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Amy Purdy: Despite Setbacks, She’s Found a Path to Success

Paralympian and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Amy Purdy found her passion at the age of 15. “I remember seeing a bunch of snowboarders having so much fun, and telling my dad I want to try snowboarding.” Her love for the sport led her to pursue a massage therapy career to have the flexibility to snowboard off-hours. “Obviously,” she says, “things don’t always go as planned.”

Sudden changes

“One day I started to feel a little bit sick,” she recalls. “Within 24 hours I was in the hospital, on life support and given a two-percent chance to live.” Purdy had been struck by Neisseria meningitidis, a type of bacteria that causes meningitis. Purdy lost her spleen, the hearing in her left ear, kidney function and both of her legs due to septic shock. 

What pulled her through was snowboarding. “I was so passionate about it that I was determined to learn to snowboard with prosthetic legs.” Because there was no equipment for amputees to use for snowboarding, Purdy pushed to create her own. “I think the passion for snowboarding and the challenge of figuring it out have been my biggest motivator.”

During this time, Purdy received a kidney transplant from her father. Though she was nervous about taking immunosuppressant drugs, the operation went smoothly. “Three months later I won a bronze medal in a snowboard competition,” she says. “I was ready to get back to living my life.”

Inspiring others

She definitely has. In 2005, she and her husband Daniel Gale founded Adaptive Action Sports to create outdoor adventure opportunities for people with physical disabilities and wounded veterans. “When I’m not snowboarding, traveling, and speaking, I’m working on AAS so others can follow their passions as well,” she says. “Our circumstances don’t determine who we are and what kind of life we will lead – our choices and our passion for life are what determine the quality of life we live.”

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