Las Vegas native Amy Purdy carved her way across the finish line of the 2014 Sochi Paralympics for para-snowboarding, and she was one of the first ever to do so at the worldwide event.
Purdy spent her teenage years as many in the valley do – going to desert bonfire parties, enjoying the dusty outdoors and snowboarding around the West.
She worked for a time as a massage therapist at the Venetian Hotel-Casino. But when she was 19 years old, her life changed forever.
Purdy went in to the hospital for what seemed to be flu-like symptoms but was eventually diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. In the hospital, doctors discovered her body was in septic shock, her lungs had collapsed and she was in cardiac arrest. She was given a very slim chance for survival.
After being placed in a coma and undergoing an emergency surgery to remove her spleen, Purdy pulled through. But it soon became clear to her medical team that her feet were not going to be so lucky.
In order to survive, Purdy had to have both of her legs amputated below the knee.
After a long and difficult road to recovery that included tumultuous trial and error, Purdy was determined to snowboard again. Working with prosthetic specialists around the country, Purdy was finally able to reach her goal – and realized she wanted to take it further.
Purdy co-founded the Adaptive Action Sports nonprofit organization with the goal of getting snowboarding into the 2014 Sochi Paralympics.
At the same time, Purdy began receiving recognition in other circles as well. A Technology, Entertainment, Design or TED talk she gave about her story went viral, and she also gave acting in Hollywood a try.
Some big names began to hear of Purdy, and she was even invited to be involved in Madonna’s "American Life" video. Although the video was never released due to the proximity to the war with Iraq, Purdy got to strut her stuff – baring her metal legs to the world – down the runway with the Material Girl.
When Purdy received word the International Paralympic Committee decided to accept para-snowboarding into the competition, her intense training and participation in competitions began.
While she was training, however, she got another phone call this time from an ABC production crew. They wanted her to be on their hit show “Dancing With The Stars.”
Her dance partner Derek Hough, known to be the heart throb of the show, was flown to Sochi to begin putting their dance routine together. By day, Purdy carved her way down fresh and often difficult snow in the mountains, by the evening, she was cha-cha-ing the night away with Hough.
After winning a bronze medal at the Olympic competition, there was no time to waste because the live premiere of "Dancing With The Stars" was just three days away. Being able to share her story of survival and determination on screen, combined with dynamic and talented dance routines, Purdy won her way to America’s heart. Purdy and Hough were the runners up in the competition.
Now, Purdy is touring the country on a book-signing tour for her new memoir “On My Own Two Feet – From Losing My Legs To Learning The Dance Of Life.”
Purdy came full circle on the tour, hosting a signing in her home town at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, at the Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road.
Amy Purdy, author and motivational speaker
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