I’d like to introduce you to my dear friend and fellow adapter and overcomer, Amy Purdy!!
You may have heard her name if you watched snowboarding during the Sochi Paralympic Games or you might recognize her from Season 18 of Dancing with the Stars! She is one of the raddest people and an absolute legend in every way. Her story is so powerful and inspiring that I want to share it with you!
Here we go!
From a young age, Amy was completely hooked on snowboarding.
When she was 19, she moved to Salt Lake City to pursue her snowboarding career and planned to support herself as a massage therapist. Amy’s life was going just according to plan!
That is, until she went home from work one day with some flu-like symptoms.
Within 24 hours, she was in the ER on LifeSupport and was told she had a 2% chance of survival. 5 days later, the doctors diagnosed her with Meningococcal Meningitis, a rare bacterial blood infection. Amy still doesn’t know how she got this disease!
Her body went into septic shock and she almost lost her life. She had many life-saving surgeries, but in the process, she lost her spleen, the hearing in her left ear, her kidney function, and both legs below the knees.
Amy went from being a typical 19-year-old girl to relying on people and machines to do everything for her. But, according to her, seeing her new prosthetic legs was the worst part. “They looked like pipes from the Home Depot!” she exclaimed, explaining that she couldn’t imagine living life with them. Not only that, they were so painful to wear! Amy kept thinking, “how am I going to travel the world, have fun adventures, most importantly, snowboard in these??!!”
Amy described herself as physically and emotionally broken, overwhelmed and devastated by the thought of living the rest of her life with these ‘hunks’ of hardware.
Little did she know that her greatest loss of her legs would actually become her biggest asset. She had to learn how to release the ‘old’ Amy and to embrace the ‘new’ Amy.
So she got real and asked herself,
“If my life was a book and I was the author of that book, how would I want that story to go?”
First, she identified what how she didn’t want the story to go. Amy didn’t want to be known as the girl with two prosthetic legs! Instead, she wanted to be snowboarding again and standing on her own two feet.
That’s when she decided to get her life back under control.
She worked with her prosthetists to create a pair of feet that she could snowboard in and within just four months, she was tearing it up on the slopes once again!! It was not easy for her – just like any overcomer, she had to adapt when things didn’t go as planned. But, she always got back up and gave it another shot!
Amy and her husband dreamed of getting snowboarding into the Paralympic games, so they started training athletes and developing training programs. In 2011, their dream became a reality and Amy made the first Paralympic team! She was the only competitive snowboarder with two prothetic legs in the world. She received a bronze medal in her first Paralympics and went back the following Games for a silver and bronze!
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Amy:
“When you’re truly committed, nothing can get in your way! You may have to go around or over the obstacle, and you may have to take a detour, but you never know when your detours can lead to your destiny.”
Her time on on Dancing with the Stars totally reflected this perspective. She had never danced before, but she adapted, got creative and totally killed it! There were no prosthetic feet in existence for dancing the cha-cha or the salsa so each week there was a different problem to solve. “Sometimes,” she remembered, “I would have a dance where I needed to point my toes, and I would think, ‘that’s impossible!’” But she overcame and found creative solutions to her problems. All her hard work paid off – she came in second place!
Amy believes that the challenging moments in life help us figure out what we’re really made of. They make us get creative and look beyond the current reality. If you ask her today if she would change anything, she says with confidence,
“No, I wouldn’t change anything, because if anything my legs haven’t disabled me, they have enabled me”.
Amy explained her story in more detail in a virtual event that I did with her called “Bouncing Back”. It was epic! Other rad guest speakers joined as well and we focused on the theme of resiliency! I encourage you to check it out or go to her website to learn more about her!
I hope this brought encouragement to you!