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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Real-Life Role Models...

Is it just me, or is anybody else aggravated that the only accolades afforded to amputees involve athletics? While admirable that Oscar Pistorus may be able to compete with non-disabled Olympians, he is not representative of the amputee population. Whereas I can appreciate his athletic prowess, I find it unattainable and I cannot relate.

In fact, the majority of amputees are not in the stratum of the superstar athlete, yet these individuals, with their impressive physiques and dedication to training, are constantly held up as esteemed examples to the amputee community. The truth is, most of these individuals were superb athletes before they experienced limb loss.

Our community is in dire need of role models, but these individuals must be more reflective of the average amputee. The accomplishments of the "normal" amputee have, in effect, become a victim to society's superstar athlete worship occurring across our culture.

I, for one, find feats of normalcy far more motivating than those of Olympic proportions and celebrate the victories of the everyday amputee heroes. These individuals are living and adjusting to a new limb loss everyday and choose to keep trying despite the pain and setbacks. (This list is by no means inclusive but is simply presented as an example of amazing, real-life amputees who inspire me.)

Debbie, a reader of this blog, went for a walk with her young grandson over the weekend. For the first time since he was born, she was able to hold his hand while crossing the street because she was relying upon only one crutch and her prosthetic. For her and for her grandson, this event was life changing and marked the beginning of a new and happy chapter in her life.

Leslie, in a single year following her amputation, quit her job and enrolled in college. She decided that her amputation was a conduit to change her life. She learned to walk on her prosthetic, went rock climbing and has returned to riding ATV's. Instead of letting her amputation define her, she has taken it as an opportunity to redefine herself.

Mary, a nurse's aide in Arizona, lost her arm three years ago due to infection. Admittedly in the throes of depression because she thought that she had lost her career as well as her arm, she refused to give up. She kept seeking prosthetic care until she found a practitioner who agreed to fit her with a new hand. Working up to four hours every day, she has learned how to use the prosthetic and has just passed her reemployment proficiency exam. She returns to work in July.

Sarah, a young mother, lost her leg when she was hit by a drunk driver. She spent months in the hospital, away from her baby and husband. Angry with the situation but determined to move forward, she now speaks out against driving intoxicated. Because of her courage to tell her story I am certain that countless people have thought twice about driving after drinking. She and her daughter have both learned to walk and are active in the community.

Personally, I find these women far more motivating and inspirational than any Olympic athlete. Perhaps their triumphs cannot truly be appreciated unless you have been in their situation. They, along with all amputees who are living happy lives and adjusting as best as they can, deserve to be lauded for their fortitude and courage.


  1. I agree, Peggy. I've discussed this issue a few times in the past. I don't think Oscar's achievements, or those of any elite amputee athlete - remarkable as they are - are things that the average person with limb loss/difference automatically relates to.

    To use an analogy I've used before: I play guitar; so does Eric Johnson. That's where the similarity ends. He's so gifted, so talented, so otherworldly, that while I can intellectually appreciate what he does, I can't really relate to it emotionally.

    I think it's the same thing with elite athletes. I understand the significance of what Oscar and other amputee athletes are doing, but I doubt that a 65 year-old amputee who can barely walk 400 yards, much less do it in 45+ seconds, connects with those athletes emotionally.

    I want to be very clear - I'm NOT saying that those individuals' achievements shouldn't be publicized and celebrated, because they ARE remarkable and deserve recognition. I am saying that if you had a picture of the elite amputee athlete standing next to a 65 year-old diabetic amputee, the caption would read (if I may steal from an old Far Side cartoon), "Same planet, different worlds."

    Good thought-provoking post!

  2. It's not just you. It's not just the athletes either. Heather Mills with her closet full of legs, Aimee Mullins with all of her interesting prosthetics is often featured as the "high-tech future of prosthetics - limbs that we can change as easily as a pair of glasses!"

    Yeah, right... When the leg that just gets you out the door to work costs roughly the same as two cars and your insurance won't cover it?

    Unfortunately the media tends to focus on the glitzy side of amputation/prosthetics.