One young man who has chosen the latter option is 24-year-old Cameron Clapp. He became a triple amputee several days after Sept. 11, 2001, when he was hit by a train.
In the days after 9/11, Clapp’s family erected a memorial for the victims of the terror attacks in their front yard in Pismo Beach, Calif. Clapp, who was 15 at the time, was very distraught about the events of the previous days and went to hang out with some friends.
“It was just three days after 9/11,” Clapp said. “I was very sympathetic for those people, but I had no idea what was about to happen to me.”
While walking home that night, Clapp was hit by a train on some tracks near his home.
“I was literally looking at the memorial, then I crossed the street,” he said. “And the next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital missing three limbs.”
Clapp became a Hanger Orthopedic Group prosthetic patient shortly thereafter, but the real turning point in his life was attending the annual Hanger Education Fair in Reno nine years ago.
“This is where it all started,” Clapp said Thursday morning during the 2011 Hanger Education Fair at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. “I came to Reno and really learned to walk here. I came to the education fair and met the right people.”
With a mantra of “impossible is an opinion, not a fact,” and with the help of the right prosthetics, Clapp has learned to walk, run, swim, ski and a whole host of other things. His achievements have been videotaped and sent all over the world, thanks to many of the people he has encountered at Hanger conferences, and he has served as an inspiration to many amputees.
“He’s probably the reason a lot of soldiers are walking,” said Ryan Kelly, 30, an amputee from Austin, Texas.
Kelly lost his right leg below the knee when his Army convoy was hit by a roadside bomb near Baghdad in July 2003.
“I was treated in a hospital in the desert in a tent,” he said. “My leg was barely attached so they took it off.”
Raymond Hennagir, 24, of Hershey, Pa., did two tours of duty in Iraq with the Marine Corps. He lost both legs and two fingers after stepping on a roadside bomb near Zaidon at the age of 20.
“I lost my left leg in the blast and the right had to be amputated later,” he said.
Hennagir said he was inspired by people like Clapp and Heath Calhoun, an alpine skier who lost both his legs while serving in the Army in Iraq.
“Seeing what they could do kind of inspired me,” Hennagir said.
Calhoun and Clapp gave Hennagir helpful tips on how to do things such as climbing stairs, he said.
“I kept in contact with them and kept getting tips, then they invited me to the Amputee Coalition of America conference,” Hennagir said, which he was able to attend in 2010.
Another man inspired by amputees who now serves as an inspiration to others is British Royal Marines Commando Mark Ormrod, 27, of Plymouth, England.
Ormrod lost both legs and an arm at age 24 when he stood on a mine that contained an explosive warhead while serving in Afghanistan. He was determined not to let his injuries stop him from having a mobile and active life.
“It happened, I’m young and I have to get on with it,” Ormrod said. “I have a 6-year-old daughter at home. I can’t go shopping in a wheelchair.”
Ormrod came to the United States to receive prosthetics from Hanger in 2009.
“I took a chance, came over in June last year,” he said, “and I haven’t used a wheelchair since.”
In late 2010, Ormrod ran in the Gumpathon race with five people from New York to California to raise money for injured servicemen and women from the United States and England.
“I’d just like to say thank you to everyone at Hanger,” Ormrod said during the education fair Thursday.
Clapp, who is very modest about his own achievements, said he also is eternally grateful to Hanger.
“I’ve met people through Hanger who have inspired me,” Clapp said. “I think the important message is that if I just went to a little mom and pop shop to get my prosthetics, I would not have met this entire network of people.”
Clapp now is part of Hanger’s Amputee Empowerment Partners, which offers in-person peer support from a trained and diverse group of people who have first-hand experience with limb loss.
“We meet a new amputee, such as a soldier in a hospital, and answer questions, give them hope and show them the possibilities,” Clapp said. “It really makes a big difference in their lives.”
The human spirit, Clapp said, along with the technological advances being made by Hanger, is what it’s all about.
“I did all the hard work (in my recovery),” Clapp said, “but without Hanger, none of this would be possible. They gave me the opportunity to reach out to others.”