Growing up in a desert community near Las Vegas, Nevada, Amy daydreamed about traveling the world and living in a place where it snowed. She tried snowboarding for the first time at the age of 14, and immediately fell in love with the sport. Every weekend and day off from school, she was on the slopes, and it became not just something she did, but a huge part of who she was. Whether for recreation or competition, she loved the winter wind in her face and the spray of frozen powder around her. She wanted snowboarding in her life forever.
The day after graduating from high school, Amy moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. She began a career as a massage therapist there, a pursuit she’d chosen specifically because she could travel and do it from anywhere. Amy was 19, and now had the freedom, independence, and control over her life to follow her passion for snowboarding. Unfortunately, her new circumstances didn’t last long.
On a particular day that started like any other, Amy awoke feeling great and full of energy. On a normal work day, she could handle five to seven back-to-back massages without getting tired and still go to the gym afterwards. But on this day, she was exhausted after her third massage. That night, after going home early, Amy had a temperature of 101 degrees and flu-like symptoms. The next morning, her fever broke, but instead of feeling better, she continued to feel worse.
Within 24 hours of the first symptoms, Amy was in the hospital on life support. She was suffering from severe kidney failure when she entered the hospital, and her white blood cell count was shockingly high. The doctors knew it was a blood infection, but they didn’t know what kind, so she was placed into a medically-induced coma. She was given less than a 2 percent chance of surviving.
It took five days to figure out that it was bacterial meningitis. It was a treatable infection, but it did its damage. Over the course of three months, Amy lost her spleen, both of her kidneys, the hearing in her left ear, and both of her legs below the knees due to septic shock, as her body pulled blood from her extremities to try to save her vital organs.
When she woke from her coma a few weeks later, Amy’s first thought was that she had to get back on her snowboard, even without her legs. She had never missed a season of snowboarding, and although she didn’t know how, she was determined not to miss that year either.
When Amy began her recovery, there was no prosthetic designed to work for snowboarding. She got back up on the board about seven months after being hospitalized, but her ankles wouldn’t move and her knees wouldn’t bend. Feeling like a stick man riding down the mountain, she found it frustrating, but also motivating, because it forced her to get creative. She got to work fashioning a pair of “Frankenstein” feet made from different ankle and foot pieces taken from several prosthetics and assembled with bits of wood and plenty of duct tape.
Amy managed to attain goals that many people with two legs might struggle to achieve. Just three months after a kidney transplant, she entered a national snowboarding competition and won medals in three events. She went on to become the first double leg amputee competitive snowboarder, winning back-to-back snowboarding world cup competitions.
Amy Purdy is a spokesperson for multiple charitable organizations including the Challenged Athletes Foundation. In 2005, she co-created her own non-profit organization, Adaptive Action Sports (AAS), which helps young adults and wounded veterans with physical disabilities who want to get involved in action sports like snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing. In 2013, AAS successfully petitioned to get snowboarding into the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games, being held this March in Sochi, Russia. Amy, currently one of the world's top-ranked adaptive snowboarders, will be competing.
One of the most important things in life is to recognize all you have to be grateful for, no matter how much difficulty and adversity you may experience. Even with all she endured, Amy declares, "I’m really grateful that I had snowboarding, and always say that it saved my life.” Follow the Attitude of Gratitude mindset, and you’ll find that the tough times are just icy patches in your life’s long downhill run!
Until next week...
Live Your Dreams!