Being an amputee is never easy. Unfortunately, a common sentiment among individuals who have experienced amputation, is that their limb differences are holding them back, or don’t allow them to pursue certain careers or goals. However, this is not the case. There are so many individuals who would beg to differ. I chose the following three people below to highlight because they are amputees who didn’t let their disabilities stop them from achieving their goals. They turned what some might feel are weaknesses into their greatest strengths.
Photo Courtesy of Bethanyhamilton.com
Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer from Hawaii. She began training around the time she started walking and is currently one of the most recognizable amputees worldwide. As a child, she showed much promise in surfing – competing as early as 8 years old. She also received sponsorships from multinational surf-wear companies like Rip Curl. Unfortunately, when she was 13 years old, she was the victim of an incredibly rare shark attack that resulted in her left arm being amputated. With the help and support of her family, she returned to surfing only a month after her incident, and went on to compete in many more professional events. She is also the subject of the 2011 film, Soul Surfer, a movie based off her autobiography. Bethany continues to compete professionally, while also speaking at conferences and encouraging amputee children to pursue athletics through her foundation, Friends of Bethany.
Photo Courtesy of jimabbott.net
Jim Abbott is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played for the California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, and the New York Yankees. Over the span of his decade-long professional MLB career, he received multiple awards including the 1987 Golden Spikes Award; the 1987 AAU’s Sullivan Award for top Amateur Athletes; and the 1988 Olympic Gold Medal for his skills on the mound, despite being born without a right hand.
In baseball, left-handed pitchers are seen as unorthodox and hard to bat against due to their rarity. Pitching with his left hand, the only one he has, made Jim Abbott one of those orthodox pitchers, even without his disability. He is now considered one of the greatest left handed pitchers of all time.
His MLB career spanned from 1987 until he retired in 1999. Less than a year later, he became a professional motivational speaker. His honors didn’t cease after his retirement. In 2004, he was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2007 he was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame. His success as a professional athlete is truly an inspiration. Knowing he’s also a congenital amputee is even more so.
Photo courtesy of tomwhittaker.com
Ever since he was young, Tom Whittaker was an avid climber. His lifelong dream was to reach the peak of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. On Thanksgiving Day in 1979, Tom was in a car accident that resulted in the necessary amputation of his right leg from his kneecap to his foot. He didn’t let his newfound disability stop him from achieving his dreams. He continued to train to climb Everest, all the while beginning a business to connect disabled people with the outdoors. In 1981, he founded the Cooperative Wilderness Handicapped Outdoor Group that operated out of Idaho.
Nineteen years later, in 1998, Tom finally reached the summit of Mount Everest; both achieving his lifelong dream, and successfully becoming the first person with a disability to climb the mountain. Now, Tom spends his time supporting groups that are dedicated to giving people with disabilities the courage to achieve their goals.
These amputees are truly examples to everyone. They are each individuals who have gone through some challenging times, but didn’t let their disabilities stop them. But most importantly, they are examples to a future generation of amputees, because they demonstrated that the human mind is stronger than the body. Missing parts of their limbs, they accomplished things in an abled bodied world with hard work and a hunger for success.