Going Out on a Limb
By Diane Andrews
Several hundred Swarovski crystals glittered on her ebony black prosthetic arm as Carrie Davis, National Coordinator for Ampower and a Hanger Clinic National Amputee Advocate, gestured for emphasis during a 30-minute presentation about the evolution of her life as an congenital amputee. Davis was the featured speaker September 17 at the weekly lunch meeting of the Rotary Club of Santa Clara, held at the Bay Club, 3250 Central Expressway.
Davis's myoelectric arm, with a split hook on the end for grasping items, is definitely a fashion statement—and a real conversation starter. The "hand" movement is triggered by electrodes that sense when the muscles in her upper arm move.
"Don't just stare at amputees," says Davis. "It's okay to ask. People with prostheses are just people. And missing a limb is not missing out on life."
Born missing part of her left arm below the elbow, Davis walked early, at nine and a half months, because it was too hard to crawl with one arm, and she got her first prosthetic arm when she was ten months old. The former high school teacher from Spokane, Washington, shared the journey to empowerment for herself.
"Let your challenges be your catalysts. We can choose the way we live. We can choose to suffer or choose to move—to live without limits and bring along as many people as we can. I'm a big proponent of mentoring and service leadership," says Davis, who has trained more than 900 amputees worldwide to be mentors (www.EmpoweringAmputees.org).
"It's really important to know you're not alone in your journey," she says.
Davis demonstrated the wardrobe of prosthetic devices she uses to meet different needs. She has natural-looking arms with hands that she can swim with, limbs that can be fitted at the end with attachments allowing her to play the guitar, play golf (badly, she says), do yoga postures and ride a bike. She led the way as the very first winner of a national triathlon championship for upper limb amputees—in a race that only she had dared to enter.
"The way I present myself to the world is how people are going to perceive me, and I just feel like a badass wherever I go," says Davis, placing her crystal-studded arm on her hip.
"Carrie is an inspiration partly because of what she's overcome but mostly because of what she contributes," says Andrew Ratermann, Rotary Club president.
The Rotary Club of Santa Clara (www.santaclararotary.org), with a membership of just over 100 community leaders, is part of an international service organization that believes that the world is its community.
"We're in more countries than the U.N.," says Gary Citti, a 35-year member. "I've been able to see the impact we've made internationally and locally. That's one of the reasons Rotary is dear to my heart."
At the September 17 Rotary meeting, a check for $10,000 was presented to the Sean M. Walsh K-9 Memorial Foundation for the purchase of a fourth service dog for the Santa Clara Police Department.