Young Bilateral Amputee 'an Everyday Hero'

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By Miki Fairley

Ryan Shewell has had several heroes, and in the process, has become somewhat of a hero himself. In fact, he has been described as an everyday hero.

Ryan's passion is sports and his two children are his inspiration.

A deadly fast-acting pneumonia invaded his bloodstream when he was only nine, causing the amputation of both legs below the knee and the loss of parts of both hands. But that didn't slow Ryan down. With prosthetic feet from Seattle Systems, Poulsbo, Washington, Ryan gave full range to his love of sports, being active in softball, soccer, basketball, and water skiing.

Now 27, Ryan is the father of two children, Hailey and Sebastian. They, along with his wife Alana, have brought joy and purpose into his life.

Sports Success

An ace softball pitcher, Ryan once pitched a game that was only two walks away from perfect. One of his heroes is Jim Abbott, a major league baseball pitcher who was born without a right hand. Jim also is one of just a handful of players who never put on a minor league uniform: he jumped right from college baseball to the California Angels. Before becoming a big league player, Jim helped the US baseball team capture its first gold medal during the 1988 Olympics, being the winning pitcher in a 53 win over Japan. Like his hero Abbott, Ryan is a southpaw.

With heroes like Jim Abbott and a mentor like Seattle Systems prosthetist Dave Hensley, CP, FAAOP, Ryan has met all the challenges life has thrown at him successfully. To Ryan, Hensley is more than his prosthetist--he is a mentor and friend, Ryan says. Through the years, Hensley and Seattle Systems have helped Ryan attain his goals. In fact, Ryan has seen many variations of prosthetic feet come and go, some working better for this highly active user than others. "They give me the parts and see if I'm going to break them," he jokes. Having become somewhat of a product test expert, Ryan currently is a fan of Seattle Systems' Cadence HPTM foot.

Helping At-Risk Kids

Among his other talents is working in construction; he recently rewired a house.

Besides sports, Ryan also has a strong interest in the theater, both on-stage in comedy and behind the scenes doing set design. Ryan also spends time working with at-risk kids through the Boys & Girls Club and Big Brother and gives motivational talks to large groups, reminding young people that they can achieve their goals through hard work, a positive attitude, and not giving up. "If there's a challenge," says Ryan, "I never say, I can't do it.'"

Another hero to Ryan is his mother, Stephanie Shewell. Although she succumbed to cancer about four years ago, she continues to inspire Ryan with one of her favorite sayings:  "Conquer your mind, and your heart will follow." Ryan has indeed found that when the mind accepts the possibilities, the heart helps make goals come true.