Adam Taylor / ABC
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | 4:28 p.m.
To watch Amy Purdy dance with Derek Hough on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” you wouldn’t immediately realize that she lost both of her lower legs at age 19 to bacterial meningitis. She uses prosthetics and even painted toes onto them Monday night.
It all happened dramatically a year after she graduated from Cimarron Memorial High School here in Las Vegas. She thought that she had the flu, but within a day had become so ill and slipped into a coma, doctors at Mountain View Hospital gave her a less than two-percent chance of surviving.
Amy lost her kidneys, spleen and legs below her knees before awakening for the first time two months later. Here is Amy’s own remarkable and riveting story of “Living Beyond Limits” as told by her at an Orange Coast Conference of the TED gatherings:
“I was put back together in pieces like a Raggedy Ann doll,” she said. “I was absolutely physically, mentally and emotionally broken.”
This incredible, courageous athlete who grew up in Las Vegas before becoming a massage therapist in snow country also went on to become a three-time World Cup para-snowboard winner and represented America in the recent Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. She’s celebrating April as National Limb Loss Awareness Month.
Her father, Stefan, donated one of his kidneys in 1999 when she battled the disease.
“How do you say thank you for that?” she cried on Monday night’s “DWTS” as producers showed home-video footage of her dancing with him before she was able to walk again. The theme of Monday night’s dances was to mark “The Most Memorable Year of Your Life,” and there were numerous cutaway shots of her parents crying while she performed.
Amy, a one-time Red Rock Canyon hiker, and Derek scored 36 out of 40 points on Monday night, with “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts joining the judging panel of Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli.
Thirty-four-year-old Amy, who once lost her legs down a mountain while snowboarding, was named by the International Olympic Committee as one of the Top 15 most marketable para-athletes in the world. Pop icon Madonna recently invited her to appear in a music video.
Amy’s determination to overcome the double amputation led her to be co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, a nonprofit that helps disabled young people, adults and wounded veterans get involved in sports. Today, Amy uses her amazing medical recovery for motivational speaking and modeling.
Blue-eyed and brown-haired beauty Amy and Derek, formerly of Las Vegas Academy, remained safe on Week 3 of “DWTS” on Monday night to dance another week. Nobody was eliminated, as actor Bill Dee Williams had to quit due to doctor’s orders after experiencing chronic back pain.
To date, Amy has danced the cha cha and swing. Next week, they face the much-feared switch-up. Amy and Derek are listed as 7-to-1 favorites to win the mirrored disco ball trophy on Johnny Avello’s odds sheet produced at his race and sports book at the Wynn.
All of us at Vegas DeLuxe wish the snowboard angel yet another victory as she continues to dance — and inspire.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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