Darshit Thakrar had his left leg amputated in 2015 and ran a 5K in May

By Rachel DeSantis
December 15, 2020 07:00 PM

A California physician who lost his left leg in an accident five years ago hasn’t let tragedy be an obstacle when it comes to achieving his dreams.

Darshit Thakrar, 41, recently accomplished his longstanding goal of running a 5K — and now has his sights set on a mini triathlon before his 45th birthday.

“That was an emotional moment,” he tells PEOPLE (the TV Show!) in Tuesday’s episode of finally completing the 5K. “I was really happy, extremely happy to fulfill that goal. I don’t think you can express that in words. It was a very fulfilling moment.”

The joy of accomplishing the goal was one long in the making for Thakrar, a radiologist at Loma Linda University Hospital in California.

By the time he reached his early 30s, he’d set his sights on training for a marathon – but in June 2015, just two months after he started training, tragedy struck.

Thakrar awoke in a hospital bed, unaware that he’d been struck by a passing vehicle after his car got a flat tire and he stepped out to help a professional fix it.

Darshit Thakrar
| Credit: Grishma Thakrar

“I realized, okay, I had been through a trauma, which I had no recollection of, and I’m just waking up in the ICU,” he says. “And at that time they said, ‘Well, you were in an accident and you’re waking up in a hospital. And in the meantime, you lost your leg.’”

“Of course my initial reaction was complete denial of the situation,” he adds. “I didn’t want to accept that at that point. In my conscious mind, I’m like, ‘No, this can’t be true.’”

Though Thakrar says the early days of grief were difficult, he learned to look on the bright side, and was able to adjust to his new reality, which he knew would include prosthetics and the chance to walk again.

Darshit Thakrar
| Credit: Grishma Thakrar

“I thought, ‘What if I had lost both legs? Or what if I had hurt my spinal cord and I was going to be in the wheelchair for the rest of my life?’” he recalls. “And suddenly the glass was not half empty, it was more than half full.”

After spending some time in a wheelchair recovering from his amputation, Thakrar received a Pilé knee three months in, which allowed him to take his first steps. He trained in the hospital for another week, then started going to therapy — he started with a walker, then a cane, and after about two years, was able to walk on his own.

With additional surgery to help ease lingering pain, phantom sensations and scar tissue, Thakrar’s prosthetic finally felt right, and he was able to return to his goal of running.

Darshit Thakrar and his family
| Credit: Grishma Thakrar

“At that point, of course, I had changed a little bit of my dream from a marathon to a 5K,” he says. “I felt like, what an able-bodied can do with a marathon, I think doing a 5K with an amputation probably is the same thing.”

Thakrar slowly progressed as he pushed toward his goal of a 5K, which he ultimately chose to do virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Finally, this past May, he, his two children, ages 5 and 9, and four other families ran it together in Pittsburgh, and Thakrar was able to complete his three-mile 5K in about 55 minutes.

More than 100 other people took part in the virtual event on May 2, too, running 5Ks of their own from their respective locations around the world.

Darshit Thakrar
| Credit: Grishma Thakrar

“I was so delighted,” Dr. J. Peter Rubin with the UPMC McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who helped shape Thakrar’s prosthetic, tells PEOPLE (The TV Show!). “I mean, what a wonderful, wonderful outcome, to be able to go from essentially barely getting through your day and barely getting around to running a 5K… That was just wonderful. How amazing to see him reach that goal of actually completing a 5K. It’s just terrific.”

Thakrar says his next goal is to complete a mini triathlon before he turns 45, and that he’s already started swimming and biking again, and is able to ride at least five miles (though his goal is 10).

He adds that by the time he turns 50, he hopes to be able to complete a biking 50K.

Catch People (the TV show!) Monday through Friday. Check your local listings for exact times or stream the show every day at 7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT at People.com and PeopleTV.com.