Dreaming Big began with Great Loss
As an active, athletic and outgoing teenager, endless possibilities stretched out in front of me. However my world was completely turned upside down when at age 13, I lost my leg to a drunk driver. Despite the despair that follows such a brutal change of life, I was determined to not lose my freedom. Through the help of my family, friends and rehab, I began exploring ways to live life more fully. Part of that process was to modify my crutches, creating tools to help me walk farther, ski faster and climb higher.
I became an occupational therapist to learn new ways to strategically analyze activities and modify equipment, to not only reach my personal goal – to be a mountain climber, but to help others on their journey to reclaim independence. By my early 20s I was field testing my equipment and setting records in the world of climbing – most notably, becoming the first amputee to summit Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest mountain.
Marriage and raising three children led me to retire my climbing career and forced me to nurture the “inventor” side of me, through creative parenting on one leg and crutches. I also began practicing pediatric occupational therapy which continues to foster the frame of reference that creating specific tools is the key to maximizing an individual’s potential for choices in activity and independence. It wasn’t until the dissolution of my marriage and my attempt to deal with the resultant pain that I returned back to adapting crutches.
The SideStix project truly became a reality in 2003 with the serendipitous meeting of Kerith Perreur-Lloyd. Kerith is an engineering technologist and now my life partner. In truth, it was the combination of our professional expertise, our love for the outdoors and our wish to remain active and healthy, that inspired us to create a new tool called SideStix. Designed to protect the joints and with a variety of all-terrain tips, my recreational choices have been expanded so that I am truly connecting to what I love most, being out in nature. I have field tested SideStix on wonderful adventures,walking Camino de Santiago in N. Spain, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiking the West Coast Trail and snowshoeing in the BC mountains.
My experiences over 40 years as an amputee, adventurer and inventor have been captured in a series of presentations called “Stories of Life on Stix”. I have traveled many roads, including loss, pain and recovery and being an innovator, entrepreneur, mom and pediatric OT, I’ve experienced the tapestry of life from very different viewpoints. I use these differing perspectives to illustrate key points I’ve learned, in life & wisdom.