Paralympians Discuss Personal Experiences With Amputations During Limb Loss Awareness Month

By U.S. Paralympics | April 22, 2019, 12:50 p.m. (ET)

In honor of April marking Limb Loss Awareness Month, U.S. Paralympics asked athletes to discuss the positive impacts of losing a limb or multiple limbs, and how it opened up new opportunities for them in Paralympic sport. The Amputee Coalition of America estimates that there are over two million amputees just in the United States, and that the amputee population will increase to 3.6 million by the year 2050. Take a look at how losing a limb has affected two Paralympians in the United States:

James Stuck: sitting volleyball

James Stuck competes on behalf of the United States at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

I was struck with a roadside bomb in Iraq during my military tour in 2005. My right leg had been severely damaged below the knee and there was extensive vascular damage. 

When I woke up in Germany, I found that my leg had been amputated below the knee. I cried, mourning the loss of my leg. I was only 22 and a very active and athletic person. Shortly thereafter, I realized this would be my new life and welcomed the challenges ahead. I then embarked on this journey and have had to push myself harder than I ever had prior to my injury. 

After I came to accept my new life as an amputee, the sky was the limit. I have been able to play a sport that I love and travel the world while doing so. I have gotten married and have three crazy fun boys. My military experience, amputation, drive and sport have also given me the opportunity to help other amputees see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Brittani Coury: snowboarding

Brittani Coury competes at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

I’ve been a below-the-knee amputee since June of 2011. Before my amputation, I was snowboarding in excruciating amounts of pain. After the amputation, I got to enjoy snowboarding, pushing my limits with the gratitude of being out in the mountains shredding the slopes.

 

I ride with able-bodied boardercross racers now, and they have forced me to ride faster, steeper, and more challenging terrain. The comradery our team has is like nothing else I’ve experienced. I've been given a second chance to do what I love, snowboard, and I’m savoring the ability to be on a board again as a Paralympian. When I’m standing on the top of a mountain, shredding powder, or racing for Team USA, I look out and breathe it all in, knowing that my decision to amputate was the right one.

 

Snowboarding is what caused my injury that led to amputation, and this decision motivated me to become a nurse; now, nursing is what allows me to snowboard full-time during the winter. I’ve learned that life can come full circle with faith and trust.  My accident has changed my perspective and given me the ability to have my faith, allowing me to live in the moment and know that I’m right where I need to be. My personal mission statement is that medals come and go, but if I can impact one person's life in a positive way, it was worth it. I want my nieces and nephew to chase their dreams no matter how big, bold, or far-fetched they may be.