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  • If your life were a book

  • and you were the author

  • how would you want your story to go.

  • That's the question that changed my life forever.

  • Growing up in a

  • hot Las Vegas desert

  • all I wanted was to be free.

  • I would daydream

  • about traveling the world

  • living in a place where it snowed

  • and I would picture all of the stories that I would go on to tell.

  • At the age of nineteen,

  • the day after I graduated high school,

  • I moved to a place where it snowed

  • and I became

  • a massage therapist.

  • With this job all I needed were my hands and my massage table by my side.

  • And I could go anywhere.

  • For the first time in my life

  • I felt free,

  • independent

  • and completely in control of my life.

  • That is

  • until my life took a detour.

  • I went home from work early one day

  • with what I thought was a flu

  • and less than twenty-four hours later

  • I was in a hospital

  • on life support

  • with less than a 2% chance of living

  • It wasn't until days later

  • as I lay in a coma

  • that the doctors diagnosed me

  • with bacterial meningitis.

  • A vaccine preventable blood infection.

  • Over the course of two-and-a-half months

  • I lost my spleen

  • my kidneys

  • the hearing in my left ear

  • and both of my legs below the knee.

  • When my parents

  • wheeled me out of the hospital

  • I felt like I'd been pieced back together

  • like a patch-work doll.

  • I thought the worst was over

  • until weeks later when I saw my new legs for the first time.

  • The calves were bulky blocks of metal

  • with pipes folded together for the ankles

  • and a yellow rubber foot

  • with a raised rubber line

  • from the toes to the ankle

  • to look like a vein.

  • I didn't know what to expect but i wasn't expecting that.

  • With my mom by my side

  • and tears streaming down our faces

  • I strapped on these chunky legs

  • and I stood up.

  • They were so painful

  • and so confining

  • that all I cound think was --

  • how am I ever going to travel the world on these things.

  • How was I ever going to live

  • the life full of adventure

  • and stories as I always wanted

  • and how was I going to snowboard again.

  • That day I went home, I crawled into bed

  • and this is what my life looked like for the next few months.

  • Me pass out,

  • escaping from reality,

  • with my legs resting by my side.

  • I was absolutely

  • physically

  • and emotionally

  • broken.

  • But

  • I knew that in order to move forward

  • I had to let go

  • of the old Amy

  • and learn to embrace

  • the new Amy.

  • And that's when it dawned on me

  • that I didn't have to be five foot five anymore.

  • I could be as tall as I wanted. (Laughter)

  • Or as short as I wanted, depending on who I was dating. (Laughter)

  • And if I snowboard again

  • my feet aren't going to get cold. (Laughter)

  • And best of all I thought

  • I can make my feet the size of all the shoes that are on the sales rack. (Laughter)

  • And I did! So there are benefites here.

  • It was this moment

  • that I asked myself that life defining question.

  • "If my life were a book

  • and I were the author

  • how would I want this story to go."

  • And I began to daydream,

  • I daydreamed like I did as a little girl.

  • And I imagined myself

  • walking gracefully

  • helping other people through my journey

  • and snowboarding again.

  • And didn't just see myself

  • carving down on mountain of powder

  • I could actually feel it.

  • I could feel the wind against my face and a beat

  • of my racing heart

  • as if it were happening in that very moment.

  • And that is when

  • a new chapter in my life began.

  • Four months later I was back up on a snowboard

  • although things didn't go quite as I expected

  • my knees and ankles wouldn't bend, and at one point

  • I traumatized all the steers on the chairlift when I..

  • I fell

  • and my legs still attached to my snowboard (Laughter)

  • were flying down the mountain. (Laughter)

  • And

  • I was on top of the mountain still.

  • I was so shocked, I was just as shocked as everybody else

  • and I was so discouraged, but

  • I knew that if i could find the right pair of feet

  • that I would be able to do this again.

  • And this is when I learned

  • that our borders and obstacles can only do two things.

  • One: stop us in our tracks,

  • or two: force us to get creative.

  • I did a year of research, but still couldn't figure out what kind of legs to use

  • couldn't find any resources that could help me

  • so I decided to make a pair myself.

  • My leg maker and I put random parts together

  • and we made a pair of feet that I could snowboard in.

  • As you can see

  • rusty bolts, rubber, wood and neon pink duct tape.

  • And yes I can change may toe nail polish.

  • It was these legs and the best twenty first birthday gift I could ever receive --

  • a new kidney from my dad

  • that allowed me to follow my dreams again.

  • I started snowboarding

  • then I went back to work, then I went back to school. Then in 2005

  • I co-founded a non-profit organization

  • for youth and young adults with physical disabilities so that they could get

  • involved with action sports.

  • From there had the opportunity to go to South Africa

  • Where I helped to put shoes on thousands of children's feet so they can attend school.

  • And just at this past February

  • i won two back-to-back world cup gold medals. (Applause)

  • Which made me

  • the highest-ranked adaptive female snowboarder in the world.

  • Eleven years ago

  • when I lost my legs I had no idea what to expect.

  • But if you asked 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.

  • And that's why I believe that our imaginations can be used as tools for

  • breaking through borders.

  • Because in our minds we can do anything

  • and we can be anything.

  • It's believing in those dreams,

  • and facing our fears head-on

  • that allows us to live our lives beyond our limits.

  • And although today is about innovation without borders, I have to say

  • that in my life

  • innovation has only been possible because of my borders.

  • I've learned that

  • borders are where the actual ends,

  • also where imagination

  • and the story begins.

  • So the thought that I would like to challenge you with today,

  • is that maybe instead of looking at our challenges and our limitations

  • as something negative or bad,

  • we can begin to look at them as blessings

  • magnificent gifts that can be used to ignite our imaginations

  • and help us go further, than we ever knew we could go.

  • It's not about breaking down borders

  • it's about pushing off of them

  • and seeing

  • what amazing places

  • he might bring us. Thank you. (Applause)

If your life were a book

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【TEDx】Amy Purdy - Living Beyond Limits

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    short1216 posted on 2013/01/09
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