A few months after Amy Purdy’s legs were amputated below the knee, she went snowboarding again. Gliding down a mountain on prosthetic legs for the first time was messy – “quite disastrous,” she recalls – but Purdy made a promise to herself that she’d never miss a snowboarding season. Even in the toughest of circumstances, she found a way to follow her passion and find joy again.
Since then, she’s become a Paralympic bronze medalist in snowboarding, runner-up on the television show “Dancing with the Stars,” author, motivational speaker, product spokeswoman, actress, model and co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports – a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities get involved in action sports.
They say the most fulfilling thing in life isn’t what you get, it’s what you give, and I totally believe that.
“They say the most fulfilling thing in life isn’t what you get, it’s what you give,” Purdy says, “and I totally believe that.”
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Purdy will share her journey Sept. 19 in Fresno as the luncheon keynote speaker for the Central California Women’s Conference. She wants to inspire people to use the challenges in their lives as springboards – to “move forward by pushing off of those boundaries” – instead of seeing them as obstacles.
Purdy bounced back from near-death at age 19 when she was rushed to the hospital in a state of septic shock after experiencing flu-like symptoms. It turned out to be meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection. A lack of blood circulation in her limbs resulted in the amputation of her legs. Doctors gave her less than a 2 percent chance of survival. A number of her organs shut down and she was placed on life support and was in a coma. In that state, Purdy recalls making a decision to live – a decision that continues to motivate her.
“I didn’t want to let myself down. … I chose to come back,” Purdy says, “and wanted to use that life the best I could.”
I just think it’s really important to surround ourselves with the things that inspire us.
Her story has now been heard by millions. Along with competing on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014, Oprah Winfrey included Purdy in her “The Life You Want” tour; Madonna featured her in a music video; and Purdy gave a TED talk that has been viewed more than 1.5 million times.
Purdy faced her fear of never being able to snowboard again with hope and positive thinking.
We can really crumble under the fear of ‘what if.’ Early on, I didn’t let those ‘what ifs’ step into my mind.
“All I could do is have patience and take it day-by-day and just believe one way or another, I’d find a way to do the things I love,” she says. “I won’t be a victim.”
Purdy is currently training in Colorado for another Paralympics and continuing her work bolstering “self-esteem and self-empowerment” for women, especially. Her motto: “Live inspired.”
“I just think it’s really important to surround ourselves with the things that inspire us,” Purdy says. “When you see people full of life and full of love and grateful for what’s around them, it inspires you to want to be the same.”
Central California Women’s Conference
Time and location: 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Fresno Convention Center & Entertainment Center
Luncheon keynote speaker: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Amy Purdy will present, “Living Beyond Limits – Embracing the Journey of Life No Matter What Comes Your Way.”