For those familiar with Amy Purdy and her story, her success on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars should come as no surprise. Purdy hasn’t just been overcoming obstacles since the double amputation of both her legs at age 19 – she’s been plowing right through them as if they never existed in the first place.
If you’re unfamiliar with her, she’s certainly going to be someone you want to know. After contracting what she thought was the flu at age 19, she found herself growing rapidly sicker, and within a day she was rushed to the hospital after developing septic shock. She soon went into a coma that would last for three weeks. Doctors finally learned that she had the bacterial infection neisseria meningitidis attacking her circulatory system, eventually causing multiple organ failures and resulting in the removal of her spleen and amputation of both her legs below the knee. Doctors at said that at the time, she had less than a 2% chance of survival. She later told ABC News, “I remember thinking, this is so surreal. This is so crazy. I thought, ‘This is what it feels like to die.”
Of course, she didn’t die, and in fact she was back on a snowboard (her sport of choice before falling ill) only seven months after her amputation. A year after the amputation she had returned to the snowboarding circuit, competing thanks to the support of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Inspired by the support of the CAF, Amy decided to start her own organization for disabled athletes in 2005 called Adaptive Action Sports.
You would think that running a non-profit, working as a massage therapist, and a CAF spokesperson would be enough to keep anyone busy, but not Amy. She continued to snowboard competitively while pursuing other passions including acting and modeling. She even appeared in a music video for Madonna after the singer heard her inspiring story. To top it all off, Amy just brought home a bronze medal from the 2014 Sochi Paralympics.
Now Amy is tackling another project: dancing. Never one to back down from a challenge, she and her partner Derek Hough were rehearsing even while she was in Sochi, and the duo flew directly from Russia to L.A. the day before the first show. Anyone would have been exhausted, jet lagged, and wanting to simply crawl into bed, but not Amy – she dazzled on the dancefloor doing a cha-cha that brought judge Carrie Ann Inaba to tears and landed her an impressive score of 24/30.
She also pulled off another stellar performance during week two, after surviving a double elimination at the beginning of the show. While she was slightly concerned during rehearsals for her swing, she said, “It’s a pretty funny thought to think that my legs could potentially fly off.” Well, it’s a miracle they didn’t with all of the high intensity kicks, splits, flips, and jumps in her and Hough’s dance. Perhaps ironically, the only slip up in the dance was a missed arm motion. The performance ended with Amy doing the splits as the audience gave her a standing ovation. The judges were impressed as well, giving her a score of 24 out of 30 and putting her in the top five for the night.
Yet, amazingly, in week three Amy did even better with her contemporary dance which she told the L.A. Times was about “giving gratitude to my family and my dad for their support through my toughest time.” Clearly her inner passion came through and she landed a 9/10 score from each judge, giving her 27/30 her personal best so far. Those who haven’t seen Amy’s performances yet this season can catch them through many video-on-demand services, ABC Go, the ABC Player App or on demand through your DirecTV receiver or DVR.
For Amy’s fans, her success on the show comes as no surprise, she’s been defying expectations for quite a few years now. But for those of us who hadn’t heard of her before, who didn’t know her story, it’s a truly awesome story of perseverance and dedication. Amy can teach all of us, athletes or not, that only you set your own limitations, no one else.
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