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How Amputees Are Inspiring The Mainstream Media

2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor and double amputee, Adrianne Haslet. — AP photo


Over the past decade, the emergence of disability rights awareness has led to an increased presence of amputees in mainstream media. The portrayals focus as much, if not more, on the possibilities of living with a prosthesis rather than the limitations.

For example, in May, a Marine Corps veteran who lost his leg in Iraq became the first combat amputee to reach the top of Mount Everest. In an interview with USA TODAY, Thomas Charles “Charlie” Linville, who served as a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, said that reaching the top of the world’s tallest mountain would “show people that no, don’t you have pity for disabled veterans because we’re capable of so much more than you think.”

In April, two survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings returned to cross the finish line as amputees. Patrick Downes and Adrianne Haslet ran the race using prosthetic limbs in the mobility-impaired division of the well-known US marathon.

Haslet, a professional ballroom dancer who was watching the race in 2013 when the bombs went off, received a prosthetic leg so she could continue to dance. Before the 2016 race, Haslet told the Associated Press, “A lot of people think about the finish line. I think about the start line.”

There seems to be a message that’s gaining exposure in the American mainstream media about strong and inspiring people with prosthetics. On television, amputees have been featured on popular shows such as The Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, and American Ninja Warrior, to name a few.

American Ninja Warrior—the strenuous agility and obstacle based competition—has featured several amazing athletes with prosthetic limbs, such as Artis Thompson III, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, and Zach Gowen, who lost his leg to cancer as a child.

Double amputee Amy Purdy, whose legs were amputated at 19 after a nearly fatal meningitis infection, has graced several media outlets as a Paralympic snowboarder, a finalist on Dancing With The Stars, a participant in The Amazing Race, a model in a Madonna music video, and in 2015 was featured in a Super Bowl ad for the Toyota Camry with a voiceover of Muhammad Ali’s “How Great I Am” speech.

Closer to home, another double amputee—Shaun Meadows, of Lynnville, Tennessee—has become a source of pride and inspiration for other amputees and thousands of Americans.

Meadows joined the military, after September 11, 2001, and became an elite Sergeant. But just a year into his deployment, his lost both legs above the knees in an explosion. Today, he remains a reserve deputy with the Giles County Sheriff’s Department, and is the first active duty double amputee in Air Force history to successfully perform a parachute drop.

But Meadows claims that his greatest achievement is keeping up with his son. “I got an 11-year-old running me ragged. I have to stay with him,” he says. Meadows has six different pairs of prosthetic legs for various purposes, including a pair that puts him at eye level with his son for horsing around.

Meadows says, “You get your card dealt, you figure it out and keep moving along.” Whether amputees lose limbs through combat, accidents, or illnesses, perhaps it’s this demonstration of human spirit that is increasingly inspiring Americans and the mainstream media. Perhaps people who are living—and thriving—with prosthetics are encouraging us all to take notice of what’s possible.

As Knoxville resident and Premier Surgical Prosthetic Center patient John Gardner, who is training for the 2018 Boston Marathon says, “I’ve had many failures, but I keep going. Amputees don’t need to hide in the shadows. I say get out there and show your metal! It’s important to get out and meet positive role models and move. Just keep moving.”

Premier Surgical Prosthetic Center patients partner with a physician and a prosthetist to accomplish a common goal – restored vitality. We offer patients in Knoxville and surrounding East Tennessee communities the latest in prosthetic technology to achieve their vitality goals, whether those be living independently at home, spending quality time with grandchildren, or pursuing sports interests. For more information, call Premier Surgical Prosthetic Center in Knoxville at (865) 474-7096 or schedule a free consultation online.


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