It’s not very often you sit back and think “wow”… But this is one of those moments.
In 1992, Amanda Boxtel was happily enjoying a skiing holiday in Aspen, Colorado as a young, healthy 24 year-old. She was active and had many interests that kept her fit and strong.
“I was an athlete. I was a dancer; an aerobics dancer with big hair in the ’80s,”.
Then, within a split second, the unthinkable happened and her world was turned completely upside down. A serious accident whilst skiing resulted in Amanda shattering four separate vertebrae in her spine. Afterwards, the doctors quickly confirmed she would be paralyzed from the waist down and was bound to a wheelchair indefinitely.
“I felt invincible. And that all changed in a split second.” … But she didn’t let this get her down.
On hearing news like this a lot of people would suffer mentally as well as the obvious physical limitations that would dampen your quality of life. Some people even go into deep stages of depression and struggle to deal with such a life-changing injury which there’s absolutely no shame in.
But Amanda, now 50, is one of those people that just continually defies belief. She made a stand against her so-called ‘disabilities’ by refusing to lie down and accept that she was now apparently unable to do many of the activities she loved taking part in before. Instead she has continued to live life to the absolute maximum and the 26 years since her accident have produced one incredibly inspiring story.
“There wasn’t the technology we have today. So, I had to figure out a lot for myself. I started my own fitness regimen and found my new life.”
She carried on skiing, mountain-biking, parasailing and travelling the world. What a freakin’ amazing woman!
She decided to actively involve herself in community and outreach projects with the aim of helping to improve the lives of other individuals like herself, living with disabilities.
When the year 2010 rolled around, she came to learn about bionic exoskeleton suits – if you’ve no clue what that is, then don’t worry I’ll explain. They are…
‘wearable machines, powered by a system of electric motors, levers and hydraulics that allow limb movement with increased strength and endurance’
Ok, enough with the technology talk. In one of these machines, Boxtel was able to achieve a huge milestone- her first step in 18 years!
Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing straight away. She fell once, twice, three times until she eventually got the hang of it. “I had been paralyzed for 18 years at that point, and I hadn’t taken any natural steps”, it must have felt so alien to her!
Feeling the freedom of being able to walk again, even if only for a short distance at first, was enough to convince her to start raising funds for her own exoskeleton. In 2013 she became the first woman in the US to own a suit manufactured by Ekso Bionics which she proudly displays here.
Before you know it, Amanda had taken roughly 130,000 steps. Unsurprisingly she felt stronger than she’d ever felt before, at least for an incredibly long time.
“To stand up and walk with a natural gait, it was everything I had imagined,”
Now for about an hour a day, Amanda puts on the metal casing over her clothes, which work as the parts of her body that no longer function, and walks.
Despite being overwhelmed with joy, she quickly began to realize that not everyone else living with disabilities would have the fund necessary to purchase one of these exoskeletons and therefore would never know the feeling of being able to walk again.
And so, amazingly, she thought to herself “Amanda, why do you have to be the lucky girl? This is a fully adjustable device. We could get a whole community up and walking with this unit.’ “– What a selfless attitude to have!
In 2014, she started a foundation called Bridging Bionics to which she is the founding Executive Director. A non-profit organisation that provides high-tech physical therapy to people with mobility impairments near Aspen, Colorado.
Amanda’s amazing generosity and selfless spirit hasn’t gone unnoticed either. She has picked up the name of “Bionic Woman”, which seems fitting as it not only pays tribute to her own machine but also her incredible, unflappable mentality in the face of huge physical obstacles.
The program she helps to run allows physical therapists to work one-on-one with clients, creating personal development plans based around whatever their mobility issue may be. This could be anything from Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis and many other spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders.
“Disability can be socially isolating, and we are about bridging community, getting people out of their homes and engaging.”
The organisation is quite simply amazing when you break down the numbers. It provides either free or low-cost (depending on the persons disability) sessions to 60+ people. What’s even more amazing is that the sessions are helping people overcome injuries they thought they would have to deal with for the rest of their lives, astounding doctors in the process.
She recently told CNN: “We help people with fundraising campaigns to acquire advanced technology to use at home — so they can access this every day. If you can have this at home every day, it will help with secondary complications and recovery”
She went on to say…
“it is daunting when you find out something costs $90,000. So, that’s where we come in and provide fundraising materials and fundraising ideas to help.”
They actively help to raise funds that could literally change someones life forever and in some darker cases, could even save lives too.
Her passion is what continuously drives her forward and she displays this regularly as a motivational speaker. Sharing her story with others, she teaches people the valuable life-lessons she’s learnt during her incredible journey.
Have a look for yourself!
That’s not all though. Amanda has appeared in magazines, news publications and even appeared on major television networks like CNN, CBS, National Geographic and Sky News just to name a few.
She now lives happily with her Golden Retriever and her overall message is clear:
“Destiny waits for no woman,”
Never give up on pursuing the best possible quality of life you can achieve and if something similar does happen to you, your life’s not over- far from it!
What an inspiring woman right Acidheads? What do you think of this amazing story? Let me know in the comments!