By Ana-Maria Gutierrez
Here at the Amputee Coalition, we understand the power of your stories. Stories can help others find their inner strength. Stories also help us learn about the journeys of people similar and different to us. The Amputee Coalition’s #WeTHRIVE story campaign aims to raise awareness of the resilience, strength, and courage of people living with limb loss and limb difference. Community members of all ages and diverse backgrounds have shared their stories with us and we thank everyone who has taken the time to inspire and educate other amputees.
Meet Our Inspiring Storytellers
Ed Purcell, a Marine Corps Veteran, has faced many battles throughout his life. Ed miraculously overcame three traumatic brain injuries, the first occurring when he was just a child. Later in life, he spent over 12 years battling a foot injury, facing multiple infections, and undergoing eight surgeries to repair brittle bone fractures. His cardiologist advised him to take preventative measures to prevent further cardiac issues. In 2019, he made the decision to get a below-knee amputation of his right foot.
Today, Ed is a marathon runner at 59 years old. He credits health and fitness for aiding in his recovery as he learned how to improvise, adapt, and overcome multiple obstacles. It has driven him to believe that nothing is impossible.
He follows these three F’s…
- Fight– Persevere Through It
- Finish– Become Resilient
- Faith– Believe in Oneself
Amber Benton shares her son Waylon’s story of being born with a rare birth defect called fibular hemimelia. This disorder is extremely rare, occurring in only 1 in 40,000 births.
Bilateral fibular hemimelia (affecting both legs) is even rarer. Waylon faced his first amputation shortly after he turned one year old. Despite trying to save his other foot, he had his second amputation when he was two and a half years old. Today, Waylon is happy, healthy, and thriving. Amber says that Waylon is “a little superhero and an inspiration to everyone he meets!”
Arpita Roy lost both of her legs above the knee in an accident. She says that her limb loss journey was tough. She chose to make the most of her new life and started bodyweight training. She then slowly started practicing Yoga. Yoga works from inside rather than outside, so it helped her immensely to move forward. Now, certified as an international Yoga teacher, she trains able-bodied individuals and people living with limb loss/ limb difference.
Recently, Arpita was selected to be among 50 Yoga teachers world wide participating in a program organized by the Yoga Alliance. She is prideful that she chose to turn her weakness into strength and found success.
Darren Lyons jokes that he does not have a remarkable story to tell about his amputations. “No war, no snake bite, motorcycle accident, or shark attack.” He lost his legs “the old fashion way,” due to cardiovascular disease. He was living as a corporate executive traveling the world. By his mid-thirties, his weight had swollen up to 465 pounds. He was eventually able to manage his diet and did lose 265 pounds, but it was not in time to save his legs.
He had his first below knee amputation in February 2017 and the second below knee amputation 15 months later. In between that time, his kidneys gave out and he went into Stage 5 kidney disease, starting dialysis in November 2017. His passion now is to share his story to educate others.
Since overcoming his health issues, he has written two books, A Day in the Life in a Skilled Nursing Facility: Stories from a Young Man Trapped in a Nursing Home and his latest book, With Worn Out Tools: Navigating the Rituals of Midlife. Today, as a double below knee amputee, he
is navigating this chapter of his life as a writer, coach, trainer, and speaker. He hopes that he can teach and inspire others so that they do not have to experience the hardships that he had to endure.
Hollyn Gambill is a 16-year-old right leg amputee. She was born missing the tibia bone in her right leg which required amputation at the knee. When she was almost three, she was fortunate enough to have this surgery, provided by the Shriners’ Hospital for Children.
As she grew older, and after another surgery, she found herself running into issues like how to shower when her leg was wrapped, how to navigate using crutches or a wheelchair, or how to deal with a sweaty gel liner when hiking. She feels lucky that she had friends in the limb loss community to rely on, but she knows that not all people have that support system.
Today, she has created an Instagram page for teens with limb loss or limb differences (AmpuTeens). She is working to create a safe space where people can ask questions (and get honest answers from others who have been there), share experiences, and, most importantly, connect with others.
Wayne Hamilton was born with, arguably, the worst case of congenital bilateral club feet in the US, ranked in the top 2% severity in the world, as he described. He has spent his entire life beating the odds. Doctors told his mother that he would never walk. He proudly
shares that he not only learned to walk, but as his mom puts it, he “danced his way across Europe.” At age three, he was singing onstage with his mother (and getting paid)! He grew up to become an entertainer as a singer/ songwriter/musician, wrestling manager, and a proud father to a future astrophysicist.
At age 46, Wayne lost 25% of his leg due to a bone infection. He had dealt with many surgeries throughout his life, but this raised the magnitude to a new level. He lives his life
by the principles of perseverance, humility, patience, and compassion. He is learning that his dreams do not have to die because of limb loss. He wants to remind people that the only thing that can prevent you from accomplishing your dreams is your mindset. The loss of a limb may alter your ability, but he is a living testament that you can adapt to the situation and rise above it. “Physically challenged doesn’t mean boundary confined!”
Read the full collection of Amputee Coalition’s #WeThrive Stories.