Amy Purdy: Life is too short not to move forward

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How I Made It: Amy Purdy on Finding Your Passion

It's impossible to deny Amy Purdy's success.

Beyond the trophies and medals she earned as a world-class snowboarder, there is her ability to overcome medical circumstances that others might have seen as insurmountable. Purdy's legs were amputated below the knee when she came down with bacterial meningitis at age 19. She fought off septic shock and multiple organ failures, which eventually led to her receiving a kidney transplant from her father when she was 21.

After her illness Purdy, who had been snowboarding since she was 15, was determined to not let her amputation stop her from tearing up the slopes.

It wasn't easy. Purdy's first pair of prosthetics were crude and definitely not made for someone with competitive snowboarding aspirations. She said they looked like they had come straight from Home Depot. Purdy recalls saying to herself: "These can't be the legs that I'm going to live the rest of my life in."

View photos of Amy Purdy on 'Dancing with the Stars' and more:

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Amy Purdy, double amputee, Dancing With The Stars
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Amy Purdy: Life is too short not to move forward
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 2010A' - Fan favorites from past seasons Amy Purdy, Alfonso Ribeiro and Sadie Robertson returned to the ballroom for special performances, on the two-hour Season Finale on TUESDAY, MAY 19 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on ABC. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 2010A' - Fan favorites from past seasons Amy Purdy, Alfonso Ribeiro and Sadie Robertson returned to the ballroom for special performances, on the two-hour Season Finale on TUESDAY, MAY 19 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on ABC. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 2010A' - Fan favorites from past seasons Amy Purdy, Alfonso Ribeiro and Sadie Robertson returned to the ballroom for special performances, on the two-hour Season Finale on TUESDAY, MAY 19 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on ABC. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 2010A' - Fan favorites from past seasons Amy Purdy, Alfonso Ribeiro and Sadie Robertson returned to the ballroom for special performances, on the two-hour Season Finale on TUESDAY, MAY 19 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on ABC. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 24: Amy Purdy speaks onstage during the 2015 NHL Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 24, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 08: Amy Purdy walks on stage at Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend on November 8, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/FilmMagic)
SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 08: Actress, model, world-class snowboarder and 2014 Paralympic bronze medalist, co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, professional motivational speaker, clothing designer, author and dancer Amy Purdy (L) and media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey speak on stage during 'Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend' at KeyArena on November 8, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 27: Amy Purdy speaks at Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend at Prudential Center on September 27, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
USA's Amy Purdy competes to win the bronze medal during the Women's Para Snowboard Cross - Standing (PSL) event during the Sochi Paralympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on March 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
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It took some trial and error to develop a pair of prosthetics fit for competitive snowboarding, but Purdy was able to compete and medal at the USASA National Snowboarding Championship just months after her kidney transplant. She went on to earn a bronze medal at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi.

Purdy's fierce determination has now been channeled into her nonprofit organization, Adaptive Action Sports, which hopes to show that "the 'disabled' can 'live beyond their limits'" the way Purdy does every day. AAS certifies instructors and provides training for adaptive athletes with the ultimate goal of increasing respect for disabled people.

Along the way, AAS and Purdy have developed relationships with the USA Snowboarding Association. They created an adaptive division and have advocated for similar divisions internationally.


Photo via Getty

While Purdy is committed to sharing her experience and to acting as a role model, she doesn't limit herself to her first love of snowboarding. Days after standing on the Olympic podium in Sochi, she debuted on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," and with her partner made it all the way to the finals, where she lost to Olympic ice dancer Gold medalist Meryl Davis.

"I had all these different passions, and I realized that life is so short and I wanted to use what I have," she said of her pursuits. "I felt like I had more inside of me."

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Amy Purdy: Life is too short not to move forward
Co-founders of Birchbox, Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp attend the opening of the Birchbox flagship store on July 10, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Birchbox)
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Nic Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru are the Co-Founders of SweetGreen in Washington, D.C. on October 17, 2011. Jane Black's November column is about SweetGreen and its efforts to stay true to its roots as it grows to be a regional and national chain. Nic Jammet, the young, charismatic co-founder, who is working hard to make sure that they still feature local products from small farms, even in wintertime. They have gone from 1 store in 2007 to 10 today, including several in the Philadelphia area. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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