Christina Stephens, 31 of St. Louis, MO, is a practicing occupational therapist, clinical researcher and peer educator who’s chronicling her journey from foot crush injury to amputation and beyond through her You Tube channel, AmputeeOT.
We first came to know Christina via her video My LEGOleg: Amputee prosthetic leg made with Lego bricks, and were completely taken by her incredible fearlessness and unforgettable sense of humor in the face of adversity.
Christina’s AmputeeOT videos document her path to rehabilitation covering topics such as healthcare, occupational therapy, prosthetics, manual wheelchairs, medical equipment and her personal insights from both sides of the therapeutic relationship between healthcare receiver and provider.
We had an opportunity to connect with this inspiring Woman You Should Know to learn more about her fierce attitude and determination.
What was the cause of your injury that resulted in the amputation?
CS: I was changing the brakes on my car (I’ve worked on my own cars since I was 18) and the car fell off the jacks. My foot was under the caliper. I broke my foot in 8 places, tore a bunch of tendons, and had severe nerve and vascular damage to my foot. The surgeon suggested a transmetatarsal (half foot) amputation, ankle fusion and skin grafts, which would take about 2 years of surgeries. I’m an Occupational Therapist and I have experience with prosthetics, so I knew how functional a prosthetic could be and decided that a prosthetic would be more functional than a fused, skin-grafted, numb partial foot. I had to argue with my surgeon for my amputation; my surgery was on February 26, 2013.
How do you maintain such a fierce and fabulous attitude?
CS: I don’t know, I just am myself. I’m comfortable with my body and naturally curious about the world and the way things work. Since I’m an OT, I’ve spent countless hours teaching people to be comfortable with themselves, and helping them become functional and independent so they can do all of things they want to do with their lives.
What possessed you to create a prosthetic leg from LEGO bricks?
CS: I work in a biomechanics research lab and one of my research colleagues suggested it and we had a good laugh… then I went home and did it. I brought the video for them to watch the next time I went into work. I liked the idea, because I am very comfortable with my body and like encouraging others to be more comfortable with theirs.
What do you hope to accomplish with your AmputeeOT You Tube channel?
CS: I hope to destigmatize and make people experiencing limb difference be more comfortable with themselves, help teach new amputees all about the things they need to do to be successful with prosthetics, and be a peer educator for other amputees.
What advice would you give to someone facing a similar circumstance?
CS: Don’t let your surgeon tell you what you need and don’t be offended if you’ve decided an amputation would result in a more functional outcome for you – you don’t need your surgeon’s 100% approval – you need their skillful hands. Be sure to let yourself cry, let yourself fail, and then get back up and try again. You don’t always have to be a “super crip” to be valuable, so if you’re unable, don’t let that make you feel less valuable.
What’s the greatest lesson you have learned from this experience?
CS: I’ve learned that friends, family and strangers will come to your aid in a time of need (I had about $6,000 donated to me by the atheist blogging community, which helped me pay my bills when I couldn’t work), and that you can really help people by being comfortable with yourself.
Christina’s LEGOleg, which took only 2 hours to build, is more than just a fun project, it is a reflection of her incredible sense of humor and outlook on life… something we can all be inspired by!