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 I am a Skier

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I am a Skier

Last month, I was fortunate enough to be selected for the New Dimensions Scholarship, offered by the Adaptive Sports Association in Durango, Colorado. It is offered to "people with a physical disability and/or progressive disease who regularly participate in athletic activities, are able to travel to Durango, and are new to disabled skiing or snowboarding." 

The scholarship includes an all-expense-paid trip and four full days of skiing. Lucky me, right?

The first day is set aside for equipment and clothing fitting; and, considering my many physical challenges, I fully expected for this part to take the better part of the day. But my two expert instructors had me dressed and ready to go by 10:30am!

While I was hoping to come down the slopes standing on two skis, there was no guarantee. Other options include ski bikes (a type of bicycle with skis for wheels and two additional skis on your feet that are used for balancing) as well as mono skis and bi skis.

Here is Ginger, my new friend who has Multiple Sclerosis and is skillfully riding a ski bike.

And here are my new friends Reggie and Jake, both of whom have paralysis and some mad skills on bi skis.

While I was able to get up on two standard skis, I wasn't able to go nearly as fast or nearly as far up the mountain as my counterparts.

But ski I did; and I surprised myself by doing it successfully before lunch on the very first day! At this point, you are probably asking, "How, on Earth, was she able to do that?" 

Well, as is the case with most of the things I do, I had a lot of help! On that first day, I had one skier in front of me, one behind me, and sometimes even one whose job was to hang out around me and protect me from out-of-control skiers and snowboarders. 

My amazing instructors (Susan, Brian, Paula, John, and Adele) had been doing this for many years, and they quickly and easily connected a strap to the tip of each ski. With those tethers, they were able to steer me like a horse! In addition, they dressed me in a child-sized emergency vest so that they could slow my pace or even stop me if I started to fall! Here is a picture of me with my tethers - while I do look a bit unbalanced, I was all smiles!

I had full confidence in my helpers. In fact, I loved and trusted them so much that I am now convinced that all those 80's love songs were written about adaptive ski instructors! 

Here I am with my two main instructors, Susan and Paula.

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Another "strap" I needed that most skiers don't need is the one we used to hold my left leg (the prosthetic one) while I was riding the chair lift. Since my prosthetic is only attached to my residual leg by suction, the increased force of gravity could easily have won the tug of war with my body - meaning my prosthetic leg and its ski could have fallen off, down into the mountainous woods or even on top of an innocent skier! Not ideal. 

So, to prevent that from happening (and to protect the entire mountain!) my instructor had to literally lasso my ski and then hold the strap very tightly - not easy when the winds picked up, but it proved be be a fun game ;).

With each hour of each day, my instructors used the tethers less and less. By Day Two, I got to take off the emergency vest. And I even went short distances without tethers. (They call that "independent skiing," but that's just fancy talk for "skiing without any adaptive equipment" or "skiing like a normal person.")

On Day Two, I mastered the skill of getting on and off the chair lift. Except for that one time when my arm slipped off, I lost my balance, fell, and really freaked out the college-aged lift operator. Which made for a  great story that night at the brewery. Who else can use that for an excuse as to why she fell while skiing?

On Days Three and Four, I continued to improve. I was able to ride the bigger, higher, and longer lifts all the way to the top of the mountain. Aside from the prosthetic problems that landed me at the Hanger Prosthetic Clinic in downtown Durango, everything went quite well. My muscles remembered how to ski from TWENTY years ago. What a miracle!

As the days quickly passed, my team of instructors used the tethers less and less. On my fourth and final day, we were able to unhook all of them. And I got to ski, free from all of the adaptations and devices that were helping me to ski more normally.

Check out my big smile in the following video:

Just like Pinnochio, I "got no strings!" Just like Pinnochio was a "Real Boy," I became a real skier! I regained my athletic confidence as well as my self confidence. I re-learned how to appreciate and love my body. I rejoiced in all that my body can do and all that I can do. Instead of wallowing in the fact that my body is mostly man-made, I recognized my spirit, my heart, and my soul that have been there all along, just waiting to be realized. 

Both in spite of and because of the people and the things that assist me along the way, I am Kristan.

I am Kristan. I am a wife. I am a mom. I am an athlete. I am an amputee. And, now I am a skier.

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A New Friend

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A New Friend

I made a new friend today. And not just on Facebook, though that's how it came to be. Ian is his name, and he's an amputee. He found me through a common Facebook group, and I am so glad he did because his story gave me JUST the encouragement I needed today. That ever happened to you? You run into an old friend who puts your own troubles into perspective? Or motivates you to get back to the gym or to church?

The funny part was the messages that went back and forth between the two of us. 

"So, not to be crass, but, do you have hands?"

"Nope. You?"

"Well, sort of. They are pretty messed up."

(This was definitely not a conversation you'd see on Ashley Madison.)

"Hey, I hear you have a foot? How's that working out for you?"

"Ha ha." (Wait, maybe he's serious) 

"They talked about saving my foot but decided against it." (Oh, yup, he was just curious)

The conversation went on. And it was great to talk to someone who understood. He is a few years ahead of me in his recovery from sepsis. He wins in the hands department. But I have more feet. And I have more kids. I win! 

I talk to people in the amputee community that live all over the country, one even in Panama. And I hang out with amputees around Charlotte too. They have quickly become my family. And I don't know what I'd do without them. They teach me, encourage me, support me. They amaze me. I know these bonds will only grow stronger as I delve deeper into my amputee life. 

"It was great talking to you."

"Yeah, Thanks for friending me! I'll look into that new leg you were telling me about. We'll talk soon. Gotta run! (Not literally, of course 😜)"

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Welcome To My Blog!

Kristan Seaford

Welcome to my blog! My name is Kristan Seaford, and I am a motivational and faith-building speaker, writer, and blogger. I have an interesting, fulfilling, fun, but physically difficult life. I live in Charlotte, NC and have lived here for most of my life. 

I am still recovering from a pretty catastrophic illness, which began in November of 2013. What started out as the flu and strep throat turned into a life-threatening condition called septic shock. An infection in my blood caused my organs to fail, one after another.

After 100 days, a medically-induced coma, six hospitals, and a miracle, I survived. However, the powerful medications and treatments that saved my organs took the blood, oxygen, and nutrients from my limbs. My hands and feet essentially died.

Today I live as a triple amputee, with my remaining foot missing the toes and part of my heel. I am learning to use amazing prosthetics, which are helping me live a fairly "normal" life.  I am able to parent my five children - driving them to their various activities, signing their reading logs, volunteering at their schools, and potty-training the little one. I have even been able to return to teaching group exercise classes at the local YMCA.  

On this blog, I am seeking to chronicle my daily life, educate people about amputations and prosthetics, make people think, and laugh and cry, help people appreciate their gifts, prove to people that those with disabilities can do anything that abled people can, and motivate people of all abilities to reach for their dreams. Here goes!

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