Believe, Expand, Transcend: The incredible true story of Aimee Mullins

Ritchy Hitoto
Pratt Tribune
Ritchy Hitoto, MS, LAT,ATC, CSCS, PES is a Certified Athletic Trainer/ Strength and Conditioning Coach at Pratt Community College.

Have you ever been to a parking lot, rushing to get to your destination only to find that all the spots were taken except for the “disabled” parking slot? Countless times, I suppose. Have you ever paused and asked yourself: What does the term “disabled” really mean?  

As you look into some definitions, you will find some of the following: Crippled, helpless, useless, stalled, wrecked, castrated, mangled, weakened, maimed, wounded, lame, worn-out, impotent, run-down, paralyzed, handicapped, senile, decrepit, laid up, done up, done for, done in, cracked up, counted out, hurt, useless and weak. Antonyms: healthy, strong and capable. Does any of this sound familiar when you talk about disabled people? Whether you think it or not, let us change our perspective today! Let us see what we can learn from the true story of Aimee Mullins.  

Mullins was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Irish father, Bernard Mullins, from Crusheen, County Clare, Ireland, and mother, Bernadette Mullins. She was born with fibular hemimelia, which means she was missing fibula bones, and as a result, both of her legs were amputated below the knee when she was one year old.  

Believe in yourself — She was told she would likely use a wheelchair for the rest of her life and would never walk, but by the age of two, she had learned to walk with prosthetic legs. She competed at the national and international level as a champion sprinter, and she set world records during the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. At Georgetown, where she double majored in history and diplomacy, she became the first double amputee to compete in NCAA Division I track and field.  

There are multiple ideas, thoughts, beliefs and codes that are being ingrained in us at an early age. Have you analyzed those beliefs and taken stock of how they influenced your life? Did they limit you or empower you? Aimee chose to disregard the limiting beliefs and focus on the empowering one. Do the same! 

Expand your mind — Mullins attended high school at Parkland High School. She was then one of three students awarded a scholarship from the Department of Defense to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She took up sports and acting at an early age. Also, while at Georgetown, Mullins was one of three to win a place in the Foreign Affairs internship program, working at the Pentagon.   

What is the most powerful organ in our body? Our brain! How many times a day do you exercise it? How often do you stretch it? How often do you strengthen it and increase its power? Expanding her mind allowed Aimee to obtain opportunities that she would not have had otherwise. Similarly, expanding your brain capacity at any age will create opportunities.  

Transend the status quo — In 1999, Aimee modelled for British fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, by opening his London show on a pair of hand-carved wooden prosthetic legs — made from solid ash — with integral boots. When we think about fashion models, prosthetic legs are probably not the first thing that comes to mind. I invite us to change our views and the status quo of the so-called “establishment.” Aimee changed the standard of fashion and beauty but the same can be accomplished in more essential areas of life. Find one and go and change it! 

There is so much more we could talk about regarding Aimee’s achievements, and if you wish to know more about her story, I invite you to go check out her TED Talks on YouTube: “It’s not fair having 12 pairs of legs,” or “the opportunity of adversity.” I hope you find courage in her experience, but the more important question is, what are you going to do? How can you get rid of your limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering ones? How are you going to expand your mind on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis? Which books, lectures, movies, documentaries, crafts, projects, ambitions or courses are you going to pursue? How are you going to transcend the status quo of your family, your community, work environment or state? It is now your turn to make your life an incredible story.