Here is the full transcript of Pro snowboarder Amy Purdy’s TEDx Talk: Living Beyond Limits at TEDxOrangeCoast.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Living beyond limits by Amy Purdy at TEDxOrangeCoast
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 Last Vegas desert, all I wanted was to be free. I would daydream about travelling 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 19, 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 the flu and less than 24 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 had been pieced back together like a patchwork 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 bolted together for the ankles and a yellow rubber foot with the raised rubber line from the toe to the ankle to look like a vein. I didn’t know what to expect but I wasn’t expecting that.
With my mum 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 could think was how am I ever going to travel the world in these things? How was I ever going to live the life full of adventures 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 passed 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 is when it dawned on me that I didn’t have to be 5.5 ft. anymore. I could be as tall as I wanted. Or as short as I wanted depending on who I was dating.
And if I snowboarded again, my feet aren’t going to get cold. And best of all, I thought I can make my feet the size of all the shoes that are on the sales rack and I did. So there were benefits here.