Amy & Adaptation

9. Amy Purdy 1

While others talk about breaking through barriers, Amy Purdy proves it is her barriers that gave her the ability to catapult into another level of living. When Amy was nineteen, she contracted bacterial meningitis, a bacterial infection that nearly took her life—she does, in fact remember dying. “I felt my last breath.” It was at that immeasurable moment she remembers making a choice. “I chose to live. I chose to be here and that is a liberating feeling,” making a 180 degree turn back into the world of the living. “When you make that choice, you can’t blame anyone or anything for your situation or circumstance—because, you see, I had a choice and I made it. That’s the thing about life, we always have choices, it is up to us to stand firm with our decisions and live our lives with passion.” After coming back from the brink of death, Amy lost the function of her kidneys and both legs below the knee. “I had no choice but to adapt.” It was in that adaptation that Amy found her creativity and passion. “When you accept that there are certain truths in your life that you can’t change, it allows you to embrace your new reality and move forward.”

Traumatic events like this have a pretty typical and consistent evolution. But who says that Amy does anything typical? “Yes, my life and health were out of my control. I spent months in bed recovering, fearful of what my future would be like. Then my passion for life began to take control. I wanted to smell the rain, feel the wind on my face and feel my muscles moving again. I love working out and I wanted to take back the control of my body and life. So I did.” Once Amy accepted there were things that she couldn’t change, she used her new set of boundaries as the springboard to move to the next level of her life. Much like pushing against the sides of a swimming pool she powerfully propelled into her new life. “I made the choice to not look back in a negative way, I don’t have regrets, and I don’t ask why.”

9. Amt Purdy 2

One of the lessons Amy learned on this journey was that there will always be trials in life, but you can always do something about it. There is always a solution. “For me, connecting to my passions helped me move forward, snowboarding, acting, and motivational speaking. I quickly learned that life happens for you, not to you. Of course, there have been others who have suffered loss but are nowhere near as positive, beautiful and driven as Amy. So what it her secret?

Passion. “Passion leads to purpose and I believe that everyone has a special gift to give. Before losing my legs, I was a massage therapist and I was passionate about healing muscles and bodies. Now, because of what I went through, that platform has expanded.” Amy spends most days traveling the world as a highly requested motivational speaker and top competitive snowboarder. She also works for companies who innovate new prosthetic designs as well as helping others with physical challenges to get involved with action sports through Adaptive Action Sports, the organization she started with her husband, Daniel Gale. “I can help make incredible improvements for others that I would not have been able to accomplish had I not lost my legs.” Her advice for those who can’t define any of their passions? “Ask yourself, ‘What makes me feel good?’ That’s it. For me, healing others through massage made me happy. Now, traveling, challenging myself through creative, artistic projects and connecting with others through sports and speaking is what fulfills me most.” Amy has also dabbled in TV hosting and will be a correspondent for NBC for the upcomingParalympic Games in Rio.

Even though Amy found her passions and purpose relatively quickly, she did struggle with her image at first, as any nineteen-year-old woman would. “For the first few years, I basically wanted to blend in with everyone else. I wasn’t comfortable with everyone looking at me and I certainly didn’t want anyone feeling bad for me. But then, one day it shifted. I realized it’s so much easier just to be yourself! Once you embrace the things that make you unique, so will everyone else! Once I stopped worrying about what others thought of me — my life changed. I began pursuing my passions, dressing the way I wanted and playing with different fashion that actually compliment my legs verses hiding them!” Amy is often found on red carpets playing up her legs with metallic three-and-a-half-inch heels and fashion forward dresses. I always say, “Be yourself, the rest of the world will adapt!”

9. Amy Purdy 3

Through her innovations, Amy has mastered the art of adaptation. “When I was on Dancing With The Stars, I wore a pair of feet that were pointed and looked like ballerina feet but were made for swimming. They had the look I was going for so I tried to dance on them and they worked great. They also gave me the strongest core muscles ever!” The lesson? Get creative. Allow yourself to think differently and apply this thinking to overcoming boundaries. Use your barriers to propel yourself into the next adventurous chapter of your life!

We can all take a page from Amy’s book and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and focus on what excites us and motivates our purpose on the earth. “Do what makes you happy, do what brings you joy, follow your passions! You and the world will be a better place when you honor your dreams and let your light shine! The second we become completely comfortable in our own skin, that’s when the magic begins.”

Amy and her husband Daniel Gale created Adaptive Action Sport (AAS), a non-profit that supports individuals with physical disabilities. Their goal is to create opportunities for those with physical disabilities to get involved in skateboarding and snowboarding and other action sports. AAS is the first organization of its kind to focus on bringing these types of sports to the adaptive community. You can learn more at or on Amy’s instagram @amypurdygurl.

Text by Alexandra Therese
Photography by Richard Reinsdorf