Living Beyond Our Limits


If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?

That’s the way Amy Purdy opened her 2011 TEDxOrangeCoast talk. And, it’s fitting for one with such an amazing story.

Marines excel in cycling at 2012 Warrior Games (Image 13 of 13)

Marine prepares for 2012 Warrior Games cycling competition.

At age 19, she was taken to the emergency room suffering from flu-like symptoms. She was in septic shock. Her condition quickly worsened as she was put onto life support and given less then a 2% chance to live. While lying in a coma a number of days later, she was finally diagnosed: bacterial meningitis, a vaccine-preventable blood infection. It took its terrible toll over 10 weeks, taking her spleen, kidneys, the hearing in her left ear and both legs below the knee. Luckily, before it was too late, circulation returned to her other extremities, meaning they wouldn’t have to be amputated, as well.

However, with the arrival of her artificial legs, what remained of her fragile dreams was crushed. The prosthetics were painful and confining. Her dreamed of the adventurous life full of stories and snowboarding were now but an impossible dream.

I was absolutely physically and emotionally broken.
Amy Purdy

She then decided in order to move forward, she needed to let go of the old Amy and embrace the new Amy. It was the only way. She then started to see things in a whole new light, and the tragedy’s sliver lining of blessings began to flow into her mind.

At this point, she asked herself the question at the beginning of this post, and it gave her permission to once again daydream, just as she had done as a child. And in her mind’s eye, she could see and feel herself accomplishing those dreams.

It was the turning point.

Quickly, she was back up on the slopes attempting to snowboard. Her father donated one of his kidneys to her for her 21st birthday. She returned to work; returned to school. She founded Adaptive Action Sports to help other youth, young adults and veterans suffering disabilities participate in action sports.

Did I mention she’s won multiple World Cup gold medals and is preparing for the Sochi Olympics?

Eleven years ago when I lost my legs, I had no idea what to expect. But, if you were to ask me today if I would ever want to change my situation, I would have to say, “No!’ because my legs haven’t disabled me. If anything, they have enabled me. They forced me to rely on my imagination and to believe in the possibilities.
Amy Purdy

I love the example of people like Amy, Neil Harbisson and Caroline Casey who show us how to live beyond our limits. Instead of letting their disadvantages remain disadvantages, they’ve turned them into advantages.

It’s believing in those dreams and facing our fears head on that allows us to live our lives beyond our limits.
Amy Purdy

We wish Amy and all of the other paralympians the best in the upcoming games.

You can follow Amy on Twitter at @AmyPurdyGurl.

Photo courtesy of DVIDSHUB under Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0. No model endorsement implied.

Chris Hess
Jan 29, 2014 21:48

This is great. Thanks for sharing Trev! I couldn’t help but sit here and think about what “limitations” I have placed in my own life and which of those I could turn to strengths. For example, I often think of a full time job as something holding me back from what I really want to do in life, but I wonder how i could turn that around to help propel me instead do what I want to do.

Trev Harmon
Jan 30, 2014 22:50

Chris, you are right. Many of the “limitations” we place on ourselves are of our own devising. The trick is turning them around to be a strength. If you figure out how, please let me know.

Trev Harmon
Feb 17, 2014 13:40

Just got my “Live Beyond Limits” t-shirt! Wearing it today.

Apr 01, 2019 21:30

This is a really great and inspiring read, Trev! Thanks for posting this!