I believe it, still.

Since I can remember, I’ve been granted the privilege of bearing witness to individuals regain mobility after suffering limb loss or gain mobility after being born with limb difference. I never had to be introduced to the concept of limb loss; I’ve never known a world without people living with limb difference. My Dad gifted me this perspective by taking me to work with him when I was a little girl. It seems like it was often. Occasionally, I’ll walk into an older building and the scent will remind me of that old Hanger clinic on Poole Rd.

The facility was in a poor part of town. Dad provided care to an underserved population in an underserved community. Most people living with limb loss are underserved, due to the condition of our healthcare system, but this was a particularly underserved area. I remember the layout of the building; canes sat in a round holder to the left and a walker to the right of the front door. I remember the reception counter spanned three-quarters the front of the waiting room; my Dad’s office was on the right. A long hallway down the left side of the building opened up into a big (I was quite small) lab in the back, with sand boxes and machines and my friends, Mike and Tony.

The gait room was my playground, and Dad’s patients, my playmates. I am aware that it could be viewed as insensitive to have a small able-bodied child running around a prosthetist’s office, swinging on the parallel bars while someone tried to walk in them for the first time after an amputation, but the way Dad tells the stories, no one was offended. In fact, my Dad took care of many of those patients through the end of their lives, and still provides prosthetic care to a few of them today.

I was obviously too young to appreciate the role those experiences would play later in my life. My memories of time and space are likely skewed, as is the case with all recreations of the mind, but my sense of it all hasn’t changed a bit.

I’ve been in countless O&P facilities since my youth. I’ve done a little bit of everything I could do in O&P without credentials, from transcribing notes and helping in the lab in my teens, to opening new facilities and helping grow our company in my twenties, and ultimately running and helping sell our family-owned business in my thirties. There are several generations of people with similar stories to tell.

My Dad has been a prosthetist all my life, my mother a nurse. They were volunteer rescue workers in the small town where I grew up and took me on a “call or two” when the pagers went off in the middle of the night. Their dedication to their careers, to taking care of their patients, undoubtedly influenced and shaped my own identity. And though I do not work directly in healthcare, it is central to my personal/professional motivation and mission.

Even during my short photojournalism career, one of the most meaningful stories I ever covered was a year-long piece about a courageous survivor of breast cancer. I met her and her family the day she was diagnosed. Soon after, I scrubbed into her double mastectomy surgery. I documented the toughest moments of her experience, but also the hope. I spent countless hours in her home and with her family. I sat beside her during treatments, and I rushed to be there when she decided to shave her head because she was tired of losing her hair.

In some ways, that experience would prepare me for David. Though, nothing can really prepare us for those magical people that come along and change our lives. And in referencing my hero, I bring this rambling full circle. David is probably the reason I made my employment more permanent at Beacon after I moved back to North Carolina. Even after he was gone, after I finished graduate school, I couldn’t convince myself that there would ever be anything more rewarding than a career in O&P.

I believe it, still.

We’ve made encouraging advancements in this profession, but we can do more, we can be better. We have to push the boundaries to better serve those who rely on our services to maintain mobile, functional lives.

This is my starting point, every day. I ask myself, what can we do today to make things better for people living with limb loss and mobility challenges and the clinicians providing their care. From there, it is easy for me to work tirelessly on projects and initiatives that will improve the O&P profession.

I feel so fortunate to work for AOPA, an organization that literally includes my professional goals and ambitions in its mission statement.

Landing Toy Planes

Landing Toy Planes:

and other reflections on 2010

It’s nearly impossible to land a toy plane where you want to it land. The thing about toy planes (of the non-motorized fashion) is that you’re not actively guiding it in motion. The mechanics are left to a trial-and-error sort of experimentation. You basically throw it a certain way and hope that it flies a desired path placing it in the proper location for a successful landing.


I never realized how much I live my life this way. Launching off on some unknown journey, throwing it all out there, enjoying every second and hoping for the slight chance that I just might reach a desired outcome but with absolutely no expectations. Sometimes I nail it, it couldn’t be a smoother landing. Sometimes, those planes never land at all.


One of my favorite memories of 2010 involves a toy plane. It’s one that will stick around because it expresses a simple sentiment, a nostalgic reference point for the year. The little styrofoam plane serves as a reminder that the most amazing moments are never the ones we plan and that outcomes are never as important as the journey.


The year was filled with so many special moments, reference points along a figurative timeline; they bleed into each other consuming all space. I struggle to keep my breath as my mind scans over all these memories. I am overwhelmed with appreciation for all the amazing experiences shared with so many amazing people.


There is an undeniable presence in my life that should be noted early on in this post; whether obsession or escapism, my indulgence in live music provides the atmosphere for many of the most notable experiences throughout the years. It is the music that stays with me when everyone else is gone; it plays in my mind even when the volume is too low to hear aloud.


“The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain.” Oliver Sacks quoting Schopenhauer in Musicophelia.


I am blessed to have so many close friends who inspire me through their music. Sometimes I’m not quite sure how I got to be so lucky. In addition to my friends who are musically inclined, I am blessed with an abundance of inspired people of other capacities. No matter what the aesthetic, the desire and motivation to create is contagious; it’s what drives me. I am a better person because of the people in my life who make it “inexhaustible in its richness.”


2010 wasn’t my most wandering of years, but it was my most rambling. I am thankful for my friends who aren’t afraid to let me run, because I always run. I am thankful for my friends who encourage my creative spirit and unsettled nature. There are certainly very important people in my life who have supported me endlessly. I am sadden by my own inability to slow down sometimes and take care of the friendships that are my foundation, the brick and mortar of my being. It may seem as if I’ve become “too busy,” but busy is a choice and it is important that I make time for the people who mean the most to me.


There are so many people I need to acknowledge, to formally express my gratitude, but this note would go on and on for pages; however, a few cannot go without mention:


Jennifer Lundholm and Janessa Cyrus, beautiful girls, I love you so much. We’ve been together most of our lives and I am grateful for every moment. Thank you for understanding and accepting the craziness that is my life.


Ryan Butch and Dougy Starcke, still looking out for me, after all these years. 😉


Ivan Howard, my life is irrevocably changed because of our friendship. Thank you for believing in me as I believe in you.


Melina Reed, you are a gift. Though I’ve had you by my side for such a short time, the effects of our friendship have permeated through all aspects of my life. Your support and encouragement have been unwavering and your brilliance, inspiring. You, my friend, have held my soul and touched my heart. I love you.


Eric White, my angel, I have never been so proud of someone. You keep me in awe. Your heart is the purest I’ve ever known. Thank you for your love and support and always know you have mine.


I’d also like to thank Andrew Bopes for being a wonderful partner during our relationship, for always accepting my crazy schedule, embracing my less-than-normal approach to life and for sharing so many amazing experiences with me in 2010. I hope that life is always kind to you, that you always try even if you have to fail, and that love finds you as vulnerable as you ever were. Stay beautiful and be happy.


And finally, David Ostiguy, you are and will always be my hero.