For ages, losing a limb was one of the worst things that could happen to you, as you became fully dependent on your environment to move about and perform the simplest of day-to-day actions. But these days are over. Thanks to amazing technological advances and the support and love of friends and family, people have been able to pursue their dreams as well as achieve great athletic feats, no matter how many of their original limbs they’ve still got.
Here are some of the most inspirational stories of people who used prosthetics to give hope and set an example for millions around the world, that with enough passion, nothing is impossible.
1. The Bionic Actress
Angel Giuffra never lost her hand, because she never had it. The beautiful 29-year old actress and self-described cyborg was born missing her left arm below the elbow and spent all of her life wearing prosthetics. Her bionic arm has given her the confidence to pursue her lifelong dream of acting. Beyond the silver screen, Angel is also a professional archer!
2. Open-Source Hands
In 2011, Ivan Owen went to a geeky convention in costume, complete with a fully-functional pulley-operated hand that he made. He was so proud of his craftsmanship that he posted a demonstration on YouTube. Little did he know that video would reach Richard, a South African carpenter who lost fingers in a work accident. That was the beginning of e-NABLE, an open-source project giving amputees the world over the chance to 3D-print their own fully-analogic, fully-functional prosthetics.
3. One-Legged Gymnast
12-year old Averie Mitchell from Oklahoma was born with pseudoarthrosis, a condition where a limb will have a false “secondary knee”. At the age of two, her malformed leg was removed below the knee and she was fitted with a prosthetic, but her mother was determined not let her feel disabled. At the age of four she was enrolled in a gymnastics class, and she is now the owner of numerous medals. And if people ask her what happened to her leg, she answers with a sly grin that she sneezed it off.
Not only humans can benefit from prosthetics. As animals that are only partially-domesticated, cats depend a lot on their athleticism and mobility to hunt, play and avoid danger. Sadly, it is not often that humans bother to spend the resources for corrective procedures for cats, especially strays. This Bulgarian stray who lost his hind legs to a car was lucky enough to be fitted with a new pair of smart prosthetics.
5. Mind-Controlled Prosthetic
Johnny Matheny lost his arm to cancer in 2005, and now he’s become the first man to wear a mind-controlled bionic arm at home. Most advanced prosthetics rely on signals from muscles that people like Johnny lack, as his arm has been removed above the elbow. Instead, this state-of-the-art prosthetic operates completely on command. How ecstatic was Johnny? He decided he’s going to start learning piano, an instrument he never played before!
6. On Skateboards, We All Have Four Legs
13-year old Alrey from Iligan City in the Philippines wasn’t lucky enough to be born in a westernized first-world country, but even with a rudimentary prosthetic leg and tremendous willpower, Alrey has been able to achieve greatness. Bullied since early childhood because of his missing foot and abandoned by his mother, Alrey asked his father for permission to pursue his dream- skating. Despite a rocky start, Alrey proved to be a natural talent, even beating fully-abled teens in competitions.
7. Never Stop Dancing
At the age of 9, Gabi Shull was already dancing when a bone cancer affecting her knee led to her amputation. A unique procedure reattached the lower part of Gabi’s leg to her thigh in such a way that her ankle now serves as her knee. Thanks to the surgery and a specialized prosthetic leg, Gabi has been able to not only continue dancing, but to excel at it.
8. Setting Fire to the Catwalk on Golden Legs
Lauren Wasser was born into the fashion industry, to model parents and had great passion for both modeling and basketballs, dreaming of one day making it to the WNBA. Her dreams seemed to be cut short one day in 2012 when she was 24-years old, as she was nearly killed by a tampon-caused toxic shock syndrome. Her right leg had to be removed due to gangrene and she opted to amputate her left one in 2018 due to pain related to ulcers and bone growth. All of this didn’t stop Wasser from modeling or playing ball.
9. Cyborg Warrior Angel
13-year old Tilly Lockey nearly died of a meningitis that took both of her arms as a toddler, but due to her incredible drive and her parents’ support, she had been able to make a great life for herself. Today, she is one of the foremost advocates for Open Bionics, a company specializing in highly advanced, stylized 3D-printed prosthetics. Just recently, she received a gorgeous pair of new arms from movie producers James Cameron and Jon Landau for the premiere of Alita, a film about a bionic hero, much like Tilly herself.
10. The Possibilities Are Limitless
So what does the future hold? Currently, the biggest roadblock to tackle was bionic prosthetics for fully-amputated limbs, as the only way to operate such a robotic extremity is directly through the brain. Amazingly, such technology now exists, and the people developing it are working to make it more accessible. Now, they are working on something so futuristic, so outlandish, one can hardly believe it: connecting sensors to nerves, allowing amputees to touch and feel with their bionic arms!