Words by Jill Webster
Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the fluid in a person's spinal cord and brain fluid that is relatively rare in the United States. People who are infected with this type of bacteria, however, often see dire and sometimes fatal symptoms. At 19, Amy Purdy, a competitive snowboarder all throughout the high school, contracted this. She became so ill that her body began pulling the blood from her extremities in order to salvage her major internal organs. After being admitted to the hospital with a 2% chance of living and being put in an induced coma, Amy woke up to the doctors informing her that they would have to amputate both of her legs below the knee. "I never cried," says Amy. "My parents did, but I didn't. When you have no other choice, you just have to suck it up, you know?" Amy was determined to continue her active lifestyle and just four months after receiving her first pair of prosthetic legs and seven months after she was released from the hospital) she was back up on a snowboard. After a much-needed kidney transplant, she went on to compete in USASA national snowboard competitions and won three medals. At this point, Amy remembers that she was "ready to get back up on my feet." Since her infection, she resumed her life as a jack-of-all-trades of sorts. She landed the lead role in the independent film What's Bugging Seth, went back to school in order to pursue a job in make-up and skin care, and has been working with Element skateboards to develop a signature skateboard and denim line. "I really just want to be the best version of myself that I can be and to challenge myself artistically and physically." Her passion for extreme sports has inspired her to begin public speaking to help motivate others and in 2--5 she and boyfriend Daniel Gale, a fellow snowboarder and skateboarder, founded adaptive Action Sports. This organization originally began as a resource center, after Amy searched the internet and talked to dozens of doctors, rehabilitation centers and leg manufacturers - none of whom could help her get back into doing the sport she loved. After the AAS website launch in 2005, they received a huge response from people who were inspired by Amy's tenacity and determination to do what she loved most. "Now we're starting to reach out more to kids, helping youths with disabilities get into sports." AAS began hosting adaptive sports camps and clinics and this past year they organized the first adaptive snowboarding world championships. "With the athletes we work with, and with myself... I think everybody has disabilities. Every single person has challenges and everyone has obstacles to overcome," Amy says. "Mine might be more visible than others, but most people's disabilities are in our own minds, just by the way we limit ourselves and think we can't do something or think we're not good enough to do something. I think you can be more disabled mentally than physically sometimes. I think it's just important that people don't let their minds be their biggest disabilities."
Enabled is a project about disable action sports athletes who step beyond their perceived limitations, to show us how being "disabled" is a state of mind. The goal is to reach out to both disabled and able-bodied individuals, including those who have an interest in photography, and action sports. These stories will positively impact, and deliver encouragement to the disabled community as a whole. The project will be broken down into a documentary, traveling art show, book, and television episode
We are currently pursuing funding to complete, and produce the final outcome of "Enabled." If you are an art director, producer, TV network, magazine, etc., please contact firstname.lastname@example.org . The above photos have been cropped for preview. To view the complete collection of photos please request a link to the online portfolio.