Yvonne Llanes' journey to mobility was very long – nine years and seven months to be exact.
One doesn't expect to become an amputee and neither did Yvonne. Until Sept. 18, 2005, her life was a full and busy one – elementary school principal, mother of four, and wife of an active-duty Marine. On that day, in the parking lot of a mall in Yuma, Arizona, Yvonne was loading packages in her trunk. It was the last time she would be standing on two legs for almost a decade.
Yvonne was hit from behind by a driver under the influence, pinning her between the two vehicles. The force of the impact immediately severed her legs. "I looked down and I could see them on the ground," she said.
Bystanders came to her aid, using their belts for tourniquets and telling 911 to send an ambulance with a blood supply. When she was eventually extricated from the wreckage, she fell and burned her back from the baking asphalt and the hot radiator fluid. At the hospital, her family was told she likely would not survive. Two months later she returned home in a wheelchair and only left the chair when transferring to bed or bath and occasional physical therapy sessions.
She put on a brave face for her family, because she wanted them to believe she was still the strong woman they knew, but inside her mind was a different story. "I was hurt, I was mad at everything and everybody, and I stayed that way for a very long time," she said.
Over the years, Yvonne underwent several revision surgeries, which she describes as leaving her "sinking deeper into a dark hole. I was feeling terrible about myself when my social worker, Mona Patel, from Hanger Clinic told me about their Bilateral Above-Knee Amputee Bootcamp in Oklahoma City."
Yvonne's made a promise to her ailing father that she would attend, so in 2015, nearly 10 years after her accident, Yvonne's trip to
bootcamp turned out to be life changing."The first day of bootcamp I met amazing people who did fabulous things. They didn't let the prosthetics rule them, they ruled the prosthetics. I thought, I want to be like them," she said.
Yvonne made it her goal to get up and walk and the Hanger Clinic prosthetists and physical therapists were beside her every step of the way, helping her relearn walking skills and building her confidence.
"At bootcamp they pushed me beyond limits I didn't know I could be pushed. I was walking and I can't describe the feeling of freedom and independence. I'm excited about the journey I'm on now. I have so many things I want to learn. There are things that are still difficult, but I'm ready to face those challenges. Life is beautiful now that I'm up, now that I'm walking, now that I don't have to depend on a wheelchair. It has totally changed my life. I won't let anything stop me anymore. I wasted too many years."
Yvonne has pledged to attend bootcamp every year to help and support others who are dealing with their own obstacles and challenges. "I'm hoping that by seeing what I'm doing and by seeing how far I've come in my journey, they too can see that they can do it as well," she said. "It is possible to get up again."