Amy Purdy’s road to becoming a champion snowboarder makes for an unlikely story. For a start, she grew up in the Las Vegas desert – not an ideal training ground for winter sports.
She dreamt of living in a place where it snowed and at the age of 19, the day after she graduated high school, Amy moved to a ski resort and got a job.
“For the first time in my life I felt free, independent and completely in control of my life. That is, until my life took a detour.”
She went home from work early one day complaining of flu symptoms. Less than 24 hours later she was in hospital on life support “with less than a 2% chance of living”.
“It wasn’t until days later, as I lay in a coma, that the doctors diagnosed me with bacterial meningitis – a vaccine-preventable blood infection.”
She lost her spleen, her kidneys, the hearing in her left ear and both of her legs below the knee.
Eventually, once she had recovered from the initial trauma, Amy’s parents took out of hospital in a wheelchair and brought her home.
She thought the worst was over until weeks later when she saw her new legs for the first time: the calves were bulky blocks of metal with pipes bolted together for ankles, and yellow rubber feet at the end.
In tears, Amy strapped on her new legs and stood up. “All I could think was ‘How can I travel the world in these things?'”
And she wondered whether she would ever snowboard again.
Watch Amy’s incredible TED talk which has attracted almost 1,000,000 views
“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.”
Four months later she was back on a snowboard. Her knees and ankles wouldn’t bend and her efforts to live a normal life often brought drama, tears and laughter – skip to 5 minutes 50 seconds to hear how she inadvertently traumatised other skiers!
Amy’s father donated one of his kidneys to her, giving her even more freedom to pursue her dreams on the ski slopes. She then helped to design a pair of feet that she could snow-board in.
Never one to sit still, she embarked on charity work and trained intensively. Amy went on to win two back-to-back World Cup gold medals.
She even learned to dance again – appearing on US television series Dancing with the Stars.