LAS VEGAS – Iraq war veteran, Paralympian and certified prosthetist, Melissa Stockwell, CP, from Sheck and Siress, was the keynote speaker at the 2011 American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association National Assembly here. Stockwell, a transfemoral amputee, shared her story of perseverance in front of a record number of participants and attendees.
Stockwell discussed her decision to join the military as well as the details of her accident, caused by an improvised explosive device during a routine ride a long in northern Baghdad on April 13, 2004. Her life in danger due to the large amounts of blood loss, Stockwell credited a nearby physician for saving her life by making a tourniquet on her leg.
Following her amputation, Stockwell rehabilitated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). Although she had lost her leg, it was in ward 57 at WRAMC where Stockwell understood what real loss truly meant.
“You see things in ward 57,” she told the audience at the National Assembly. “You see soldiers affected by the loss of two limbs or three limbs. So when I looked down and saw that I was only missing my leg, I considered myself one of the lucky ones. From that moment, I kind of accepted the loss of my leg.”
Stockwell turned that positive outlook into a second chance at life. Always the athlete, Stockwell set a goal to make the Paralympic swim team. She was also amazed by the work of her prosthetist and was determined to enter the O&P field so she could help future amputees.
“I realized how rewarding the work of a prosthetist must be,” she said. “When I stood up I realized my prosthetist literally got me back on my feet and I thought what a cool profession to be in. I knew from that point on that when I got out of Walter Reed that I was going to go back to school for prosthetics.”
Although she was considered a long shot for the U.S. Paralympic swim team, Stockwell earned her way onto the team and a trip to the Paralympics in Beijing with a record qualifying time in April 2008. She carried the U.S. flag during the closing ceremonies at Beijing.
After Beijing, Stockwell went back to her residency and is now a certified prosthetist.
“The journey is more important than the medals that you get,” Stockwell said. “Life is about the journey that you go through rather than the destination.”
Stockwell M. From Baghdad to Beijing and beyond. Presented at the 2011 American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association National Assembly. Sept. 19-22. Las Vegas.