As an infant, Scout Bassett was left at an orphanage with a right transfemoral amputation as a result of severe burns. She would spend the first years of her life there under the instruction to conceal her life-changing secret from the rest of the children while mopping floors, washing dishes and taking care of the younger children.
“The orphanage officials always had me wearing long bulky pants that covered my archaic prosthesis, which was made of leather belt straps, masking tape, and nuts and bolts,” Bassett told O&P Business News. “I always knew that I was physically different from the other children in the orphanage, but I am not sure that they knew I was missing a leg.”
Rescue came at the age of 7 years in the form of an American family from Michigan. The Bassetts adopted her and immediately began to give her the care she required.
“My parents took me to a local prosthetic company … but they were not able to fit me with a prosthesis because I had a bone growing out of the back of my leg,” Bassett explained. “After almost a year … we decided to have the operation to remove the bone and reconstruct the [residual limb] so that I could fit into a prosthesis.”
Today, 19-year-old Bassett not only fits her prostheses; but she also is doing things in it that she never could have dreamed.
Battling the culture shock was not easy for Bassett. She had to overcome a language barrier, a social hurdle, and welcome the idea of family – all foreign ideas that she was suddenly struck with in a matter of hours. Adding her amputation into an already difficult situation overwhelmed her.
“I almost feel being an amputee in the United States is more difficult than my experiences as an amputee in China,” Bassett said. “In the United States, children and adults are more vocal about their opinions and thoughts, sometimes in positive ways and sometimes in negative ways. People in the United States are more curious and they are willing to search for the answers to satisfy their curiosity.”
Bassett was questioned on a daily basis regarding her prosthesis to the point of exhaustion and oftentimes the adversity was too much for her to handle.
“Growing up with a prosthesis was painful at times because children can be extremely cruel in what they say and do, and I heard every possible joke and insensitive comment about my leg and have experienced many forms of prejudice and discrimination,” she said. “It became easier the older I got because my peers were more understanding and mature about my situation and I learned to develop patience and become more comfortable with sharing my story.”
Following a dream
Despite the adversity, Bassett could not deny her interest in sports. In grade school, she watched her peers participate in different activities such as basketball, soccer and softball and her desire to fit in coupled with her growing love of sports led her to take on these challenges.
“I just wanted to be considered normal and to do things that everyone else does,” Bassett said recalling her attempts to play basketball and softball which were wrought with the same adversity she faced off the court and field.
“The other kids wouldn’t pass me the ball in basketball and I was the only player benched the entire softball season by my coach because she didn’t believe I was physically good enough to play,” Bassett said. “I always knew that I had a desire to be physically active and that one day I would be and I would do it well…I just didn’t have the opportunity.”
That is, until she met up with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) in the spring of 2002 at the Track and Field Championships at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
“At the time, I was visiting my prosthetist, Stan Patterson, CP, getting a routine check-up and I told him about the event at Disney and asked if he could make me a running leg,” Bassett said adding that Patterson was enthusiastic to meet her request. “I met Sarah Reinertsen at the event and she taught me how to start the race and told me about CAF.”
That same year Bassett applied for a grant from CAF and since receiving it she says her life has never been the same.
“CAF has given me the confidence and will to believe in myself and to achieve any dream that I set my mind to,” Bassett said. “They have provided me with the resources to follow my passions. When I am competing in sports I feel completely alive. Perhaps the greatest gift they have given me is a family of other physically challenged athletes who have shown me that anything is possible.”
A chance to excel
Her experience with CAF encouraged her to excel in tennis and golf in high school. Both sports led her to a number of accolades and leadership roles. Since graduating, she has only broadened her horizon setting her sights on one day completing in a marathon. For now she has already racked up 13 triathlons — two of which she left wearing world championship silver medals. She also has two second place finishes at the Physically Challenged National Championships in New York City and has received an honorable mention for the title of 2007 Physically Challenged Athlete of the Year.
Bassett has also become involved with teaching other challenged athletes to meet and overcome their own obstacles.
At the Heroes Heart and Hope Gala at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York in June, Bassett was one of the featured athletes, but was humbled by the stories of courage other athletes shared. At the event, more than $800,000 was raised for physically challenged athletes. Bassett also attended the Accenture Catch a Rising Star Multisport Clinic, presented by the Challenged Athletes Foundation and ACA, Accenture, Bionics, Hanger, Ossur and Scope, at Asphalt Green the following day. She played the role of CAF coach and provided the athletes with information regarding running technique, exercises and available technologies.
“The gala and clinic is just an example of something that I get to do all year long, and that is to interact with the physically challenged and show them what is possible,” Bassett said. “It is important that physically challenged athletes engage and interact with other physically challenged athletes because it reminds us that we are all ‘normal’ in each others’ eyes and we can learn from each others experiences. Being a CAF spokesperson is by far the greatest honor and privilege of my life because I have the opportunity to empower other physically challenged athletes to live out their dreams.”
Bassett knows about chasing dreams considering how different her life is from what she once imagined it would be mopping floors in an orphanage in China on a malfunctioning prosthesis. Now a student at UCLA, Bassett is inspiring others through her campus involvement.
“During my days at the orphanage, my only goal and hope was to survive,” Bassett said. “I feel blessed to have so many people who have added a measure of depth and meaning to my life and I share all of my accomplishments and achievements with them. I do not know what the future holds, but I hope to always be involved in improving the lives of the physically challenged.”
Jennifer Hoydicz is a staff writer for O&P Business News.