Determination, not disability, defines John

John Boie holding his Paralympic gold medal
John Boie (right) holding his Paralympic gold medal in men's basketball.

John Boie was just 2 years old when he lost function of the lower part of his body after getting run over by a tractor on the family farm near Milton, Wis.

Although the injuries to his spinal cord left him physically confined to a wheelchair ever since — he is now 30 — John’s gritty determination and passion for life are infinitely more defining than his disability.

Since he was a young teenager, John has dreamed of bringing home a gold medal as a member of the United States Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team at the Paralympic games. In September 2021, that dream came true.

John learned the game playing on multiple Wisconsin-based wheelchair basketball teams over the past 20 years, including the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks — one of the premier college wheelchair basketball programs in the nation for men and women.

Urology team contributes to John’s success

Helping John realize his dream is the UW Health urology team, which is part of the UW Health Specialty Clinic located at Fort HealthCare — just 10 miles from John’s home in Whitewater.

“We’ve been caring for John for several years to help manage his bladder function, which was impaired by his spinal cord injury,” says Dr. Christopher Manakas, a UW Health urologist who is one of two urologists with a practice in Jefferson county.

“Fortunately,” says Manakas, “we’ve been able to help John without having to perform any invasive procedures. Instead, he comes to us for periodic Botox injections that relax the bladder, allowing him to hold urine longer and avoid leaking. We also know how much the convenience of this clinic in Fort Atkinson means to patients like John, saving them from longer trips to Madison.”

Dr. Manakas one of John’s biggest fans

While John’s USA team was playing in Tokyo for the gold medal, few people watching at home were as thrilled as Dr. Manakas.

“I remember watching the game with my kids and after they won, there was John celebrating with his teammates,” Manakas says. “It was so cool, seeing my Fort Atkinson clinic patient on the other side of the world proudly hoisting the gold medal.”

John’s Botox treatments — which are only needed once every 12-18 months — have substantially increased his quality of life, making daily life as well as his many basketball travels more manageable.

“Helping me gain better control of my body has been instrumental,” John says. “Dr. Manakas has gone above and beyond the call repeatedly, and the clinic staff in Fort Atkinson is incredibly warm and welcoming. I never feel like a number.”

Paying it forward as an academic advisor

After earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UW-Whitewater, John has spent the past four years mentoring the next generation of students at his alma mater. As an academic advisor, John works with about 300 first-year students each year.

“I especially enjoy helping first-generation college students who often come with no idea what to expect at a university,” John says. “They arrive with new independence, and we help put it to the best possible use by advising students about class selection, tutoring opportunities and basic living skills.”

At UW-Whitewater’s Academic Advising & Exploration Center, John works beside his former UW-Whitewater men’s wheelchair basketball coach, Jeremy Lade, known across campus as “Opie.”

“John has been a winner in basketball both at Whitewater and in the Paralympic games, which is fantastic,” Opie says, “Even better, John has been successful by applying his on-court lessons in life. On the court, he’s always willing to do whatever his team needs, and his selflessness remains one of his greatest qualities off the court.”

Opie is proud of all John has accomplished but knows that John has more goals in mind, including another Paralympic team appearance at the 2024 games in Paris.

“Mentoring John as his coach at Whitewater was a wonderful experience,” Opie says. “He came here with such a strong foundation and has shown so many others what it means to turn a weakness into a strength. He really is a rock star.”