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Amy PurdyAmy Purdy




TED-Amy Purdy - Living Beyond Limits


If the life were a book and you were the author,how would you want you story to go? That's the question that changed my life for ever.


Growing up in a hot Las Vegas desert, all I wanted was to be free,I would day dream 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 nineteen, the day after I graduate high school, I do 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 would 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 one day with the thought I was the flu, and less then 24 hours later, I was in the hospital on life support, with less than 2% of chance of living. It wasn't until days later as I lay in a coma that the doctor diagnosed me with bacterial meninitis, a vaccine preventable blood infection. Over the course of two and a half months I've 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. 


Ithought the worse was over, until weeks later I 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 toes 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 annd 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 foot 5 anymore. I could be as tall as I wanted or as short as I wanted depending on who I was dating. And if I anoeboard again, my feet arent't going to get cold. And the 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.


It was at 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 the story to go? And I began to daydream. I daydreamed as I did when I was 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 a mountain of powder, I could actually feel it. I could feel the wind against my face and the 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 upon a snowboard, although things didn't go quite as expected: my knees and my ankles wouldn't bend and at one point I traumatized all the skiers on the aerial lift when I fell and my legs still attached to my snoeboard went flying down the mountain and I was on the top of the mountain still.I was so shocked, I was just as shockes as everybody else and I was so discouraged but I knew that if I could find the right pair of feet I would able to do this again. And this is when I learned that our borders and our obstacles can only do two things: one, stop us in our tracks or two, force us to get creative. 


I did a year research, still couldn't figure out what lind 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 pinl duct tape. And yes, I can change my toe nail polish. It was these legs and the best 21st birthday gift I could ever receive- a new kidney from my dad give me a new kinedy 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 the could get involved with action sports. From there, I had the opportunity to go to South Africa where I helped to put shoes on thousands of children's feet  so they could attend school. And just this past February,  I won 2 back Board World Cup gold medals which made me the highest ranked adaptive female snowboard in the world.  


11 years age, when I lost my legs, I had no ideas what to expect. But if you ask me today, if I would ever wanna change my situation, I would have to say No because my legs haven't disabled me, if anything they've enabled me, they forced me to relay on my imagination and to believe in 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 fear 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 but also where the imagination and the story begins. So the thought that I'd like to challenage 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 them and seeing what amazing places they might bring us. Thank you.







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