As told to Leah Casey
“Not again,” I think as I feel the toes of my prosthetic foot curl under and break during a pick up game of basketball. I limp to the sidelines of our freshman dorm court, trying to hide the amount of discomfort and pain that I am in. I take a seat on the rough, hot asphalt and assess the damage- there is no doubt that this is a break. Disappointed, embarrassed, and nervous, I reflect on how this always seems to happen. People break bones all the time, I suppose, but the difference is that when I break my foot, I am breaking my custom-made, prosthetic limb.
When I was three, an accident with a lawn mower resulted in the removal of my left foot from the ankle down. Life with a prosthesis is just what I have come to know. It has been such a big part of me that I hope to become a prosthesis doctor myself one day. I have had the same life experiences that any two-footed, eighteen-year-old has had. I dominated my high school basketball and baseball teams, led volunteer groups in my church, and went through the same stressful period of decisions at the end of high school that anyone else has had. This foot has never even come close to slowing me down. Well, except for a few small exceptions when I push my body a little too far.
My foot always has a way of making me slow down and check myself at the worst moments. A few years back I was getting ready for my first church camp and so excited for the fun week I had ahead of me. When I should have been leaving with all the other kids, I instead found myself crying with embarrassment and disappointment after a pick-up game left me with a broken limb. Another time, a risky flip on my neighbor’s trampoline, and the inevitable bad landing, resulted in an awkward limp back to my house. The list of misfortunate times with my foot just goes on.
Each time I need a repair to my prosthesis, it entails two, three-hour round trips all the way to Toledo to see my specialist. My doctor has made my experience easy and enjoyable, but it’s such a hassle to live so far from him. After evaluating the damage, he usually has to send my prosthetic foot off for fixing. In about a week, I’ll be back for my refitting. Despite the hours of driving and tons of lengthy appointments, my mom and dad never complain when I push it a little too far and find myself needing their assistance again. This is such a reoccurring event, in fact, that my doctor has started keeping an extra prosthesis on hand at his office to speed up my repair.
These hindrances may be frustrating, but they have taught me patience and rounded me into a strong, flexible person. I love to tell people that I’m not afraid of anything. I live my life believing that there are only two ways that decisions are made: in love and in fear. Keeping this in mind, I try to live basing my choices only on love. Secretly, I am only afraid of one thing in life, and this is the fear of missed opportunities. Usually missed opportunities to help others or to make a positive impact on another person’s life, but I also fear allowing my disability to limit my experiences and the amount of chances I take.
So, as I find myself on the court sidelines with a broken prosthesis on welcome weekend of my freshman year of college, I realize that I have a choice to make. How will I let this obstruction affect the beginning of this new chapter? Will I live in fear? Coming to Ohio Northern was really a no-brainer; my family lives fifteen minutes out of town and my dad works in the tech department. While I sit, broken and defeated, for the first time I question if I have what it takes to leave my small town high school and succeed in the real world.
I am about to start my first year at Ohio Northern University as a biology major. My end goal is medical school. I want to become a prosthetics specialist in hopes of helping give kids the same great support that my doctor gave to me. I would also like to be more local or even have different offices to save kids from making the long drives I’ve endured all these years. I want to teach children who go through similar accidents or the loss of a limb not to live in fear, even if it sometimes means broken prosthetics or frequent repairs. I want to remind them to jump on trampolines, join sports teams and to experience the world without hesitation or apprehension because our prosthetic limbs don’t need to slow us down.
With these aspirations in mind, I pick myself up from the sidelines. I have overcome and thrived in much more challenging situations, and I will get past this one, too. Once again, I will choose love over fear and keep moving forward for myself and for the future children that I am here to help. These next four years may be a challenge, but I have faith that my choices thus far have put me on the right path and that my choice to live through love will pay off.
This story originally appeared in Facing Our Futures Beyond High School, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.