trainer overcomes tragedy to inspire Dubai's inclusive fitness community

Jeremy Melkonian, 28, who lost his leg in a car crash in Beirut finds new hope in Dubai

by

Mazhar Farooqui

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(Photo: M. Sajjad)
(Photo: M. Sajjad)

Published: Tue 8 Aug 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 1:17 PM

On a rain-splashed midnight in Beirut on December 27, 2019, Lebanese personal trainer Jeremy Melkonian found himself trapped between two cars, his left leg crushed in the wreckage. The pungent smell of leaking oil filled the air, while the fear of the cars catching fire loomed.

In that life-altering moment, Jeremy made a silent vow, "This will not be the end of me."

As he winced in pain, his mind raced back to the events that led to this pivotal moment. Earlier that evening, Jeremy had been driving back home when fate dealt him an unexpected blow — a flat tyre. He hastily stopped the car and opened the trunk to get a spare when another car smashed into his, pinning him in between.

With unwavering resolve, Jeremy pushed against the car that had collided with him, breaking free from the twisted metal ensnaring his leg. The pain was unbearable, but a surge of determination propelled him to overcome the agony and pull himself out of the wreckage.

"I don't know how I found the strength to do it," Jeremy said, reflecting on that night. Little did he know that this experience would mark the beginning of an extraordinary journey of indomitable spirit and resilience.

"In the hospital, I vividly remember a doctor pulling the sheet to inspect my wound, and gasping, 'Oh my God'. I instantly knew my leg was gone," Jeremy recalled.

For eight days, the medics in Lebanon tried to save his leg, but ultimately, they delivered the heart-breaking news. "We have to do a BKA," a doctor said.

Jeremy knew what it meant. BKA is an acronym for below-the-knee amputation — a transtibial amputation that involves removing the foot, ankle joint, distal tibia, fibula, and corresponding soft tissue.

After a 12-hour surgery, Jeremy's left leg, once a source of power and agility in his career as a personal trainer, was gone forever. Losing a limb at the age of 24 is devastating, but Jeremy remained positive and asked the doctors if he could resume his career. "They just looked at me in disbelief."

Even in the face of immense adversity, Jeremy's spirit remained unyielding. Much to the surprise of the doctors, he was out of his bed within a month and began practising mobility with a prosthetic leg.

Six months later, Jeremy not only resumed his workouts but also delved into taking personal training classes.

However, the aftermath of the accident presented its own challenges. The expenses from the hospital bills and the costly prosthetic leg weighed heavily on Jeremy's shoulders. Compounding his struggles, the man responsible for the accident managed to evade legal consequences by escaping to the US. But despite it all, Jeremy found the resolve to forgive. "I forgive him," he said.

In April 2023, destiny beckoned Jeremy to a place that would forever alter the course of his life. A trip to Dubai introduced him to a city that embraced inclusivity, tearing down barriers and offering boundless opportunities. The facilities and support for disabled individuals left an indelible impression on Jeremy's heart, and in that moment, he knew he had found his new home.

"More than the skyscrapers and attractions, what impressed me most about Dubai is how it's good for people of determination. The ruler of Dubai certainly knows how to look after its people, especially those with disabilities," he said with genuine admiration.

"Dubai is also the world's only city to offer its citizens, residents, and visitors a month of all-inclusive, free fitness challenge, thanks to an initiative led by the Crown Prince himself."

The connection was profound, and Jeremy knew that Dubai was where he needed to be.

A couple of months later, with just a few hundred dirhams in his pockets, Jeremy bid farewell to Lebanon and permanently relocated to Dubai, driven by a strong determination to fulfill his dream.

(Photo: M. Sajjad)
(Photo: M. Sajjad)
(Photo: M. Sajjad)
(Photo: M. Sajjad)
(Photo: M. Sajjad)
(Photo: M. Sajjad)

Since arriving in Dubai, he has seamlessly immersed himself in the vibrant fitness community, quickly establishing himself as a beacon of inspiration. Through his unwavering spirit, he has forged connections with various gyms and attracted a growing number of eager clients.

Dubai-based voice-over artist Ahmed Haffar who is looking to sign up with Jeremy said they met on a flight. "We struck an instant rapport. People see Jeremy as not just a personal trainer, but a living testament to the power of resilience. His story is very inspiring."

Jeremy said he is still new to the city but adapting fast. "I have found some customers around my place in Jumeirah Beach Residence and also had the opportunity to do some motivational talks, including a podcast."

"These are early days, and I am eager to see what the future holds. Dubai is my home now. This is where I want to live and work," Jeremy said with a smile.

"The people are so wonderful, and the disabled-friendly environment has provided me with the platform I needed to defy all odds and pursue my dreams. I'm grateful for the opportunities this city has given me, and I hope to continue inspiring others to overcome their own challenges."

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