22 February 2018
Written by Becky Parry
To mark the start of next months Winter Paralympics, we’re sharing the story of Amy Purdy, the American Snowboarding legend and inspirational meningitis survivor.
Amy began snowboarding when she was 15 years old. At age 19, she was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis and sepsis. When she arrived at the hospital, she was put into an induced coma and given a less than 2% chance of survival. After losing both of her legs below the knee, her spleen, her hearing in her left ear and both of her kidneys, she left the hospital and returned home.
“That day, I went home, I crawled into bed and this is what my life looked like for the next few months. Me passed out, escaping from reality with my legs resting by my side. I was absolutely, physically and emotionally broken. But I knew that in order to move forward, I had to let go of the old Amy and learn to embrace the new Amy.”
(Taken from the transcript of Amy’s Ted Talk, Living Beyond Limits.)
Just 7 months after her amputations, Amy decided that she would challenge herself to move on with her life. She started snowboarding again, and a year after her legs were amputated, she took part in a competition where she placed third. She received a grant from the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), and as a result, took part in a number of snowboarding competitions in the USA. Amy is now a three-time para-snowboarding World Champion, a 2014 Sochi Paralympic Bronze medallist, and the only double-leg amputee Snowboarder competing at elite world-class level.
But Amy’s incredible achievements don’t end there; in 2005, she co-founded a not-for-profit organisation, Adaptive Action Sports, which helps those with permanent disabilities get involved in action sports. Amy was also instrumental in the campaign for snowboarding to be added to the Winter Paralympic Games, which became a reality in 2014.
In 2011, Amy gave an inspirational TED-talk titled Living Beyond Limits. In her talk, Amy shares her meningitis story and how ‘broken’ the disease left her. She then explains how she was eventually able to ‘embrace the new Amy’ and regain control of her own life.
“Instead of looking at our challenges and limitations as something negative or bad, we can begin to look at them as blessings, magnificent gifts that can be used to ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever knew we could go.”
(Taken from the transcript of Amy’s Ted Talk, Living Beyond Limits.
Learn more about Amy from her website.
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Becky works at CoMO's Head Office in the UK and provides communications, event and administrative support. She studied Philosophy at the University of Sussex and has a Masters in Human Rights. Becky has a background in international development and has worked for a variety of charitable organisations throughout her career.