8-year-old Me

Photo of me running down the sidewalk in an amazing polka dot outfit with text below that reads: "Nothing slows Emily Billey down even though she wears a prosthesis on her left leg."

I was recently looking through old photo albums and I came across an article about 8-year-old me that was published in The Shreveport Times on February 28, 1993.  How funny it is to look back at how this reporter captured my attitude towards being an amputee even at age 8!

Front page of Section E of The Shreveport Times, Stand & Deliver, "There are people physically perfect in every way and they're a lot worse off than Emily is." - Stuart Billey, Story by David Westerfield, Photos by Jim Hudelson. Photo 1 of little kid legs, including my prosthesis, standing in a line. Photo 2: me doing a handstand and another blonde girl about to do one next to me.

The story starts out by talking about when I was born and the doctors telling my parents that there was something not quite right with my left leg – namely, I had a large bump on it and it was shorter than my right leg.  They quote my mom talking about how she wasn’t sure what to expect and cried for an hour the first time she gave me a bath and washed the little bump on my left leg, but then moves into the present of 1993, at which time my parents knew without a doubt that I could do whatever my heart desired.

The photo below explains that I put my leg under my blanket before going to bed, but it doesn’t explain that I did this so I would have a weapon readily available should a monster or human attack me in the middle of the night.  Gotta use what you got!

Photo of me reading in my bed with text below that reads, "Emily puts her prosthesis under the blanket before reading a book and going to bed."

Anyways, the funniest thing about this article for me are the quotes he cites from my 8-year-old self…

First, I explained why being different makes me lucky.

"She gets a new prosthesis when she grows out of the old one, about every nine months. 'I'm hard on it because I play so much,' she says. 'I think I'm lucky to have a prosthesis because it's different. That's fun.'"

Then I bragged about having a removable body part, but also pointed out the drawback of forgetting where you left your leg.

"After gymnastics class, Emily and little brother, Sam, 5, also in the group, get Cokes. Ask Emily about her prosthesis and she smiles. 'My friends can't take their leg off and on. And they can't get new legs. I can,' she says. 'Sometimes I'll take my leg off and hop around and then I'll forget where I left it!'"

After that I matter-of-factly explained that my foot was “loose” before and that’s why they had to amputate it.  For those not familiar with fibular hemimelia, there is no fibula bone to stabilize the foot, so those of us born with this condition often have a “floppy foot.”  Clearly, that wasn’t going to work for me and I succinctly explained that to him.

"At 6 months Emily pulled herself up and at 11 months she walked in a special boot. But the foot was noticeably smaller than the right one. They hoped that with a prosthesis Emily would be able to lead a more normal life. Emily explains, 'I couldn't have a loose foot.'"

Finally, I made sure everyone who saw our family refrigerator would know that I love myself because I’m very nice.  (Apparently not very humble, but I was only 8…)

"Emily glides through the kitchen on her Rollerblades. On the refrigerator is a paper with lines she wrote about her family. It ends: 'I love myself. I am very nice.'"

There’s also a quote from my mom that I really love in this article:

"'I don't even look at it as a crisis,' Sheryl says. 'People would come up and say, 'Oh, poor baby.' I'd say, no, she's not a poor baby."

My parents didn’t treat me like there was something wrong with me or make me feel like people should feel sorry for me.  Instead, they taught me that having a prosthetic leg is an awesome part of who I am, and clearly that had sunk in by the time this reporter talked to 8-year-old me about it.  🙂

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