Amy Purdy Takes On Hollywood

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By Meredy Fullen

Appropriately nicknamed "Purdygirl" among her circle of family and friends, Amy Purdy has taken Hollywood by storm, making her presence known. Although Amy is a youthful and energetic 24-year-old, her spirit is mature beyond her years. She possesses the uncanny ability of quietly demanding attention, turning heads when she walks into a room. People in Hollywoodimportant and well-connected peoplehave apparently taken notice.

Big Break Comes Early

Amy, a bilateral below-knee amputee and advocate for Freedom Innovations Inc., Irvine, California, has been cast in a leading role for an upcoming independent motion picture. "What's Bugging Seth," a drama by Man of Steel Productions, is presently being shot in Monterey, California, with a pre-release date scheduled for October 2004 and a theater release later in 2005.

"What's Bugging Seth" is based on a man who is hearing-impaired looking for success in both business and life (the movie's producer, Eli Steel, is hearing-impaired). He meets Amy's character, and their relationship changes their lives dramatically. The movie focuses on the issues of insecurity, independence, and learning to be comfortable with who you are.

Although the plot may be a familiar genre in filmmaking, casting an actual bilateral amputee in a lead role is not. The cast and crew for the film believe the movie will make great strides for physically challenged persons throughout the world, showing that although people may have physical differences, they face the same challenges and struggles throughout life. The film's use of a bilateral amputee also brings the abilities and potential of amputees to a new and exciting level.

A Change in Direction

Amy was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she grew up with a deep-rooted sense that her life would have a purpose that would have an impact on others. An avid skier and snowboarder, Amy developed a love for physical fitness and outdoor activities.

At 19, Amy's life took an alternate path. After experiencing flu-like symptoms for about 24 hours, she was rushed to the hospital in a state of septic shock. En route to the hospital, Amy experienced respiratory and renal failure. These factors, combined with a blood condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), in which the blood becomes extremely thin and creates microscopic blood clots, caused Amy to lose circulation to her feet, hands, nose, ears, and kidneys, and caused her lungs and adrenal glands to hemorrhage. Miraculously, her heart and brain were unaffected. After 32 blood transfusions and removal of her ruptured spleen, doctors diagnosed Amy with Neisseria meningitis.

Following this, Amy was in a coma for more than three weeks, and doctors gave her a two-percent chance of survival. Due to the lack of circulation she had suffered at the beginning of her ordeal, doctors had to amputate her legs below the knee. Her other extremities regained their circulation and escaped amputation, although almost two years later Amy received a kidney transplant from her father. She was the first person in Las Vegas in more than 20 years to contract Neisseria meningitis and survive.

After going through this life-altering trauma, Amy challenged herself to move on with her life and not only regain some sense of "normalcy," but also attain goals that even people who have both legs struggle to achieve. Through a sponsorship from Ohio Willow Wood, Mount Sterling, Ohio, she received a grant from the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), Del Mar, California, which allowed her to travel to various snowboarding competitions in the US.

Just weeks after her kidney transplant, Amy entered a snowboarding competition, where she medaled in three events. Months later, Amy attended a Disabled Sports USA (DS/USA) track and field event in Chula Vista, California, where she hoped to meet other female amputee athletes. One day into the competition, the other athletes convinced Amy that she could run and persuaded her to enter the women's 100-meter race. After some brief modifications to her prostheses by Kevin Carroll, CP, FAAOP, vice president of prosthetics for Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics, Bethesda, Maryland, Amy found herself standing on the starting line among a number of world champions. Although she finished last in that race, Amy found a new direction.

Path to Hollywood Revealed

At the track meet in Chula Vista, Amy met Tabi King, director of programs and development for CAF, who immediately recruited Amy as a spokesperson for the nonprofit organization. In 2003, Amy moved to San Diego in order to be closer to CAF, get more involved, and to continue her occupation as a massage therapist. This relocation opened several doors for Amy in the modeling and acting industry. In February of the same year, Amy played a runway model in a music video for Madonna, who reportedly took a personal interest in Amy, coaching her through her video role and commenting on her amazing spirit. Also in the audience during the filming of the video were Jack Nicholson, who predicted that Amy would be a hit in Hollywood, and Sophia Loren, who remarked on Amy's extraordinary beauty and stage presence.

Amy has modeled for various photography projects, including Freedom Innovations Runway" prosthetic foot ads, and is currently featured in the first edition of Fugue Magazine, an art, culture, and music magazine. "To see our products have such a positive and life-altering impact on amputees is the best that the team at Freedom Innovations could hope for," said President and COO Richard Myers. "The Runway foot is an extraordinary prosthetic foot, and Amy's success with it in both her personal and professional life is a true testament to its viability. We are proud to see Amy, as one of Freedom's Amputee Advocates, providing inspiration to amputees through her work."

Re-gifting the Success

Never one to take success for granted and recognizing how abruptly life can change, Amy is making plans to pass her good fortune on to others. She is currently forming a nonprofit organization to help provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to participate in action sports, such as snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing. Her goal is to assist others with adaptive equipment costs and offer training and motivation. Amy also hopes to include music and art programs to provide a cultural influence and to encourage disabled artists to become involved. This is a true testament to Amy's spirit.