Gianna Rojas was born in 1962 in Bath, Maine and soon discovered life presented her with challenges. She was born without fingers on her left hand, into a military family which relocated every few years. She had to learn how to build rapport and new friendships with the other kids very quickly and her outgoing personality was a big plus. Unfortunately, however, having one hand often made her the target of school bullies. Once, she was even pushed into her locker at school and trapped in it for 3 hours. Events like that helped to build her strong, empathetic character. She dedicates herself to helping those facing similar challenges.
In past Inspirations blogs we have highlighted the work of inspiring yoga instructors – Marcia Danzig who teaches Yoga for Amputees and Yoga for Children and William Amos, teaching those who need the calming balance of yoga to deal with PTSD. Now we have our own certified Yoga teacher – Brooke Artesi, CPO/LPO and owner/CEO of Sunshine Prosthetics & Orthotics.
Brooke completed her 200 hour teacher training under Michelle Petersen, the director of BEYOGA, focusing on structural alignment, the breath and a steady focus to the practice. Yoga can open the practitioner to the limitless energy within, teaching patience, compassion and self-acceptance.
“I’ve been doing yoga since college. I did the teacher training to deepen my practice but also to use it for the amputee community. I want to use it for support groups and mentoring at Camp No Limits.”
Brooke continued her yoga practice through her pregnancies, focusing on balance and understanding the adaptations that can be made to adjust for physical abilities. She brings this understanding and knowledge to her O&P patients and will bring it to those practicing yoga with her.
Sharing her yoga practice with those with physical limitations allows Brooke to encourage and guide them towards self-awareness, acceptance, and stress and anxiety reduction. Being able to adapt the postures to the student’s physical capabilities brings yoga to those who thought they could not do the poses and exercises.
Wanting to share her passion for yoga and all of its mind-body benefits with those who thought they were not capable of the practice makes Brooke Artesi our Inspiration.
In 2006, at the age of 11, Victoria Arlen developed a strong pain in her side. It turned into a fight for survival – she was diagnosed with 2 extremely rare neurological conditions which attacked her spine and brain, leaving her in a vegetative state. Doctors said it was a hopeless situation and told her parents if she survived (and it was likely she wouldn’t), she would never walk or talk or function normally. The diseases would leave her with severe neurological deficits. In Victoria’s own words: “In the experts’ eyes there was nothing that could be done. Except they failed to realize one thing….
“I was still here.”
She was locked inside a body that was unable to speak or move, unable to tell the doctors or her family that she could still think and hear.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. The anxiety after such trauma may decrease with time but if the person continues to have difficulty adjusting and coping, interfering with day-to-day functioning and causing significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships, finding an effective treatment can be critical. (mayoclinic.org)
Bill Amos is a native of Northern New Jersey who was diagnosed with PTSD following a traumatic accident. His early love of nature landed him a kayaking instructor position creating long hours in beautiful places but in cramped conditions, resulting in tingly toes and tight hamstrings. In 2007, wanting to enjoy all of his time on the water he took the advice of a friend to try yoga.
During the month of April across the United States, amputee support groups, veterans, prosthetists, rehabilitation centers and those with limb loss will be participating in a number of activities in their local areas to raise awareness.
“Limb loss is not uncommon and is becoming less uncommon every day,” says Susan Stout, Amputee Coalition president & CEO “Many people are unaware of the causes of amputation and often see limb loss in just a few categories: the wounded warrior or the accomplished athlete. The fact is, limb loss affects every generation, from young to old and people from all walks of life. More than 2 million Americans live with limb loss and that number grows by 185,000 each year. “
Many people with limb loss have become mentors and advocates to others, raising public awareness and educating on adaptability, prevention and making yourself heard. This month we’d like to highlight just a few of these people.