By Tracy Gariepy
I wasn’t your typical athlete…in fact I didn’t really get into physical fitness until I was in my thirties. But when I was in, I was all in. A chain of events led me towards getting my group fitness and personal trainer certifications, opening my own fitness studio, running ultra marathons of 100 miles and beyond, and competing on the national stage as a female bodybuilder. However, things derailed pretty quickly in 2021 with a knee injury that got progressively worse, and it was further complicated by unsuccessful surgeries, failed hardware, and a resulting bone infection.
After the first few surgeries, I started joking with my surgeon and telling him to just take the leg and be done with it. Then it stopped being such a joke, and I started really dreading each surgery and the disappointment each time we deemed it unsuccessful. I started searching the internet for information about amputations, elective amputations, and any research that could show me that it was a viable option for someone in my situation. Google led me to the Amputee Coalition, and a world of helpful information.
I reached out to the Amputee Coalition and immediately received a phone call and follow up email from the Peer Support Program Specialist. She connected me with Beth, a Certified Peer Visitor (CPV) who had a similar history to me. Beth and I spent many hours on the phone and on email. She shared insights about her decision to amputate, recovery, the process of navigating insurance, k-levels, prosthetics, you name it! It was such a relief to talk to someone who lived this with real life experience, and not just a doctor with clinical information.
My healthcare team and I finally came to the conclusion that an above-the-knee amputation was a viable option for me. Although I knew the road ahead would be extremely challenging, I also knew in my heart that this was the best path forward for me personally, because I could effectively plan for life as an adaptive athlete, rather than a life of surgeries and hardware replacements. I’m forever grateful to Beth for giving me enough information and insight to be able to confidently make the decision for myself and take control of my own future.
I became a RAKA, right above-knee amputee, on May 25, 2023. Life is very different now, for sure, but I’m grateful for how prepared I was since I had the connection with Beth. I’ve since returned to competitive bodybuilding and I’m learning to run on my new prosthetic leg. I recently received my certification as an Adaptive and Inclusive fitness trainer and I’m excited to become a CPV myself with the Amputee Coalition so that I can help others the way Beth helped me. Thank you AC!
Hear more from Tracey in a recent podcast episode on The Fitzness Show, “Why Tracey Gariepy Amputated Her Leg So She Could Run.”
If you are interested in speaking to someone with an amputation, you can request a peer visit on our website. Learn more about how to become a volunteer CPV and use your experiences to support others on their journey.