Real Life Wonder Woman
During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, we would like to feature a patient that is the perfect representation for remaining active despite her mobility challenges. At the age of 10, Michelle was involved in an accident and was told by doctors that she wouldn’t be able to walk without a limp, let alone play sports. That news only made Michelle even more determined to overcome any mobility limitations she faced growing up: she played rugby for eight years, ran track and field in high school and college, and even played some football in college. When she got older, she developed a passion for competitive bodybuilding and eventually landed a dream job as a police officer, where she rode horses for the force for over eight years, and eventually became the first female to ride motorcycles for her department.
In 2012, Michelle’s active lifestyle came to a screeching halt during training exercises on her motorcycle. Her front brakes locked up, causing her to crash and slide with the bike on top of her. Never one to let a fall set her active lifestyle back, Michelle got up, felt fine, and continued to ride. It wasn’t until her lunch break that she collapsed as she dismounted the bike.
After being rushed to the ER, Michelle discovered she had a tibial plateau fracture, blood clots, and severe nerve damage. Over the next 15 months, Michelle underwent several surgeries to correct her chronic nerve pain. Unfortunately, the pain forced Michelle to make an incredibly tough decision to retire from the police force after 17 years.
Four years ago, Michelle’s life changed again while helping a friend move furniture. Michelle remembers her nerves firing, causing her to fall down the stairs, which shattered her leg bones and dislocated her ankle. After three years of continuous surgeries, Michelle was referred to P&O Care and worked with certified orthotist/prosthetist Allison Singer on a brace. Michelle still suffered from chronic pain and exhausted all options to improve her quality of life, including neurostimulators in her back that worked for only a year.
Amputation had always been on the table, and Michelle finally considered it as an option to alleviate the chronic pain she had been suffering for nearly a decade. With a significant 50th birthday ahead of her, Michelle decided she wanted to take this new chapter in her life and had a below-the-knee amputation in September 2021. Having built a strong rapport and friendship with Allison as an orthotics patient, Michelle worked with her to create her custom prosthesis. As a lifelong superfan of Wonder Woman, Michelle has always been inspired by the character and it was only natural to custom fabricate and fit Michelle with a Wonder Woman-themed prosthesis.
After putting her active lifestyle on the back burner for nearly a decade, Michelle has a new outlook on life. She is now back in the gym regularly and works for Home Depot, where she walks 4-6 miles each day. Since her surgery, Michelle lost 60 pounds and continues to impress her friends and family with her progress. Eventually, she wants to get back on a horse and start riding again. For now, Michelle is the happiest she has ever been. “For the first time in ten years, I feel like I’m living again. Having the amputation was the best decision, not just for me, but for my friends and family. This process has helped them become an advocate for amputees. I have been nonstop and I’m owning it!”
Michelle truly is the real-life Wonder Woman. After undergoing 26 surgeries since the age of 10, she has gotten herself back out there, found a job she loves, and returned to an active lifestyle she looks forward to each day. This process has also inspired Michelle to mentor other people facing limb loss as a peer visitor. Michelle is such an inspiration to the P&O Care team, and we hope her story can inspire others to get active!