Getting to Know Chuck Leonard

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Every morning you wake up with Chuck and Cheryl, but there are quite a few things you don't know about our anchors. All month long, News Leader Nine's Taylor Barnhill will take a closer look at the lives of nine of our anchors and meteorologists.

In "Getting to Know Chuck" you'll find out how an accident just days after his high school graduation, changed his life forever.

Chuck Leonard began the story, "What's funny is the things you remember after the fact. Because I remember my mother giving me a kiss before I left. I remember my uncle that morning telling me that the tractor we were using was bigger than the tractors we had been using and it would not choke down, so be careful"

"I was using a hay baler that baled round bales of hay. When enough hay gets in the machine an arm falls down which has twine in it. And the twine wraps around the bale of hay. Well the twine got hung so instead of turning it all off, I let it run I climbed under the safety guard I got enough twine and I tossed it to go into the hay baler and missed. So I went to kick it in with my foot and the next thing I know it had me," he recalled. I'm hung in the machine and it literally ate the hide off of my leg at the ankle and it severed the artery in my leg. But it got so hot with this roller turning that it cauterized the artery and I didn't lose that much blood."

He continued, "So it took about an hour to get me out of the machine. But I distinctly remember when I came out of surgery and my father was there, I asked him, "so what did they do?" and he said they had to take it off. And I thought, wow."

"I was in the hospital for about two weeks and somewhere along the way they decided they'd have to teach me to use crutches because before I ever got a limb I was going to have to use crutches. Here I was in this room with mostly older people who were having trouble walking and here I was, this kid and I started crying. And then the epiphany. I thought "hey, you're 17 years old, life expectancy is 70, nothing's going to change what happened, so you have 53 good years, make the best of it." And I'm glad I did," Leonard tearfully explained.

But Chuck says he doesn't want this to be seen as a sad story, "Keep in mind that your life doesn't end if you lose a leg. You just have to adapt to it. I probably had more fun with it than I should have. I dropped bowling balls on my artificial leg and I shot an arrow into the foot once. But I think it was my way of dealing with it."

"You don't know that Chuck has an artificial leg," he said, "Well hopefully that inspires somebody because, hey it happened to me. I've been able to get along and you can too. Make what you can with your life. Don't let something like an accident, or the loss of a leg, keep you from becoming the person you are."

Chuck tells us his injury actually lead him to where he is today. The State Department of Rehabilitation paid for him to go to college, where he studied broadcasting, and eventually ended up at WTVM.