Hard Work Leads to Uncommon Accomplishments Among Amputees

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.

 

Bethany Hamilton

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.

 

Jim Abbott

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.

Tom Whittaker

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.

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Q.A. time!

Below are some questions I get asked quite regularly! Enjoy 🙂

Q: Can I take a shower with my prosthesis on?

A: No. Unless you have a prosthesis specifically designed for water use, you may not shower or bathe with it. Confirm with your Prosthetist if your prosthesis may be used for showering.

 

Q: Do you sleep with your legs on? 

A: No, that would not be very comfortable. It’s like pair of shoes. I just pop them off and leave them on the floor while I’m sleeping.

 

Q: Can I continue to enjoy sports with my prosthesis?

A: Absolutely! Most people can resume their sports activities using their prostheses. Today, many advances have been made that allow amputees to participate in practically any sport imaginable. In my case, I am a distance runner. Due to advanced running blades, I am capable of doing half-marathons and more!

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Q: Why do you have two different prosthetic legs?

A: This question always confuses me because the answer is right there – I have two different prosthetic legs because I have two different types of leg lengths. One leg is AK (also known as Above the knee, meaning my amputation is above the knee) and the other leg is BK (also known as Below the knee, my amputation is below the knee). For my shorter leg (my AK), I need a longer prosthesis. For my longer leg (BK), I need a shorter prosthesis. Essentially, I have prostheses filling up the spaces where I am missing part of my legs.

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Q: Do you get frustrated by people whining about little problems?

A: Oh yes! It’s so frustrating. There are people paralyzed in life that would give anything just to walk. And here we are complaining about a quick 15 minute workout. But I am hoping to be that little inspiration to everyone and encourage them to get moving or just simply love life a little more.

 

Q: Do you think it’s hard to keep your head up as an amputee?

A: We all go through struggles. Even if I wasn’t an amputee, I’m sure I’d still struggle with something else. However, it’s all about enjoying little moments and little successes. Being an amputee isn’t easy, but I always have to remind myself that it could be worse.

 

Q: Can you paint your toenails?

A: Absolutely! I actually love painting my “toe nails.” It gives me that sense of real feet.

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Q: Can I touch/hold/try on your leg?

A: Uhh, the first two are fine. Regarding the third part of your question, how are you going to do that? I’ll take it off if you want to hold it and see how heavy it is. Trying it on becomes a bit tricky since most people actually have normal legs, so my leg doesn’t quite fit on them. But if you really want to, I’m not going to stop you. Just don’t break it! (You don’t want to know how much prosthetic legs cost…)

 

Q: How do you use a restroom at night? Do you have to put on your legs to go?

A: It depends on the amputee. Some use crutches, some hop on a leg or if they have to, some just have to put on their prostheses. In my case, since I am a congenital amputee and I’ve always been this way, I just walk on my knees. It’s not ideal, but it works well for me. Plus, by the time I put on my legs, do my business, then take my legs off, I’ll be all awake! Lol!

 

Q: What’s an amputee leg fart?

A: That’s when you have extra air in the prosthetic leg. And when you attempt to put your leg inside the prosthesis, that bit of trapped air makes a fart noise when its needs to get out. It’s actually quite funny, but can also be awkward too, especially when you tell others that it was your leg and not you!

 

Q: What’s the hardest part about being an amputee?

A: Not having all my limbs J And telling everyone what happened! I think the idea of being different is just hard. I want to be like everyone else, have normal legs and hands. But this is what I know and life is good. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

thanks,

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Staring: Blending In or Standing Out

Here’s my story. I’ve been an amputee my whole life, which means I’ve been dealing with staring all of my life, too. I used to do everything I could think of to avoid the staring by covering my legs and hands. It was my way to avoid the public eye and for others to not feel sorry for me. After all these years, I overcame the idea of hiding and now I proudly show off my disability. However, the idea of people staring will never go away because people are always curious. As much as I am comfortable in my own way, I still get uncomfortable from others looking at me.

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Photo courtesy of Memes&Gifs.com 

 


Today, people strive to be different because being different is in style. We might dye our hair – sometimes even unnatural or bright colors. We might straighten our hair if it’s curly or curl our hair if it’s straight. We get a tattoo to express ourselves. We get implants or other cosmetic surgeries to help us feel more comfortable in our own bodies. Often times, this is to get attention, at least in my humble opinion. In my case, I was born different and I strive to blend in. That is why I used to wear pants, so that nobody would stare at me and ask me questions.

As I got older and more comfortable in my own skin, I realized that the main reason people stare is because they haven’t seen anything like this before. I just have to respect that. If you see anything different, it is a normal human instinct – to look! Of course there’s that one person who just feels sorry for you, but fortunately there are only a few of those. Many people are just fascinated by the idea that non-human parts doing human movements.

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My advice for amputees – people will stare. It will never go away because most people haven’t ever seen prostheses in person. Embrace it! Be confident in your own body and educate people around you about it. Remember, your education of others will only expand their minds and the next time they see an amputee or a person with some differences, they’ll probably be more mindful of it. It’s not easy, but not impossible.

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And some advice for my non-amputee friends. Be mindful when you see a person with a prosthesis or another disability. Staring at them makes them feel uncomfortable. Don’t feel sorry for that person, because I bet they don’t even feel sorry for themselves. Don’t assume what happened to them. If you are really curious, just politely ask. You’ll be surprised what they are capable of despite their disability!

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Give ‘Rite Back

Can you believe we are in midst of the Holiday season? And Christmas is all about giving and receiving gifts to your loved ones and maybe even strangers. Let me tell you about Knit-Rite and how we give back.

KR-Xmas-logoMost of you know Knit-Rite as a manufacturing company for quality medical textiles. And that’s true. However, the company is not just focused on making prosthetic socks and compression products. We also value service, which for us includes giving back to our communities. But, we don’t just say it; we live it every day.  As an important principle to our company and its employees, we as a company serve our surrounding communities in a number of ways.

Down the street from the Knit-Rite building in Kansas City, Kansas is a community outreach organization called Cross Lines.  Cross Lines operates a food kitchen to help fill one of the most basic of needs – a warm meal.  We, as Knit-Rite employees, volunteer to work at Cross Lines preparing and serving food to those in need. In just one lunch time meal, we may cook and serve 150 meals to hungry Kansas City families. It is a rewarding and memorable experience that we love and cherish.

During the summer, our employees volunteer to serve meals at a barbecue fundraiser raising money to help Cross Lines in their efforts to feed the hungry throughout the year.

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During the Holiday seasons, we work on our annual Give ‘Rite Back Giving Campaign. Participating in various company events, our employees raise money which is donated to the Cross Lines Christmas Store, allowing needy families to receive clothes, coats, household items and children’s toys for Christmas. On top of that, our employees donate their time to work at the Christmas store.

Our Give ‘Rite Back campaign extends to our Hamlet, North Carolina location as well. In Hamlet, our employees raise money for Our Daily Bread, a food pantry near our plant.

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We are part of these communities, and as part, it is important to us all help meet these basic needs of our neighbors. Our world today is full of hardship, chaos and hate.  But, we know that extending kindness, compassion and generosity to our neighbors goes a long way to making our community and our world a little bit better place.

As the holidays approach, think what inspires you to give back and then act on it. It could be as simple as dropping a few coins into a Salvation Army pot.

Give back and be kind.

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5 Tips to Live my Life as an Amputee!

Being an amputee is not easy but trust me, it is not impossible. To me, every day is a new journey with new obstacles and accomplishments. Since I’ve been an amputee my whole life, I guess I can say that I have little bit of experience on this topic. It definitely has ups and downs, however, I find that these 5 tips help to live my life as an amputee to the fullest.

1. Remember, it will get easier. Whether you were born missing limbs like I was, or you became an amputee later on in life, you can count on one thing: It will get easier. You’ll get used to it and you’ll find that most people are more accepting of your differences. In fact, that difference becomes more and more a part of what makes you you.

different-is-beautiful2. However, remember to give yourself permission to feel what you feel, because being different isn’t always fun. No matter how positive and well-adjusted you are, you’re likely to have moments when you are depressed or just don’t feel like answering questions. Personally, I’ve had plenty of times when I was irritated by people’s ignorance and rude questions. Even today, I still get annoyed, especially at the airport when I have to go through extra screening. I don’t like it when people react to my legs and hands with overflowing pity and apologies. The truth is, it does gets to me sometimes. But I’ve found that I feel a lot better when I talk to my friends or family and just give myself permission to feel sad or frustrated. Those feelings won’t last, and it’s just plain lonely to act like nothing ever bothers you.

3. That leads to your attitude – your attitude will affect how others perceive and treat you. There’s no getting around the stares and questions. People are going to be curious – it is a normal human instinct. However, the more comfortable, relaxed and confident you are with yourself, the more others will feel comfortable around you and treat you with respect. A quick matter-of-fact explanation puts others at ease, and once they know your story, they’re likely to stop focusing on your arm or leg. In fact, once people get to know me, they often “forget” about my legs.

4. It’s okay to be sad, but it is better to laugh when you can. Humor can be one of the greatest gifts for those of us who go through life looking different from other people. If you can crack jokes, and even learn to laugh at yourself, you will make other people feel at ease and find it easier to get through the natural ups and down you’ll face. Humor is a natural mood booster, so when you are laughing, you are enjoying yourself. Besides, you have infinitely more potential for practical jokes than other “normal” people.

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5. Don’t limit yourself, but remember, you have nothing to prove. It may sound corny, but there’s really nothing you can’t do if you’re persistent enough and determined enough. Whether it’s a sport, a hobby or a job you want, there’s a way to make it happen. However, as much as it helps to know you can pursue any activity or sport you want, it can also be exhausting to go through life feeling like you’ve got something to prove. Everyone loves stories about people who win over adversity and do the impossible. But, honestly, there’s nothing you need to do to “make up for” your difference. All you need to do is just be yourself and pursue your own dreams. Who knows, maybe you will inspire others in the process without even trying. As Christopher Reeve said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

All seriousness aside, let’s flex that humor muscle with an amputee joke! “How do you ask a on e-legged person enter your car? Hop in!”

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Meet Chi Chi!

Meet Chi Chi, a three-year old energetic and loving golden retriever. Like many dogs, she likes squeaky toys, carrots and cuddles with her humans. However, this beautiful pup is no ordinary one. Chi Chi is a quadruple amputee who walks on four custom prosthetic legs. And the best part is that she wears Knit-Rite’s prosthetic Soft-Socks®.

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Chi Chi’s story is tragic, but needs to be heard. She was left in a trash bag outside a South Korean dog meat market in early 2016. Her legs had been bound with wire, leaving bones and tissue exposed. The rescue group that found her was going to euthanize her, but had second thoughts after rescuers saw her wagging tail and positive spirit. They decided to amputate all of her legs. Then they gave her the name Chi Chi, after a Christian motivational speaker from Australia, Nick Vujicic, who was born without limbs.

According to Humane Society International, an estimated 2.5 million dogs are slaughtered for consumption each year in South Korea. It is the only country worldwide that commercially raises dogs on farms for slaughter.

Fortunately, Chi Chi was lucky enough to find a home soon after she was rescued. After seeing one video of her, Elizabeth and Richard Howell, veteran dog foster parents, couldn’t stop thinking about her. It wasn’t long at all before they flew her 6,000 miles to Arizona, where they welcomed her into their home. Six months later, Chi Chi was fitted with custom prosthetics that allowed her to walk and run.

After a short but traumatic lifetime of abuse, Chi Chi was cautious to interact at first, Howell said. But that changed in a matter of months. Now, the dog freely trusts humans without any fear or risk to her well-being.

Chi Chi, who Howell says is a “blessing every day in our lives,” is also a therapy dog who now regularly visits a veteran’s center, an assisted-living facility and special-needs students at an elementary school. What a remarkable transformation for a dog who was left in a trash bag outside a meat market.

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I love Chi Chi’s story. It reminds me that dogs aren’t judging. They love everyone the same. When I read Chi Chi’s story, I did something that I am against – I felt bad for her. I never do this because ultimately I don’t like when others feel bad for me. I started to think that I bet Chi Chi doesn’t feel bad for herself and probably wouldn’t for me either. She’d probably greet me with a sniff and a big slobbery lick on my face, just like anyone else. This beautiful dog had no value before and now she is invaluable to so many others. I think if Chi Chi can do it, anyone can!

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If you would like to hear more on Chi Chi’s journey, follow her on FB or on Instagram @chichirescuedog.

Tanya

 

**All photos courtesy of Elizabeth Howell

 

 

Happy Giving Thanks!

Happy Giving Thanks!

Today, I’m aware of the fact that life is better than I deserve. The world is full of pain and suffering, hardship and turmoil, disappointment and regret. So the fact that I can be thankful and meanit is, in its own way, a small miracle.

However, I’m learning that there is a responsibility that comes with privilege. I am blessed to bless. I am gifted to give. I am not lucky, fortunate, or merely disciplined; I am expected to do something with the grace I’ve been given. And so are you.

thanksgiving-1Photo courtesy of growappalachia.berea.edu

 

When I was younger, I didn’t understand gratitude. In a universe that seemed to hurt for no reason, giving thanks felt disingenuous. Living in a world where children die of hunger every day, it just didn’t make sense. But now I understand that being grateful is a choice.

Here’s my challenge to you: Take some time today, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, and choose to come up with a gratitude list. If it doesn’t come naturally, don’t let that stop you from still giving thanks. There is still much to be thankful for, if we only have eyes to see.

And in case you were wondering, here are my 10 reasons to give thanks today:

  1. I am thankful for my health, for being able to run every day and eat turkey dinners.

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2. I am thankful for my husband, who vowed to be my biggest fan on the day we were married and has never once let me down.

3. I am thankful for all of my families. Trust me, I have lots of them. And for the family I married into this year; which includes, my husband, his beautiful daughter and a 17-year-old dog Jr.

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4. I am thankful for the gift and work of writing blogs — that it is both hard and easy at the same time. Easy to do, hard to master. Always frustrating. Always rewarding. And I am thankful for the online community of readers who are making a difference in the world. You guys inspire me. Thank you for always reading and watching my blogs!

5. I am thankful for doing work that matters. I love working for Knit-Rite, not because I always get to wear good quality prosthetic socks. 😉 But for the coworkers, the job and most importantly the idea to help others! We don’t just make socks. We do this with a sense that there’s a little girl or a boy (or anyone) that will feel comfort from wearing our products and be happy with it. Maybe they’ll make a difference in this world someday.

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6. I am thankful that my toes never get cold – because I don’t have any! But in all seriousness, I am thankful for good quality prosthetic legs that allow me to live my life independently. It is something I don’t take for granted.

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7. But that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the right doctors, prosthetists, physical therapists, occupational therapists. You get the idea! They make magic and I am thankful for them!

8. I am thankful for an ability to give and inspire! I am thankful that there are a lot of people who follow my journey, are inspired by it, and are able to get motivated to do something about it!

9. I am thankful that we still have more good than bad in this world, despite everything that is happening today.

10. I am thankful for vanilla ice cream because it is delicious. Thank you, cows!

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If you read this blog, you have already given me a gift so thank you for that. Happy Thanksgiving!

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