MILLCREEK — Pamela Hennessy was training for a marathon when a speeding bullet bike crashed into her and took off her leg below the knee.
That was eight years ago and she hasn't let it stop her.
"I always had it in my mind to keep running," Hennessy, of South Jordan, said. Running with a prosthetic, however, "is not quite the same."
"It has its challenges," Hennessy, 38, said. "But, I do everything I used to do."
No one would've noticed had her shorts been long enough to cover it.
Hennessy was one of a few dozen amputees who raced around the track at Skyline High School on Saturday during the fourth annual Utah Adaptive Mobility Clinic, organized by Hanger Clinic, a national leader in prosthetic and orthotic care.
"I feel like I'm defying nature when I'm running," said Dilon Stephens, who lost his lower leg six years ago when a distracted driver hit him on his motorcycle in downtown Salt Lake City. Amputation was his only choice after his injuries wouldn't heal and an upbeat amputee who spoke to him at the hospital made all the difference.
"He showed me that it was possible to get back to the things you did before," Stephens said. "That was a hopeful experience — I was still me after everything I went through."
Keeping a positive outlook, including emotional acceptance of their "new reality," is key for amputees, said Spencer Thompson, a physical therapist at the University Health Care rehabilitation clinic in Sugar House.
"Losing a limb is such a life-changing, unique experience," he said, adding that people who haven't lost a limb can't fully empathizing with amputees. "They have no way of understanding what an amputee might be going through."
After a patient suggested it, Thompson started a local amputee support group, called Sky's the Limb-It, that meets monthly. He said it is important for amputees to see others "making it work."
"We all want to feel normal," he said.
"If you're not missing a limb, you don't get it," said Alec McMorris, the patient who was needing a support system after a truck hit him in Parleys Canyon six years ago. He said losing his leg changed everything — for the better.
McMorris was 21 at the time and was working construction, with no plan for the rest of his life. He said other injuries he sustained in the accident "should've killed me … so, losing a leg really isn't the worst thing that could happen."
The experience humbled him and changed his path. McMorris now works as a patient advocate, helping new amputees and consulting with major prosthetic manufacturers, two of which are located in Utah.
"Life changed for all of us in a big way," he said, adding that having the right support can help "whether you're in a bad place or not." Caregivers and family members can also benefit from getting to know other family members who have been through the recovery process with an amputee.Comment on this story
"It's like a brotherhood," said Kristy Parker, business development manager at Hanger Clinic, who put together Saturday's clinic. She said it was structured with various activities to help amputees better trust their prosthesis.
"It's so huge to have events like this, to show people, 'Look what you can do,'" Parker said, adding that she is inspired by anyone who has been through the process. She said prosthetics help to empower human potential.
"There is hope after amputation," Parker said.