A Few Pages from the Life Notes of Amy Purdy at S.O.U.P!
By Jordan Savold, CCIC Communications and Research Fellow
To kick off the 8th annual S.O.U.P! (Shots Offer Unrivaled Protection) fundraiser for the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC), Amy Purdy posed an intriguing question:
“If your life was a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?”
Every year CCIC hosts S.O.U.P! to celebrate our progress in protecting Colorado children from vaccine-preventable diseases, to thank our partners, and to recognize outstanding champions of immunization. This year S.O.U.P! was honored to welcome a very special guest, Amy Purdy, who possesses an impressive resume. She’s a meningitis survivor, vaccine advocate, world-class snowboarder, 2014 Paralympic medalist, “Dancing with the Stars” finalist, TED speaker, co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, model/actress, clothing designer, brand spokesperson, New York Times bestselling author, and more. She also happens to be a Colorado resident.
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Amy’s uncommon and inspirational story begins in 1998.
At the age of 19, she was living the life of any other normal young adult, pursuing her passions with newfound freedom and excitement. After finishing requirements at Utah College of Massage Therapy, Amy moved back home to Las Vegas, Nevada to continue her dream job working as a massage therapist with some of the most talented massage therapists in the world. Amy loved everything about her job, reveling in getting to meet so many interesting and different people each week. “Happy and independent—that’s how I felt during this time,” she says. Amy’s ultimate plan was to save up and travel the world doing what she loved most— snowboarding. All she would need were her hands, a massage table and her mountain gear!
As she recalls in her bestselling book, On My Own Two Feet, Amy suddenly went from being a young woman full of life, who thought she might have the flu one afternoon at home, only to find herself on a hospital bed in septic shock with a less than a 2 percent chance of survival a day later.
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Meningococcal Disease is a stealthy and malignant vaccine-preventable bacterial infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, acute bacterial meningitis usually occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and migrate to the brain and spinal cord. It can be a devastating illness. While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. In the United States, about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis, including 500 deaths, occurred each year between 2003–2007.
The symptoms of meningitis are frequently mistaken for the common cold or flu, which is why many do not seek medical treatment right way. However, bacterial meningitis requires prompt antibiotic treatment to improve the chances of a recovery. Delaying treatment for bacterial meningitis increases the risk of permanent brain damage or death. It can become deadly in just 24 hours.
After weeks of praying and recurrent near-death scares, Amy miraculously survived. Sheri Purdy, her mother, said, “Amy loved life so much that she just wasn’t ready to go.” But the illness had taken a toll: Amy lost her spleen, kidney function, and both legs below the knee.
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Incredibly, Amy looks at this life event as a blessing. She is grateful for everything that has come her way—the highs, the lows, the extreme challenges—because this is what makes Amy who she is today. In fact, she believes her achievements are a result of being faced with these hardships and not giving up. She followed her dreams to the tops of the mountains in Sochi for the 2014 Paralympic Games, where she won a bronze medal in snowboard cross, letting nothing stand in the way.
Amy has fully embraced her experience and is using it to make the world a better place by educating others about the importance of vaccines and serving as a role model to inspire everyone to live their life to its fullest potential.
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Since most of us enjoy the many benefits that vaccines provide our society, we sometimes take them for granted. However, if a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child, they put their child and the community both at risk of contracting these diseases. Approximately 4.5 percent of infants and 24 percent of young adults are carriers of Meningitis. This means that the possibility of passing this disease on to an at-risk, unvaccinated individual is actually quite high.
Amy’s parents made sure that she always had the necessary shots to keep her safe from disease as a child, but they didn’t know that a vaccine existed in the 80s and 90s to prevent meningitis. They wished they had.
Amy wants to ensure that more people become aware of these risks to prevent others from having to go through a similar experience. Teaming up with Pfizer to launch the “Take Action Against Meningitis” campaign, she and her mother want to encourage parents to learn more about how they can help protect their teens and young adults from meningococcal meningitis.
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So, back to the question: If your life was a book, and you were the author, how would you write it?
To Amy, life is a gift, regardless of the circumstances. She urges all of us to follow our dreams, make them happen, and—ultimately—be the author of our own individual life story. This realization only became clear to Amy after almost losing her life to a vaccine-preventable disease.
Immunize yourself, and your loved ones, so that you can write the life story you want to live and allow others to do the same.
Thank you for your story, Amy.