Lindsay's introductory speech at the 2016 Casino Night Gala
My name is Lindsay Clark; I am an Ambassador for The Prosthetic Foundation. I have been an amputee for 11 years. I am originally from Clarksville, Arkansas – a very small town, but I moved to San Antonio in 2015 after I married my wonderful husband. I have a beautiful, energetic daughter who is 5 years old and she keeps me on my toes.
My story started out at birth. I was born with a congenital birth defect called PFFD. It’s a very rare birth defect. The medical word is Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency – it’s basically where my left femur bone, well I didn’t have a femur bone when I was born. But it grew six inches after I was born. It kept growing with me, but it never caught up to my right femur bone. The doctors actually told my parents I would never be able to walk. I went to Shiner’s Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana at 6 months old and continued to go there until I was 18. I started walking at 9 months old without any assistive device or orthosis – so I was pretty determined at a young age.
At the age of 15 months old I did get my first prosthesis – it was basically a built up shoe that my foot sat on a platform and my prosthetic foot extended down and made my legs even. I never let it stop me. I was in marching band, softball, basketball – anything I wanted to do my parents allowed me to do. They always told me anything was possible if you set your mind to it. So that was instilled in my mind from a very young age.
My parents were advised to amputate my leg at the age of 5, but they chose not to because they wanted me to make the decision as I grew older. From the age of 14-18 doctors still advised me to amputate my leg, but at that time I was like “why fix me if I am not broken”. So they advised me at the age of 40 I would probably be in a wheelchair. I went on and graduated high school and started a vocational school, a two year college and graduated from there.
Four years go by, and the doctors were right. I was having a lot of pain where my knee bent and I couldn’t function at all. Knowing the outcome, I didn’t tell anyone for two of those four years. Of course my mother noticed, because that’s what mothers do. She said we needed to get it checked out. We went to our children’s hospital and the only option the surgeon said was through the knee amputation. I was 22 years old when that happened and at that age it was a very big decision to make, but I knew I would have a better quality of life.
July 28, 2005 was the day of my amputation and my life changed completely. I healed from July to November and I got my first leg in November 2005, about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving. So I gave myself a goal – I was going to walk by Christmas without any help. I walked up and down my mom’s driveway about a 100 million times a day just so I could walk on my own. I made my goal and on Christmas morning I was walking alone with just my prosthesis. But I am not going to lie – I hated that prosthesis. I wanted to light it on fire. It was a very bad struggle mentally I had with it. That’s one of the horrible things – you have surgery and you wake up and there is no leg there when there was a leg there. Mentally I was struggling pretty bad.
During my time when I had the surgery and my first leg, I didn’t have insurance. I was actually uninsured and a company in Arkansas paid for my surgery and my first leg and my aftercare. Not having insurance is hard to deal with, especially when you are in so much pain and you need to get something done, and a leg and aftercare.
Eight years go by and I constantly battled with depression, acceptance of myself, and self-confidence. I married my first husband and had my daughter Lyla in 2011. In the heat of the summer, didn’t matter if it was 120 degrees, we lived in Abilene at the time (and you know how hot it is there) I would wear pants and sweats. I didn’t want anyone to know I had a prosthetic leg. If you saw or noticed I had a limp – I would get up and leave and I wouldn’t come back because I was just so ashamed of it. Lyla is about a year old and I put her to bed one night, and I was praying. I need help, I need God to get me through and stop living my life like this because it’s not me. I didn’t want to teach her that her imperfections aren’t perfect because they are perfect. And I didn’t want to teach her to be ashamed of how God made her. The next morning, I woke up and the room was bright and I swear it was like I was in a different world – it just looked different to me. And so I walked over to my dresser and pulled out the only pair of shorts that I owned and I put them on for the first time in eight years. I took my daughter shopping without a care in the world. She’s my saving grace and God blessed me with her to open my eyes.
After that I started voicing my dreams and I wanted to run. I wanted to be a runner and I wanted to start motivational speaking and help other amputees. I became an advocate for a non-profit in Arkansas as well as board member for them. I started slowly getting into motivational speaking in my hometown and I started doing fundraising for myself so I could get a running leg because I didn’t know there were organizations out there that paid for those things. In three months, with the help of my amazing community that I lived in, and the help of the Wounded Walk Organization (they help a lot of wounded veterans, while I am not a veteran, my story touched them and they wanted to help) they gave me a check for $5500 toward my running leg and my community paid for the rest. I started training in January 2014 and I ran my first 5K in July and my second in November in Vegas on the strip.
During this time, Lyla’s father and I went our separate ways, but we became a very strong team her and I and she kept me strong. I met my now husband in July 2014 and got married in May 2015 and that’s when Lyla and I moved to San Antonio. I gotta say it’s the best move I have ever made. I fulfilled another dream of mine and that was going back to school when we moved down here. It’s been a dream to work in the field of physical therapy. I started school at the College of Healthcare Professions in September 2015 and I just recently graduated in October (2016) with my Certificate in Physical Therapy Technician.
At the time I started at the school, I was having a lot of problems with pitting issues and my socket wasn’t fitting right because I gained those 15 pounds that marriage puts on you. So the amazing staff at the college got ahold of Phyllis and she sent over the information about The Prosthetics Foundation. Also gave me Jeff Moore’s number and I spoke with both of them and they fixed me right up. They got me in a socket that fit in a very quick amount of time because I was in a lot of pain. I have insurance now, but I know I didn’t need the help of the foundation at the time, but I knew I wanted to help them in every way I could.
I know the struggle of not being able to do things that you want to do every day. I know what it’s like to feel like a burden to your family and friends because you can’t do things on your own. I know the emotional and mental struggle you go through on a daily basis because you struggle doing a simple task like being able to go to the restroom independently, or the mailbox, or the desire to get into your car to just go for a drive. I know the struggle all too well – I have been there. That’s why this foundation is so important to me – to have such a deep passion for what this foundation does for people – just to be able to walk again after so many months and years confined to a wheelchair.
So many people depend on Medicaid and other insurances to help cover their prosthetic needs and care and unfortunately not all of them do. They consider having a leg a luxury. It doesn’t seem fair to not have the best life possible just because they can’t afford a prosthetic limb. The quality of life drastically improves mentally and physically when you have a prosthetic limb. I see this foundation helping so many people improve their lives in every way possible. All it takes is finding the help out there – like this foundation. The foundation is near and dear to my heart. I have been searching my whole life for my passion and I am so glad that I have found it.
Any amputee deserves the chance to live an independently and fulfilled life.
Take a chance, to give a chance for someone to walk, run, dance and play. Make a difference in this world.
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