50 Legs Charity – Why it is SO IMPORTANT!

On April 16, 2013, I woke up to the news that my friend Carmen’s sister Celeste had needed both of her legs to be amputated.  Celeste had been at the finish line of the Boston Marathon with her family to watch Carmen finish this amazing endeavor that she had chosen to accomplish to raise money for Dana Farber in honor of her family’s experience with cancer . 

When I read this news, my blood ran cold.  At that moment, I knew what Celeste’s life was going to be like.  I knew that she would be the same amazing sister, mom, wife that she had always been, but she physically would be different.  And, that it would be a lot of work, a battle, a constant challenge.  I will NEVER forget the moment later on in the news reports that I heard Carmen say, “I thought that I had lost everything that I had loved” and to this day, it hurts my heart to know that Carmen felt this way.  I knew from the moment that I heard of the injuries that so many sustained in Boston in 2013 that I could help, that my experience with my mom and with Pilates, I could help these folks!

My mom was a juvenile diabetic, diagnosed at the age of 8 in 1955.  By the time she was in her 50s, her doctors told her, she had the body of an 80 year old.  Our lives were dictated by her disease- early dinner times, sports/activities that we were not allowed to play because of conflicts with a very strict dinner time policy.  We watched daily insulin shots and feared reactions.  She had  her first heart attack at 42, when my sister and I were seniors in high school.  We had stayed at a friend’s house overnight after our homecoming and came home to our family leaving church for the hospital.  We felt guilt for years for not getting to the hospital right away- no cell phones in 1990!  She had a quadruple bypass my sophomore year in college, her first leg amputated my junior year.   We had a bathroom in our home on the first floor with a raised toilet, chairs in the bathtub for the shower.  We had acquaintances that were not nice- that called my mother, “Peg” and asked stupid questions and made fun of our family.   People that were uneducated, ignorant and ridiculous and this sort of behavior would never be accepted today.  Our real friends still remain the way they were 20 + years ago in helping us learn how to live with our mom’s disability.  My mom danced at my wedding with her prosthetic leg in flats.  And, quite frankly, they were ugly- big gross Mary Janes and I know she hated them.  This was a huge disappointment for her and I will never ever forget the day that she gave me all of her high heel shoes- I still have every single pair- I was her only daughter with feet the same size. 

My younger sister’s big circle of friends were much more compassionate, but we had already left for college.  When my mom had her second amputation, I was married and in my very early 20s.  I felt like they were pulling pieces of my mom apart- literally tearing her away.  And, her prosthetics were revolting- a disgrace.  She could barely walk after her second amputation.  Nobody tried to help her.  It was almost accepted that she was in a wheelchair for most of the time.  Her prosthetics were ugly, uncomfortable, humiliating.  I was disgusted at the time with her prosthetists, but had no idea how to help or even where to interject.  I still get upset to the point of vomiting at the sight of her old prosthetics which bound her to a wheelchair instead of assisting her to walk.

So- haha- to why I love 50 Legs?  OMG- because Steve has saved SO many lives.  Has recognized that people shouldn’t have legs that keep them put.  That should demand the latest technology in order to get moving again.  Prosthetics are not cosmetic, they are functional AND immensely so!!! But, some insurance companies beg to differ.  50 Legs provides better prosthetics for folks that may not be able to afford on their own or via insurance.  Prosthetics need to be adjusted EVERY few weeks depending on the time of life a patient is in.  And replaced anywhere from every few months for an adolescent, athlete to every few years for an active adult.  With costs in the tens of thousands, EVERY SINGLE AMPUTEE DESERVES the best leg available.  50 Legs helps with this mission.  Paying it backward for my mom who had horrendous prosthetics that prevented her from walking- I WILL NEVER EVER EVER EVER LET that happen to anyone that I know.

I have had the pleasure of volunteer training many folks  post prothetic fitting that have been helped by 50 Legs including Celeste Corcoran and Jeff Bauman along with several of the other folks affected by the Marathon Bombings along with those amputees who became injured in other accidents. 

I am running the Boston Marathon this year to raise money for 50 Legs, an AMAZING foundation that provides funds for kids and adults in order to afford BETTER prosthetics than their insurance will provide.  Prosthetics that will get them up and going- running, hiking, walking, biking!

PLEASE CHECK OUT MY fundraiser page and I hope to see you at the marathon.  This will be my 22nd Marathon- Like my mom, I don’t give up.

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One thought on “50 Legs Charity – Why it is SO IMPORTANT!

  1. Celeste Corcoran says:

    Crying reading this, Julie your mother is truly smiling down at you every day. You are such an amazing, driven, dedicated, accomplished, selfless and loving friend that has truly changed my life and so many others. I’m grateful that you are a part of my life…you really are the third Gagnon sister, Love you so much. Sydney has the perfect mentor and role model in you. You my friend are my hero!!!XO

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