My family has been through some struggles over the past two years. My wife went to the hospital for a vicious bacterial virus. I was in the hospital twice. Once for a closed esophagus and then to be brought back to life from cardiac arrest (I was dead for ten minutes). We have also dealt with my father in law’s Alzheimer disease, congestive heart failure and COPD. Then just a week ago our beloved Golden Retriever died after being with us for nearly twelve years. Sometimes life likes to keep kicking you while your down, which is why you need to look for ways to get back up.
Because we needed a pick me up, my wife, daughter and I went to see a motivational speech at my daughter’s college Wright State University. We even brought along my daughter’s friend. It was a Friday night family outing that was unusual but enjoyable. We heard and met Amy Purdy, a silver medal winning Paralympic snowboarder and Dancing with the Stars contestant. Her story is both frightening and inspiring. Amy grew up in Las Vegas and at age nineteen she moved with her family to Salt Lake City so she could be a skier. She felt that competitive skiing would be the way for her to see the world.
One day during work Amy felt very ill. She thought she had the flu but it turns out she had Meningococcal Meningitis. She lost feeling in her fingers, legs and then turned purple all over her body. The horrible inflammation caused her to have both her legs amputated below each knee and also caused her to lose a kidney. Amy was on life support and in a coma for many days ( I could relate to this, as I was in this position twice) Doctors said her chance of survival was two percent. At age nineteen her life was in jeopardy and it turned upside down.
Miraculously, Amy left the hospital after several weeks, but she went into a deep depression. Once she was home she slept all day rather than wake up to face the world without her legs. One day her dad asked Amy “if you were the author of your own story, how would you want it to end?” This simple question changed Amy’s life and got her back on track.
Amy vowed to use her prosthetic legs in ways no one else had. She learned to walk, ski, snowboard and even dance! Amy vowed she would not live a life of feeling sorry for herself. Then she had another setback. She found out she needed a kidney. She had already lost one kidney, so she was desperate for help. Her father gave her that help by donating his kidney to her.
With a new kidney, Amy fought back again and reached all her dreams plus more!
She worked with special inventors to make some of the best and most innovative prosthetic feet and legs. She became a world class snowboarder and fought to have snowboarding as an event in the Paralympics. She won a silver medal in snowboarding (despite every other Paralympic competitor only having one missing leg). She became a voice for paraplegic victims throughout the world. She became a motivational speaker. She was invited to be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars and finished second. She became a writer and she now works with Oprah Winfrey to help others. Amy has traveled and spoken all over the world just as she thought she would as a young girl.
Amy explained to the audience that none of this would have happened if she had not lost her legs. None of it would have happened if she had given up or felt sorry for herself. She achieved her life goals because she “declared” that she could do it! She taught the audience the power of declaring your goals “out loud”. When you do this, others are more likely to support your effort to reach a goal. I told Amy this was true, as I declared wanting to be a writer and author to my wife!
Amy told her story with grace, intelligence and humor. I noticed that the audience was glued to her every word. The entire room was inspired by Amy’s courageous attitude.
My family met Amy after her speech and she was gracious and took photos with us. She had a warm smile despite being up for twenty hours trying to get from western Canada to Dayton, Ohio.
I am not Amy Purdy’s publicist or the President of her fan club. I am someone who can relate. I was born with a hole in my heart and have lived a life with Chronic Heart Disease. Like Amy, I have had to overcome physical challenges.
I tell this story because it is about two families and how a special moment can happen when you least expect it. Family is there for each other in good times and bad.
Amy’s family supported her goal to be a skier and to see the world. Amy’s family literally saved her. Her dad provided her a kidney and his words about being the author of her own story brought her out of a horrible funk. Amy credits both her parent’s support as a huge factor in her being able to have such a great attitude. They taught her to never give up and more importantly they encouraged her to get back up.
My family has been through a lot of tough events in the past couple years. It has been difficult and challenging for each of us. During the last couple years, their have been days when we didn’t want to get out of bed.
As Amy Purdy stood next to my family, I thought to myself this was just what our family needed. We needed to hear that when life knocks you down, you get back up and keep going. Ironically, we learned about getting back on our feet again from someone who no longer has hers. What better person than Amy Purdy to teach us that that you don’t need legs to keep moving forward in life. What you need is a tremendous spirit and a positive attitude!