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9 More People Who Refused to be Limited

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Some people love a challenge. Some people are handed challenges they never asked for. Whether from pride, passion, inspiration, or a combination of all those things, some people are willing to do what it takes to accomplish what they aren't "supposed" to be able to do. I remember a phrase from my childhood, used as a comeback when someone is told they can't or won't do something- "You hide and watch me." Here are nine folks who took those challenges and ran with them.

1. Anthony Robles

Anthony Robles was born without a right leg, but never let that stop him from, well, pretty much anything. He runs a mile in eight minutes using a crutch. He played football on the junior high school team. Robles excelled most spectacularly in wrestling. The Arizona State athlete finished fourth nationally in his weight class as a sophomore. Then this year, Robles finished a perfect season in the 125-pound class by taking the NCAA national championship trophy, by defeating last year's champion.

2. Jessica Cox

Jessica Cox was born without arms, and does everything with her feet. Everything includes Tae Kwan-Do (she wears a black belt). And typing. And driving. And flying an airplane. Yes, Cox is the first armless woman to earn a pilot's license. To achieve that, she not only had to overcome her lack of arms, but her fear of flying as well!

3. Emory Martin

Emory Martin was born in Tennessee in 1916 with only six inches of left arm and no left hand. He wanted to play banjo like his father, and learned to use his stump, toes, and teeth to do it. By age 16 Martin won a talent contest and went professional, performing at the Grand Ole Opry. Martin toured with various acts in the 1930s and '40s, then settled down with his wife in Renfro Valley, where he performed at the weekly Barn Dance for many more years.

4. Ami Sano

Ami Sano was born without arms or legs, but is determined to lead a normal life. Now an office worker and motivational speaker, she was part of a cheerleading club at Toyokawa High School in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Sano also wrote her memoirs, Teashi-no-nai Cheerleader, meaning cheerleader without limbs, when she was 18 -so there could be a sequel in the works.

5. Bart Hickey

Bart Hickey is a respected mechanic in Alsip, Illinois. His business is named Bart's Automotive & Towing, or B.A.T. for short. According to his cousin,

Bart's brother Brian helped Bart name his automotive business - yes, Bart is a blind garage mechanic. " Bart's Automotive and Towing -Yeah, you know! Blind as a Bat." Bat is often used by the Irish in place of Bart or Bartholomew. Bat or Bateen.

Hickey has been blind since birth, but was always interested in tools and machines. After his father died when he was 11, Bart started fixing his mother's car. He read Popular Mechanics in Braille and hasn't stopped learning about cars since. See Hickey's video interview by Jim Quattrocki at vimeo.

6. Bert Amend

Bert Amend suffered the fate of too many lumber mill workers when his arm was cut off by a saw over 100 years ago. He thought his career, his love life, and his music were all gone forever. But Amend became a bookkeeper, married his girlfriend, and raised five children. And he didn't give up his music, either. Amend was already accomplished on several instruments, and he set about inventing attachments and devices that would enable him to play them again. Through his efforts to share these inventions with other amputee musicians, he gathered a group that became Bert Amend and the One-Armed Musicians. They traveled the vaudeville circuit in the 1910s and '20s with varying lineups, once featuring as many as seven musicians playing as many as 15 instruments. Amend is on the right in this photograph.

7. Pete Eckert

Pete Eckert was a carpenter, designer, and sculptor when we was was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which eventually took his sight completely. Eckert prepared for the blindness he knew was coming by getting an MBA and learning martial arts. Only after he became completely blind was he inspired to become ...a photographer!

I slip photos under the door from the world of the blind to be viewed in the light of the sighted. I view my work during the event of taking the shot in my minds eye. I “see“ each shot very clearly, only I use sound, touch, and memory. I am more of a conceptual artist than a photographer. My influences come from my past memory of art and what I now find in the world at large.

With aid of adaptive computer technology and a seeing-eye dog, Eckert shoots, develops, and writes the stories of his award-winning photographs. Watch a video about Eckert at vimeo.

8. Zheng Guigui

Last year, Zheng Guigui performed on the TV show China's Got Talent. The 19-year-old stole the hearts of the audience by playing her piece with only five fingers, as she was born without any fingers on her right hand. Zheng was inspired to begin piano lessons in 2008 and put in long hours of practice to make up for lost time. She uses the knuckles on the end of her right hand as well as the fingers of her left. Playing the piano has given Zheng confidence and a sense of accomplishment after years of feeling inferior due to her missing fingers. Her goal is to respect for her music beyond pity for her disability.

9. Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic was born in 1982 with neither arms nor legs, due to a condition called Tetra-amelia. Vujicic has feet, but only two toes, both on one foot. But he graduated from college and became a motivational speaker, evangelist, and advocate for those with disabilities. You can see one of Vujicic's presentations on video. He's also written books. And now Vujicic is a movie star. The Butterfly Circus is currently a 22-minute award-winning short film (available to watch) about a traveling circus and the people who perform in it, and will be released as a full-length feature film -sometime.

For more stories, see these previous articles:

9 People Who Did It Anyway

9 People Who Knew They Could Do It

9 People Who Refused to be Limited

8 Amazingly Abled Athletes and Artists

Swimming Without Legs: 3 Inspiring Athletes

Dancing on Crutches

Roll Over Beethoven: 6 Modern Deaf Musicians

10 People Who Did It Anyway

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Gettu Images
9 People Who Just Did It Anyway
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Gettu Images

This week’s mental_floss video entitled 18 Famous People Who Are Missing Body Parts reminded me that April is Limb Loss Awareness Month. You may be aware that we have a continuing series about people who are technically classified as “disabled,” but don’t let it get in the way of doing as they please. While it’s still April, let’s meet some other people who are excelling in areas they weren’t supposed to because of lost limbs or other anomalies.

1. Baxter Humby

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Baxter Humby, nicknamed “One Arm Bandit,” is an MMA fighter and Muay Thai Kickboxer. He is currently the IMTC World Super Welterweight Champion. Shortly after birth, Humby’s right hand and most of his forearm was amputated due to injury from a tangled umbilical cord. He started running at a young age, made the Canadian National Paralympic Track Team, and participated in the Paralympics in 1992 and 1994. He took up martial arts at 17.

In addition to holding various martial arts championships, Humby teaches at both a martial arts school and his local YMCA, and finds time for motivational speaking as well. Humby also has his hand in show business: he starred in the Chinese film One Arm Hero, appeared on the TV show The Shield, and worked as a stunt man on the film Spider-Man 3.

2. Randy Pierce

Randy Pierce grew up in New Hampshire, a fan of sports, nature, and the New England Patriots. At age 22, his vision began to fail due to a neurological disorder. Eventually he went blind, and twelve years later, the disorder confined him to a wheelchair. Pierce was determined to regain his mobility, and worked for two years to leave the wheelchair. When he succeeded, Pierce and his guide dog Quinn climbed all 48 of the 4000+ foot peaks in the New Hampshire White Mountains! Pierce founded the organization 2020 Vision Quest, in order to funnel the funds he raised through mountain climbing to charities for the blind.

3. Lee Reid

Illustration by Joshua Drummond.

Lee Reid is a musician and composer who has a Master’s in Neuroscience from the University of Auckland. Ironically, as an adult he was stricken with a mysterious and painful neurological disorder that affected his hands. Reid could no longer work, nor could he play music. He still wanted to compose, but even with computer software, he couldn’t use his hands to control what he wrote. Reid came to the conclusion that he would have to design his own software. He read up on programming, and, using a mouse with his foot, created a composing program one character at a time. It took a year, and the result is Musink, a program in which you can write music notation with only a mouse, available free to download.

Two years after Reid lost the use of his hands, an experimental treatment restored enough function for him to return to neuroscience for a living, although he still suffers with pain. You can read an illustrated version of his story at Cakeburger

4. Nico Calabria

Nineteen-year-old Nicolai Calabria graduated from high school as an all-around athlete. He was co-captain of the wrestling team, midfielder for the soccer team, and hiked to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. He’s now working as a gymnastic instructor and a motivational speaker. All this, despite the fact that he was born without his left leg and hip. This fall, Calabria will travel with the US National Amputee Soccer Team to the 2014 Amputee World Cup in Mexico. He will also begin his college career at Colorado College. That’s a pretty good resume for a 19-year-old! See Calabria in action on video

5. Jahmir Wallace

Jahmir Wallace of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, was born without arms, so he does everything with his feet. The dexterity the fifth-grader developed with his toes is serving him well as he learns to play the trumpet. But even more important is Wallace’s can-do attitude.

“My older sister used to play the piano. So I thought maybe I should try an instrument. I thought maybe I could try and figure out new things,” he said.

6. Barney Miller

Photograph from No Means Go.

Barney Miller is an Australian surfer who was severely injured in a traffic accident 15 years ago. With his neck broken, he was told he’d never breathe on his own again, much less walk. With determination and hard work, he took his first steps with a walker last year. He is also in the water constantly, surfing with friends despite his lack of movement. Miller is the subject of a documentary called No Means Go which is in production now. 

7. Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham

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In 2010, hardcore sitter (extreme wheelchair athlete) Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham became the first person to successfully execute a double backflip in a wheelchair. Seeing just a part of what he went through to perfect the stunt will make you cringe, but it paid off. Born with spina bifida, Fotherington was also the first athlete to perform a single backflip in a wheelchair when he was only 14 years old! From his biography

After posting that “first ever back flip” on the Internet, life has changed for Aaron; he has had the opportunity to travel within the US, as well as internationally, performing and speaking in front of many. He has attended summer camps for disabled children as a coach/mentor. He has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and sports television. He receives and responds to e-mails from all over the world.

Aaron enjoys showing young kids with disabilities that a wheelchair can be a toy, not a restriction. He loves helping younger children learn how to handle their chairs in new and different ways and teaching them a trick or two.

Someday he hopes to design “the most wicked” chair in the world.

See a more recent video of Fotheringham showing off here.

8. Annette Gabbedey

British goldsmith Annette Gabbedey has been crafting custom jewelry and setting precious gems for 24 years, despite the fact that she was born without fingers. The "about" page at her business site doesn't even mention the lack of fingers, but as you can see from the picture, she doesn't hide it.

Gabbedey doesn't consider herself disabled, just different. She doesn't use special tools, but has her own method of using regular jeweler's tools, like setting the piece she's working on in a vice, and keeping a strap around her wrist to set a tool into. Gabbedey says fingers would just get in her way! See more pictures here.

9. Jorge Dyksen

Photograph from Twitter.

Jorge Dyksen is a 16-year-old high school soccer player, despite the fact that both his arms and both his legs were amputated due to a massive infection when he was a toddler. Adopted from Panama, he now lives in Haledon, New Jersey. He is the starting forward on the junior varsity team at Manchester Regional High School. See a video of Jorge in action.

See more stories of people with amazing accomplishments in previous posts of this continuing series.

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Raising Mercury
Four Cats With Fewer Than Three Legs
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Raising Mercury

We often read stories about the amazing adaptability of animals. They endure pain, but they do not wallow in self-pity. A disabled animal will do what it must do to get on with life using what it has. A four-legged animal can get around pretty well on three legs, as I learned when our border collie lost one. In these stories, four cats learned to get around pretty well with even less than three. I should say fewer than three, but you know what less than three means: <3.

1. Mercury: Two Rear Legs

Meet Mercury, the kitten that gets around on his two rear legs, like a T. rex. He was found in September, when he was only about four days old, having already lost his two front forelegs and most of the toes on one back leg. Neighbors suspected it was due to a weed whacker. After veterinary care, he was placed with an Oklahoma foster family even before his eyes opened. Mercury learned to get around on two legs as he first learned to walk, and now he runs, jumps, climbs stairs, and holds his own with the other cats. His foster family decided to make him a permanent member of the family.

Photograph from Raising Mercury.

Here’s a video that shows how he moves around on two legs. You can see more pictures and videos at Mercury’s Facebook page.

2. Anakin: Two Front Legs

Photograph by Carrie Hawks via Facebook.

Anakin was born with neither a pelvic bone nor his rear legs. Artist Carrie Hawks adopted him as a young kitten from a feral colony of cats. He was named after the character who became Darth Vader, who was also missing some limbs. Ani learned to walk balancing on his front limbs only. The Hawks considered wheels for his back end, but since the kitten got around well enough without them, he does not use wheels. Besides, that would hinder him from climbing stairs or cat towers, which you can see him do here. If he needs wheels as he gets older, he will have them. This video was recorded in the summer of 2012, when Anakin was first settling into his new home.

Anakin had a few medical interventions due to his abnormalities. He lives with several other cats and a dog, and gets plenty of human interaction. The rest of Anakin’s feral family was captured, fixed, and vaccinated, and then relocated to a private woodland where they are fed regularly. You can follow Anakin, now full grown, at his Facebook page

3. Caffrey: Two Legs on One Side

Caffrey, a Persian cat in England, has had to adapt to losing a leg twice in his life. At age three, he was struck by a car and his left hind leg had to be amputated. His front left paw was damaged, too. He adapted to walking on three legs for the next ten years. Then about a year ago, Caffrey developed a tumor in his left front leg, where he was injured in the earlier accident. The best hope for his survival was amputation, but veterinarians thought he’d never be able to get around on just two legs on the same side. Caffrey’s owner Sue Greaves knew it was Caffrey’s best chance for survival, so the operation was carried out, leaving Caffrey with only his two right legs. The old cat surprised everyone by walking around on two legs only a few days after the second amputation! See how well Caffrey moves about in this video. 

Caffrey inspired WeiChang Chiu to create a short animation called Caffrey’s Run.

4. Callie Mae: No Paws At All

In 2008, an adult cat named Callie Mae was chased up a telephone pole by dogs. At the top, she was electrocuted, which did so much damage to her legs that they all had to be amputated above the knee joint. The Theodore Vet Clinic in Mobile, Alabama, cared for Callie Mae, who learned to walk on her stumps. By 2010, she was pronounced well enough to go to a permanent home

After the story ran in the local news, many people applied to adopt Callie Mae. There has been no news about her since then, but we assume that she found a home with one of the applicants.


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