On June 27, 2006, my life was forever changed. I suffered a bilateral Vertebral Dissection; a Stroke. The clot split and moved through the right and left hemisphere of my brain and lodged in the brain stem. The clot caused damaged to the areas of the brain that control body functions such as movement, blood pressure, eye movements, swallowing and speech. Progress, if any, was far from certain.
For 3 weeks leading up to the actual stroke I was experiencing headaches, severe neck and shoulder pain. I was seen by my primary physician 3 times and a trip to the local emergency room, all of which I was quickly sent home with the no definitive diagnosis. As the days progressed the pain became debilitating.
I woke that morning with the worst headache of my life. I struggled to get up to take a drink and was unable to swallow. I took a few steps and found myself on the floor unable to move. I crawled to my cell phone and dialed 911. I was unable to communicate in any way with the EMT; their frustration grew as did mine. I tried desperately to get them to understand what was happening. Later I was told that my words were barely audible, slurred and incomprehensible. By the time we arrived to the emergency room I was vomiting a coffee ground substance, the right side of my face had drooped and it became clear that I was critically ill. The doctors and nurses frantically worked on my body, but did not speak to me. They turned their attention to my 15 year old daughter who was alone by my side and told her to call the family, “Your mother is not going to make it through the night.” I wanted desperately to comfort her. I tried to talk. I tried to move. I tried to scream. Nothing happened.
I was living a nightmare - totally awake and aware, yet trapped in my body. No one knew that I was still able to understand everything that was going on around me and yes, to feel pain. The doctors ordered an NG tube, IV's, and a catheter. All placed without communication to me, the patient. I was tossed around like a rag doll. I did understand two very important things: I was in serious trouble and I had to find a way to communicate with the outside world in order to survive.
My life was literally defined moment by moment. The love of family, friends and my faith is what has brought me through this experience. My daughter spent every day, all day at the hospital by my bedside, insisting that I could make progress from what seemed an impossible condition. She focused her time on keeping my spirits up; helping me reclaim my independence and helping me become closer to the Lord. When the day seemed unbearable she would climb into the bed and read the Bible to me. Her dear friend, now husband, would come to the hospital and play his guitar and worship to me. My twin brother and his family took on the monumental task of moving me from my home, taking care of my bills, setting up home care if/when I was discharged and ensuring that I had a family member by my side at all times. Other family members stayed with me through the night so I was not alone. I also had an angel by my side in the form of a Certified Nursing Assistant. Knowing that I was unable to move or communicate, she sat on the edge of my bed and shaved my legs. “I would go crazy with my legs like this and I know you must be too.” That simple act was enormously restorative to my spirit.
My progress started with baby steps. I focused on little goals and not the big picture. I asked God to give me the strength to get me through what I had to face each day. I could not allow myself to look back on what I'd lost or even worry about the future. Months later, my focus and determination paid off. I had recovered enough to leave the hospital and move in with my brother and his family; PEG tube in place; we were going home.
It can take years to recover ... and maybe even a lifetime. We will have to put forth extraordinary effort to do the simplest, most basic things. And, as most of us have to realize, we will have to compromise and adjust our expectations more than once. What once seemed so important and meaningful before has little or no relevance now. Life is elastic, just like our re-forming brain.
I would not give back my stroke, even if I could; even with my continued deficits and fading memory. Why? Because of the things I've learned, the people I've met and the way I now look at the world…. every day as a gift!
I AM A RESIDENT OF PEACHTREE CITY SINCE 1984 SUFFERS FROM THE MOST RARE DEBILITATING DISEASE KNOWN TO MEDICINE: FIBRODYSPLASIA OSSIFICANS PROGRESSIVA MUSCLES, LIGAMENTS, TENDONS TURN TO BONE IMMOBILIZING THE BODY TURNING ONE TO A HUMANE STATUE. JUST 1 OF 700 CASES WORLDWIDE. MISDIAGNOSED AT 3, SUFFERED A NEEDLESS ARM/SHOULDER AMPUTATION. IS A MEMBER OF THE IFOPA-INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION THAT MAINTAINS, SUPPORTS RESEARCH FOR THE CURE SINCE THE GENE DISCOVERY IN 2006. CURE FOP!
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My name is Whitney. I'm originally from the Sunshine State, but currently living in Denver. I moved to Denver in early 2013 when I received a job in my career field, orthotics and prosthetics. I've gotten the chance to work with a few amazing companies, including the manufacturers of my prosthetic knee joint, the Power Knee. Last year I climbed the Willis Tower (103 flights) in 50 minutes! I'm a Girl Scout troop leader, Treasurer of the non-profit LIM359 and an active member in other organizations such as One Arm Dove Hunt and Nubability. I love volunteering and staying involved in the disability community. I live by the saying, "Don't Cope, Conquer."
Love you Tommy!!
My name is De An Dickinson, I'm 49 years old, Pueblo Native and I have been divorced for 24 years. I have a 26 year old son named BreKen.
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2011 and subsequently had a double mastectomy on 11-11-11. I also received chemo infusions in Denver every 21 days, endured 5 surgeries and a blood transfusion, all in just one year. This proved to be quite difficult, as I live in Pueblo and would commute for medical care and treatments to Denver Colorado.
To hear a cancer diagnosis in my early forties is definitely devastating. Even more devastating was knowing my son was a senior year in high school at the time of my diagnosis. I had to stay strong, keep my head up, continue to work and act like I did not have an illness especially one as serious as cancer. I purchased my home in 2000 and did not want to risk losing my home during the time of my illness, so I worked as much as I could, sometimes working up to 3 jobs. This enabled me to pay off my all of my cancer treatment bills by 2017.
This diagnosis lit a fire within me, I remember dreaming as a teenager of becoming a body builder. I had always gone to the gym but this time was different. I wanted to be the best version of myself and get on stage. I worked out 2 times a day and 15 weeks later did my first Muscle Mania, Denver CO show. Since that day I have done 4 more.
Just when I thought my life was back to normal…………
November 28th, 2018 started out like most mornings. I went to the gym for my daily work out, and returned to get ready for my usual work day. While showering, I discovered a new mass in my right armpit. Right then, I knew exactly what I had just discovered and fell to my knees. I was quickly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer again.
WOW, is all I can say. The big, dark and gloomy cloud that loomed over me and my destiny. I
Would now have several more surgeries in Denver and in Pueblo for a total of 25. I also did
Daily radiation in Colorado Springs every morning by 800 am so I could be at my morning huddle by 900 to not miss a day of work. You know that old school work ethic that the old times instilled into their families? Ya that one, the one we rarely see. I still worked 3 jobs. I was a Business office manager for a nursing home, a book-keeper for a man that owned 3 businesses and a model for So. Co. Indian Motorcycles.
As I sat back,I remembered that old fire that drive that helped me get through my first battle.
Yup you may have guessed it. Training for a show. I began the two a day workouts with my son and trained for the Pueblo NPC Steel show. I took daily chemo which makes you very sick daily rather than the first time where I took it every 21 days. I did still go to Denver every 21 days for
Infusions also. So I will share with you my desire to live with pictures and that good old school work ethic that keeps a soul alive and living.
I refuse to let an outside item bring me down. My motto in 2012 was xoxo tougher than cancer, my motto for 2019 and now is I have cancer it DOES NOT have me!
EDS Ehlers Danlos-Hypermobility Syndrome is an uncommon disorder. In fact, I was diagnosed late in life. It is where your collagen is defective; collagen makes up 80% of the body. EDS will affect everyone differently and there are different forms, although many who are diagnosed with EDS have similar symptoms. As a child I was always in an out of the hospital for various reasons. I had scoliosis, stomach issues, exhaustion, heart palpitations, joint subluxations, unexplained bruising (brought on a lot of questions) plus many other symptoms. I was always hypermobile, and people would point out my flexibility or comment that I stood weird or my “bendy” arms were “gross”. My thumbs flip backwards (hitch-hiker thumb) and I recently had full reconstructive surgery on my thumb joint, because it was out-of-socket for so many years it damaged it beyond repair. My other thumb is the same way, but I lost a lot of use of that hand so I’m hesitant to get surgery again. All of my joints move out of socket easily, resistance to local anesthesia, low blood pressure, arthritis and so much more. I had to change careers because I could no longer be of value at my last career choice (dentistry), I couldn’t hold instruments long enough for the lengthy procedures. That brought on some depression issues. Because I look healthy, most people do not realize that EDS sufferers have pain and exhaustion daily, I have found things to manage my condition. I use weights to keep my muscles tight, I do exercise regularly, drink lots of water and keep active. I don’t want EDS to define or change my LOVE for LIFE. Please search out EDS support groups. There are many of us out there and you are definitely not alone.
In 2014 I was involved in an incident resulting in the loss of my legs. Now, four years on from that fateful
night my goals include uniting the community with the outdoors, advocating for amputees, veterans and those suffering with PTSD, Depression, Anxiety and simply reminding people that they are also
capable of anything they set their mind to. On April 23rd, 2018, I climbed the famous Manitou Incline consisting of 2,744 steps, gaining 2,000 feet of elevation in just under a
On June 10th, 2018 I not only turned 25 years old, but I went all the way to the top of Pikes Peak using only my hands and rear.
On December 9th, 2018 I skydived by myself. I became the first bi-lateral above knee amputee to solo static line jump in the world.
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Katherine Ragazzino joined the Marines 18 months after graduating high school. She initially worked in Administration, but became a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor, proficient in both lethal and non-lethal tactics, who trained and deployed with Special Operation Capable Units. Ms. Ragazzino also became a Camp Pendleton Range Inspector.
Ms. Ragazzino was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. While in Iraq in 2004, she sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that dramatically affected her life. Though she did her best to overcome both cognitive and physical impairments, Ms. Ragazzino’s injury proved to be serious and long-lasting.
In December 2007, Ms. Ragazzino was transferred to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. At Balboa Hospital, she was placed in the Comprehensive Combat Casualty Care Center (C5) to help her with the brain injury and post-traumatic stress. For a year and a half, Ms. Ragazzino lived on hospital grounds with injured Marines and other service members as she received daily treatment. In June 2009, she was Honorably Discharged and Medically Retired from the Marines.
While Ms. Ragazzino was receiving treatment at the Naval Medical Center, the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund Organization reached out to her; she became a core member on Team Semper Fi and was given the opportunity to go on an expedition to Nepal in 2010 with Soldiers To Summits. This amazing opportunity changed her life in a spiritual way that she had never felt before. This journey of change was filmed, and the documentary “High Ground” was released in early 2012.
Upon her return, many ongoing circumstances lead Katherine and her service dog to become homeless for close to a year. She lived in her car with her dog, Daisy. It is because of the Semper Fi Fund and their supporters, however, that she is thriving today. While with the Semper Fi Fund, she was introduced to Friends of Firefighters, who became her host organization, through The Mission Continues.
Friends of Firefighters is dedicated to addressing the physical, mental health and wellness needs of New York City’s firefighters and their families. Their ongoing mission is to provide long-term support and services through confidential counseling, wellness services and other assistance required by firefighters and their families. Ms. Ragazzino opens the door to further awareness and bridges the two communities of military and civilian together, making mental health services more palatable and, therefore, more accessible to the firefighters.
My leg was amputated below the knee when I was 2 years old because of fibular hemimelia (no fibular bone) and a substantial leg length discrepancy. I grew up playing soccer, t-ball, and volleyball on an old SACH foot. My dad was in the air force, so I had lived in about 9 different houses in 3 different states by the time I started 6th grade. I was pretty good at being the new girl in school and answering questions about my prosthesis. I was known as a jokester in school because my friends and I were constantly using my leg to play jokes on other students and professors. I’ve always believed that a good sense of humor is one of the most important qualities a person can have. I started riding horses when I was 9 years old and competed in 3-day eventing until I went to college in Virginia, where I rode on the school’s dressage team for 2 years. During the 4 years I lived in the D.C. area, I volunteered with a therapeutic horseback riding program every Saturday morning and sat on the board of directors for the statewide association. When I moved to Denver, I had a gap that needed to be filled since I was no longer serving on a board or volunteering. To fill that gap, I teamed up with 3 of my friends to start LIM359 in June of 2013 and I’m currently serving as the Board President. LIM359 stands for “living in motion 359 days a year” and is an activities-based support group for people who have lost or are at risk of losing a limb (or limbs). Our mission is to get people out trying new things in a safe environment with other people who have gone through limb loss. In March of 2013, I got my first running leg and I’m currently training for my first half marathon at the beginning of April. I run with Achilles International-Colorado every Monday night and I’m an Ambassador/NSCD-Liaison for the Caolfax Marathon race series. I graduated from George Mason School of Law in December of 2013 and I’m hoping to practice disability rights law once I pass the bar. I live in Denver with my husband and two cats. I enjoy hiking, cycling, running, yoga, rock climbing, horseback riding, crafting, camping, photography, good beer, great friends, bonfires, reading, writing, and just enjoying life in general.
I was born and raised in Odessa, Texas but knew even from a young age that I would never be content to stay. I graduated from Odessa Permian High School in 2002. It was one of the happiest days of my life because I was so excited to go off to college. I moved to San Marcos that fall and started at Texas State University (then Southwest Texas State.) Met my husband in 2004 and got my BA in Sociology in 2005 and my Masters in Social Work in 2007. I always loved school. I was hired at a psychiatric hospital in Austin a month after graduation where I worked for four years as an inpatient social worker on the adult unit. I worked with adults with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction and various other psychiatric issues. I love working in mental health. It's intense, fascinating and rewarding, albeit often in a way that can be emotionally draining. It's really no surprise I ended up in a helping profession. As a kid, I always pleaded with my parents to send money to whatever cause I had just seen a commercial for and would be crestfallen when they (rightly) informed me that it's not always feasible to indiscriminately give to every cause out there. Aaron and I married in 2008 and adopted the four - legged love of our lives, a shelter mutt we named Heartly because she truly won our hearts. In 2011, my facility expanded its outpatient program and I moved into the position I am in now. I run a therapy group for adults with depression and anxiety. So rewarding. I really believe in the power of a therapeutic group to heal and I get to see people start to rebuild their lives after they've fallen apart. I've also learned that things like shame, insecurity and feeling not good enough are universal even though when we feel those things, we assume we are alone. I'm currently working toward applying for a PhD program in Social Work. I love school. I always said I would be a professional student if I could. My other passion is travel. I want to visit at least one country on each continent before I die. Reportedly, there is a small window of time in which visiting Antarctica is possible, sailing from Chile. So yes, even Antarctica. I even fantasize about doing international relief work, specifically working with an organization like Amnesty International or UNICEF and rescuing girls from human trafficking situations or doing disaster mental health work. Oh yeah, I guess I should mention how I lost my arm, huh? Funny, it's such a tiny part of my identity that I often forget about it. I could never call myself disabled and I have never been into the victim role. I am a pediatric cancer survivor. I dealt with it from ages 14-16 and had my left arm amputated at 16. After that, I've been given a clean bill of health. It feels like another life ago to me.
I’m Bob Tessier and I have been an LAE for ten years. I live in Western Kentucky where I own a building contractor company and we are Distributors for Jim Barna Log and Timber Homes. I was a teacher in Florida before moving here. I also like to build furniture and hunting. I do some chainsaw carving when I find a piece of wood that has something hidden inside.
After my accident I was back on the job within two months, working and learning how to adapt and overcome the obstacles put in front of me. I was fitted with my first arm 3 months after the accident and have been wearing one ever since. I told the prosthetics guys that they better build it strong because I was going to test it. And I have over the last 10 years. My latest arm is a full blown myoelectric with the BeBionic hand and a Utah arm with powered elbow and wrist. I have had it close to 2 years with limited problems, except when I broke it, but it is starting to need a tune up or maybe a slight overhaul. I also have a full body powered arm which is my workhorse and a myo controlled hook with body powered elbow that is my backup arm. These have all come from the VA in Nashville Tn.
I was 52 at the time of my motorcycle wreck and I felt there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. At 47 years old I won an AAU international power lifting competition setting a world record for my age group and class. So when I woke up in the hospital and realized what had happened I had some adjusting to do. But the drive I had before has kept me pushing on to try to do more. Like most amps having to ask for help doing anything went against my core. As time has progressed that is easier to accept as I have realized that people aren’t looking down at me for needing help, I am helping them to learn to give more. Giving seems to be the one thing I see that God has blessed me with. I see this in the way that different groups of Amps reach out to each other and others. Maybe it is because we all have had someone care for us that we appreciate it more and want to give back. I keep searching for ways to give back.
I died four times on that day long ago and I decided there was two things I could do after that. I could laugh and live or cry and die. I choose laughing.
War on Lupus
My name is Stacey Fergerson. I was born in Texas but spent most of my time in Colorado. I am 26 years old, currently engaged and work a part-time job at a locally owned restaurant. I have no kids, and will not be able to (I will get to that with this story). I would like to share with you my own personal story of being diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I wouldn’t have included the other ailment if the story didn’t have some connection. But trust me, it does. Read More
My name is Tyler Throneberry I am 22 years old and attend college at Middle Tennessee State University majoring in psychology. At the age of 2I was mauled by three dogs in my backyard in Smyrna, Tennessee. I lost my left arm at the shoulder and I have facial trauma. Growing up I never saw myself as any different than anyone else. I started playing baseball at 5 and played all the way till Middle School where I started playing soccer and football. I also wrestled all 4 years of high school. To me, it's never saying that I can't do something, but figuring out how I can. Just last summer I started working towards my skydiving license with the help of Tommy. At 14 I spoke with the Tennessee legislature to strengthen dog leash laws and to strengthen penalties for owners who have dogs that have bitten someone. Don't get me wrong I still love dogs! I have a 3 year old husky named Loki. I believe that it's not the dog but the owners who can make them violent. My goal in life is to use my story to strengthen others with limb loss and to show them that they can do whatever they set their minds to. Feel free to add me on Facebook. facebook.com/tyler.throneberry.1
As I am sure you all know, life is full of obstacles and difficult decisions; but, at the end of the day, as we are relaxing with a glass of wine in hand we reflect back on those decisions and hope we made the right one.
Neurofibromatosis has always been a part of my life. But, I never really thought anything of it until my sophomore year of high school. At that point, all I knew about NF was that it was the reason I didn’t learn like the other kids. In elementary school, I got taken out of class to practice my coordination skills, I was put in a separate room to take tests, and teachers gave me supplemental work to do. I almost failed 5th grade. I struggled with math, or anything math related and reading comprehension. I hated learning. Luckily, I had a great teacher who installed a confidence in me that no other teacher cared to do. However, I still struggle with math and have difficulty in that aspect of my life.
I think we can all agree that being a freshman in high school is hard enough, let alone spending more than half of it on crutches. I had an extra bone in my foot and got it removed November of my freshmen year. I was on crutches until April. Once that had healed a very large plexiform neurofibroma began to grow in its place. In the beginning it didn’t really bother me. I still worked, went to the gym, hung out with my friends and did things teenagers do. However, it began to grow bigger and it got harder for me to put on socks and sneakers. The plexiform peaked over the side of my shoe like a giant blob. The kids at school began making comments, so I just wore pants all the time so no one could see it. I just thought how lucky I was that I was able to cover it. I told myself repeatedly that the other people who have these plexiforms have it so much worse than I do. “At least I can hide mine, so why am I complaining?”
Three years ago, I decided to have a debulking surgery to make the tumor smaller. At first, it seemed to help. It looked a little smaller, but not by much. Once that was healed, I again went back to my usual routine of gym, working, school. But not soon after the surgery I started experiencing a great deal of pain and discomfort along with a plexiform that seemed to have a mind of its own. It became harder to do everyday tasks. I was confined to Ugg boots and flip flops, I couldn’t go to the gym or go running, I had to cut back on my hours at work, it hurt to drive or sit still for more than 20 minutes. I just felt like so much had been taken away from me. In order to get the root of the problem, I went through PET scans and two biopsies. Those showed a change in the cells which was why I was having so many problems. The problem with plexiforms are that once the cells start changing, they can become cancerous.
Through many doctor visits, I decided, with the support of my doctor, friends and family, that amputation was going to give me the better quality of life. I would finally be able to live a pain free life. I could return to doing the things I love and be able to do things I’ve never been able to do, like wear those awesome heels.
Although, this is not a decision that I would have ever imagined making at 24. But, not for a second do I have any regrets, I just know how happy I will be down the road.
9 months later I am still very happy with my decision. I started back at the gym, I am back to waitressing, and doing an internship so I can finish school. I even started doing yoga! Overall, I feel like I am stronger now than I ever was before. Having a good support system was definitely crucial in my recovery. Becoming a part of the empowering amputee website was so helpful in more ways than one. It was nice to know that people were there to help me who have been where I was.
Unworthy is the unforgettable true story of murder, conspiracy and ultimately...redemption, as one woman struggles to overcome a lifetime marked by tragedy and betrayal at the hands of her own mother.
"I see people all the time that get stuck. I was one of those people. Picture one of those big mazes made from hedges in England and compare it to life. People get lost trying to find their way through, one dead end after another. So weary they just give up and think this is as good as it gets, or they don't deserve any better. I am living proof, that is a lie. Why was I ever born? What was it all for? I finally got my answer. For you... And you're worth it. Just the fact that you were born makes you priceless. I'm glad you're here. Come with me, I know the way. I know who Kim Wohlert is. I am.... worthy!"
You may purchase her book by clicking on the book below.