Friday, June 27, 2008

Scout Bassett: Succeeding in Life, One Step at a Time

Kids often ask Scout Bassett, of Palm Desert, California, if she wishes she had two normal legs. Bassett, 18, answers, “No. I have never known anything different, and it would seem weird to me. Besides, if it weren't for the missing leg, I wouldn't have the opportunities I have today!"

What she means is she has learned important lessons about overcoming big challenges to reach your goals. “When you are missing a leg, it teaches you to appreciate little things—like being able to walk and run," she says.

Scout has faced big challenges. Born in China, she was left at an orphanage before her first birthday suffering from terrible burns. Her right leg was especially damaged, and doctors amputated it above the knee.

She remembers being hungry all the time at the orphanage. As soon as she was old enough to get around, she was put to work mopping floors, feeding babies, and washing dishes.

And she had to do all that with an artificial leg that didn't work very well. “It was made of things you'd find in your garage," she recalls. “Belt straps, masking tape, nuts and bolts. It didn't feel very good, and clanked, and even fell off sometimes."

Then, when she was seven years old, a family in Michigan adopted her. Everything about her new life in the United States was better, including the improved artificial legs her parents got for her.

First she got a better leg for everyday activities. It was okay for some things, but she still couldn't play soccer or basketball.

When she was 14, she got a high-tech leg made for sports and put it to the test right away in a race for disabled athletes. “I remember being terrified because this was my first time," she says. “But my doctor said, ‘You have to start somewhere.'"

Scout was waiting nervously for the race to start when athlete Sarah Reinertsen came up and said, “I've been doing this for a while. Let me give you some tips."

Reinertsen, who lost her leg when she was seven, is the first woman amputee to finish the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. In the 2005 race, she swam 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) in the ocean, biked 112 miles (180 kilometers), and ran 26 miles (42 kilometers). She works with an organization called the Challenged Athletes Foundation to help support people like Scout.

Reinertsen's encouragement changed the teenager's life. She lost that first race, but gained the confidence that she needed to compete. If Sarah could do it, she could too.

Training hard, she improved her strength and skill step by step. She even took up golf and tennis, and by high school, she'd gotten good enough to be on the varsity teams.

Now living in California, Scout runs competitively and also finds time to share her story with school groups.

“There are days when I study until 1 a.m. and get up at five to swim and train, and it is tough," she explains. But she has a motto that keeps her going: “The task ahead of you is never greater than the strength inside you."

“Sometimes people look at someone like me or at Sarah and think they have nothing in common with us. I tell them that even if you aren't physically challenged, everybody has challenges of some kind—maybe with family, or homework, or friends."

“No matter what it is, you can overcome that obstacle," she says. “Everything you need is inside your heart. Take small steps. As time goes by, the steps will get bigger and you will reach your dream."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Amputee's breakdance showdown!

I am simply amazed at the incredible determination of individuals that show total committment to living thier lives to the fullest. When you create a vision for yourself no matter what the obstacles or challenges, you are able to create miracles that make a difference for yourself and everyone else thats looking for a little hope. Thank you to all of you who dare to be dreamers who make it a reality!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Amputees Get Mirrored Relief at Walter Reed

posted 2:59 pm Tue June 17, 2008 - WASHINGTON

Doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have found a new tool to help amputee patients lose what they call "phantom pain".

Every night Army Sergeant Dale Cherney feels the sensation of sharp pins where his right foot used to be. "There's a stabbing pain or spiking pain that goes from one to seven on a scale of 10, that's not fun."

Cherney lost his leg in Iraq (webnews) last fall and his phantom pain began immediately. Recently doctors at Walter Reed started him on a new treatment using a full-length mirror. It's placed between his legs so when dale looks down, it looks like he still has both limbs. Every day for 15 minutes, he looks at the reflected image of his intact foot while trying to move his amputated foot.

"When they see the limb moving and they try to move it, vision seems to be overriding any mixed signals that the brain is getting," said Associate Professor on Neurology, USUHS, Dr. Jack Tsao.

Every patient using the mirror therapy in clinical trials at Walter Reed have had reductions in phantom pain.

"So, not only is the therapy inexpensive, we're able to save money and get people off medicine they don't need to take," said Dr. Tsao.

Army Sergeant Nicholas Paupore saw results within a week. Before that, he'd suffered from phantom pain every single day. "It would rush from where my toes would be all the way up the back of my leg," he said, "from back of leg all the way down to missing foot."

Now, Paupore is off his medications and has very rarely experienced phantom pain. "It's a process you have to go through, if you're dedicated it does work."

Army Sergeant Dale Cherney hopes it will stop his phantom pain as well. "I'm willing to do anything, if it works, I'll do it."

Mirror therapy is also being used for arm amputees at Walter Reed. In addition, a clinical trial is underway for double-leg amputees who use another person's let to visualize their missing limbs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Paralympian April Holmes Transforms Tragedy into Triumph


April Holmes
On a cold, wintry January day in 2001, April Holmes’ life changed in the blink of an eye. One moment she was standing with her boyfriend on a train platform in Philadelphia waiting for a train to New York. The next minute she found herself lying underneath the 500-ton steel behemoth. Holmes has no memory of how she got there.

“I was on the platform trying to get on the train and before I knew it I was underneath the platform with the train actually resting on my leg. I do remember I was the last person to attempt to board the train. I remember it took them a few times to actually lift the train up and when that didn’t work then they tried to just back the train up,” she said. “I don’t know what happened. I just slipped on something and was underneath the platform and the train was on my leg.”

The next thing the Somerfield, N.J., native remembers is waking up in the hospital with the physician telling her that her left leg had been amputated below the knee.

A former high school track standout as a 400-meter state champion and collegiate All-American,

Holmes says the news that she had lost part of one of her legs was jolting.

“It was very difficult. I didn’t know anyone who had had their leg amputated. I didn’t know what life entailed for someone missing a limb. I remember loving track and basketball and one of the first things I said when I found out my leg had been amputated was ‘I’ll never be able to run or play basketball again,’” Holmes said.

The Bible says all things work together for good, and in the case of April Holmes, who says it was through a strong faith in God that she was able to endure, all things have worked for good.

Several days after her the operation to remove her leg, the doctor who performed the surgery gave Holmes several magazines about the Paralympic Games, a multi-sport event for athletes with physical, mental and sensorial disabilities, including mobility disabilities, amputees, visual disabilities and those with cerebral palsy.

“At first I thought he was crazy because I didn’t know anything about the Paralympics,” she said of the competition that is held every four years, following the Olympic Games, and is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

After a few conversations with the doctor and her sister, Holmes dared to dream. Two months after the accident, she received her walking leg. By April 2001, she was jogging on a treadmill. In April 2002, she entered her first Paralympic track and field competition.

Today, Holmes is the world’s fastest female amputee. She holds world records (women’s T44 classification) in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter dashes. In the 2006 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships in Atlanta, she shattered her own world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. At the 2006 IPC World Championships in Assen, Netherlands, Holmes put in gold winning performances in the 100-meter and 200-meter races. At the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, she brought home a bronze medal as she broke the American record for the long jump. This year she will represent the United States from Sept. 6-17 at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, where she is favored to bring home the gold.

Holmes’ track and field exploits have landed her a lucrative contract with basketball great Michael Jordan’s Jordan Brand, a division of NIKE Inc., because the brand touts itself as being “synonymous with style, grace, athleticism, and defying the odds of greatness and abilities.” Holmes, reportedly, is the first woman to be signed to the high-profile label that also boasts such stars as Utah Jazz forward Carmelo Anthony, the Boston Celtics’ Ray Allen, N. Y. Yankee Derek Jeter, Dallas Cowboys’ Terrell Owens, and the New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul.

Her performance on the field has also translated into celebrity off the field for the self-proclaimed loner. Holmes travels around the country sharing her life-changing experience with children, other amputees and soldiers returning from war.

“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be able to touch people’s lives and that to me is one of the most important things you can do in life. I appreciate the opportunity that I can go out and speak to kids, and go to hospitals to speak to people who have lost a limb. Also, there are a lot of war veterans who are coming back and have lost a limb. To be able to impart to them that there is life after amputation, that is the great thing I have been able to do,” she said.

Holmes was this year’s national spokesperson for Disability Insurance Awareness Month, which was held in May. According to the April Holmes Web site:

• 54 million Americans are physically disabled

• One of four children do not participate in elementary or secondary physical education programs

• 143 million Americans are family members of persons with disabilities

• 66 percent of Americans are disabled for more than six months of their life

• 3,000 people daily become amputees.

In response to these statistics, Holmes has established the April Holmes Foundation “to assist disabled individuals to reach their goals by encouraging them to rise above any obstacles that will give them an opportunity to develop to their full potential; thus, realizing that the opportunity of a challenge is rewarded with success.”

The foundation is currently holding an essay contest for the disabled. Participants should write a 230-word essay in response to the following question as it pertains to their level of disability: “If your Jordan shoes could talk the moment you put them on, what would they say about you? Where would they take you? Who would you inspire? What story would you tell?” The contest ends June 23.

What advice does Holmes offer, not just to the disabled, but to everyone?

“Keep dreaming and keep living. Everyone falls down at one time in your life, no matter where you are in life. No matter how much money you have, no matter where you came from, you fall down in life. And sometimes it can be a physical fall down and sometimes it can be a mental fall down. If you keep dreaming and keep faith, good things will happen to you,” she said.

For more information about April Holmes and her life-changing journey, the April Holmes Foundation and the essay contest, visit

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Amputees leave Tustin for cross-country bike ride

Four riders, all with at least one leg amputated, set off this morning toward New Jersey.
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TUSTIN – Four amputees left Tustin Monday morning on bicycles and headed to Tinton Falls, New Jersey – about 3,500 miles away – with plans to stop at hospitals and amputee support groups to provide inspiration. It's part of the seventh annual Amputees Across America bike ride. They are expected to reach Tinton Falls in early August.

A.J. Johnson, a double amputee, is filling in for Doc Milligan, who sustained a hip injury about a month ago and was unable to ride his bicycle. Johnson lost her second leg to infection last year and was in rehabilitation to learn to walk when she agreed to join the riders.

She plans to learn to ride as the group travels.

"I'll try every day and every day I get closer," said Johnson, 31.

"One day I will hit it and be gone," she said of catching the second bicycle pedal. "I do what I can do and I think that's a good message to get out to anybody."

Green, white and magenta balloons framed the podium as the four Amputees Across America riders spoke about their inspiration for the ride and prepared for their journey during a ceremony at the HealthSouth Tustin Rehabilitation Hospital on Yorba Street.

Tustin Councilman Tony Kawashima presented a certificate of appreciation to the riders. About 50 people filled the hospital during the ceremony.

Paige Looney, a 13-year-old who has had both her legs amputated, has been joining the send-off for seven years. This year, Johnson and riders Joe Sapere, Abel Cruz and Lukas Myers gave her a pink Amputees Across America hat and made her an honorary rider.

As they travel across the nation, Looney keeps in touch with them through e-mail. One day, she plans to ride with them.

"They are my favorite guys because I help them a lot," she said with a smile. "They are the best guys. They're just like me."

Sapere formed Amputees Across America in 2002 with HealthSouth Corp. to inspire people. Riders will stop at 26 HealthSouth Rehabilitation Centers, including southern Arizona, central Kentucky and New York. The ride starts in Tustin because, said spokeswoman Lee Fallon, Tustin is centrally located. The other California HealthSouth hospital is in Bakersfield.

Myers, 19, joined the group after his leg had been amputated in 2002. The Amputees Across America visited the Colorado Springs area during the 2003 ride.

"Their attitude on life and hearing their stories and what they do, it changes your attitude," Myers said.


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