It’s an unfortunately common sentiment with individuals who have experienced amputation that their limb differences are holding them back, or disallow them from pursuing certain careers. However, the individuals on this list would beg to differ. Just like Jordan Thomas started the Jordan Thomas Foundation and continued his passions, these five famous amputees didn’t let their disability stop them from achieving greatness. They turned what some might feel is a weakness into their greatest strength.
Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer from Hawaii who had been training since she could walk to compete and is currently one of the most recognizable famous amputees. As a child, she showed much promise in surfing- competing in competitions as early as 8 years old, and received sponsorships from multinational surf-wear companies like Rip Curl. Tragically, when she was 13 years old, she was the victim of an incredibly rare shark attack that resulted in her left arm being amputated. With the help and support of her family, she returned to surfing only a month after her incident, and went on to compete in many more professional events. She is also the subject of the 2011 film, Soul Surfer, a movie based off her autobiography.
Now, she continues to compete professionally while also speaking at conferences and encouraging child amputees to pursue athletics through her foundation, Friends of Bethany.
Ever since he was young, Tom Whittaker was an avid climber, and his lifelong dream was to reach the peak of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. On Thanksgiving Day in 1979, Tom was in a car accident that resulted in the necessary amputation of his right kneecap and foot. He didn’t let his newfound disability stop him from achieving his dreams, though, and he continued to train while also founding the Cooperative Wilderness Handicapped Outdoor Group that operated out of Idaho in 1981.
Finally, nineteen years later in 1998, Tom finally reached the summit of Mount Everest; both achieving his lifelong dreams, and successfully became the first person with a disability to climb the mountain. Now, Tom spends his time supporting groups that are dedicated to giving people with disabilities the courage to achieve their goals.
Terry Fox, born in Canada in 1958, was a young and promising athlete when he was diagnosed with a form of cancer called osteogenic sarcoma that necessitated the amputation of his right leg. During his stay in the hospital, he was so emotionally moved by the other children and teens who were also diagnosed with cancer that he resolved to run across Canada in effort to raise funds and awareness for cancer research.
He called it the Marathon of Hope. Although the media coverage of his endeavor was slow to start, eventually he inspired a nation, with crowds forming and cheering him on as he ran 26 miles a day.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck as it was revealed that his cancer had spread to his lungs, and he was unable to finish the entire journey.
But although his journey in this life ended soon after, his journey for cancer research and awareness had just begun. Since his death in 1981, he has become one of the incredibly inspiration famous amputees, and The Terry Fox Run, a fundraising event hosted by his foundation, has raised over $650,000.
The Jordan Thomas Foundation works hard to provide the prosthetic limbs that children with limb differences need to achieve their dreams. If you’d like to contribute to our work by donating, please feel free to do so by clicking here. We have other ways to get involved as well, including ways to refer a child to our foundation. To learn more, visit here.
Jim Abbott is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played for the California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, and the New York Yankees. Over the span of his decade-long professional MLB career, he received multiple awards, including the 1987 Golden Spikes Award, the 1987 AAU’s Sullivan Award for top Amateur Athletes, and the 1988 Olympic Gold Medal for his skills on the pitch, despite being born without a right hand.
In baseball, left-handed pitchers are seen as unorthodox, and hard to bat against due to their rarity. It’s in this zone that Jim Abbott operated; and is now considered among the greatest left handed pitchers of all time.
His MLB career spanned from 1987 until he retired in 1999, and less than a year later become a professional motivational speaker. His accolades didn’t cease after his retirement, though; in 2004, he was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2007 he was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame. His success as a famous amputees in this game is truly an inspiration.
Last but not least, we have the most dexterous of these famous amputees, the very impressive Jessica Cox. Jessica was born without both of her arms, but she’s never let that stop her from achieving her dreams. Although she used prosthetics when she was young, she has instead opted to use her feet alone since she was fourteen.
Yes, that means everything. Brushing her teeth. Putting on makeup. And also being the first person with no arms to receive a Black Belt from the International Taekwondo Federation at the age of 14.
Her accomplishments don’t stop there. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona. (Yes, she writes with her feet, too.)
But, there’s no doubt that her most impressive accomplishment is becoming the world’s first certified pilot who uses only their feet to control the airplane.
These days, Jessica travels to conferences around the world to teach people the true value of the phrase “mind over matter.”