A woman who hid her “ugly” leg under trousers for two decades now has the confidence to wear dresses - after making the decision to amputate it.
For years Kristy Wimberly, 32, was embarrassed by her right leg which had stopped growing at the same pace as her other when she was diagnosed with a rare spinal cord tumor, astrocytoma, at age six.
The nerves connecting her spinal cord to her leg were damaged during surgeries to remove the tumor and further compromised during a surgery to insert titanium rods in her back to treat scoliosis. The damage to Kristy’s nerves meant the growth of her right leg was stunted, leaving it a full two inches shorter than the other and unable to walk without a brace.
The executive assistant, who has undergone 19 surgeries to try and lengthen her leg, was called a “cripple” by high school classmates and became obsessed with concealing her disability, never wearing shorts or dresses even in the depths of summer.
The mom-of-one, from St Louis in Missouri, was confined to a wheelchair and crutches for months after each surgery and was plagued with recurrent infections in wounds caused by the pressure of her brace.
Kristy said her whole life was changed when she decided to have her leg amputated in July 2017 in St. Clare Hospital, and now proudly shows off her high-tech prosthetic limb with confidence.
Kristy said: “I have literally never worn shorts or a dress in 20 years. If I had to wear a dress I would always wear super long ones and I would be so self-conscious the entire time. It's so hot in Missouri especially during the summer.
“I'd avoid going to things like baseball games or any events outside because of it and if I had to, I'd still wear pants and sweat to death. In high school I just went into defense mode. People would make fun of my wheelchair and my crutches and I just desperately wanted to fit in so I would try and hide my disability in any way I could.
“Finally making that decision to have my leg cut off was the best thing I ever did. It’s totally changed my confidence.
"For the first time in my life I am wearing shorts and short dresses. When I do wear pants I cut off one of the legs to show off my prosthesis. I'm so proud of it, and thankful for the new life it's given me,” she said.
Kristy said her family, husband, mechanic Don Wimberly, 30, and daughter Eva Erwin, four, have seen a massive shift in her confidence since she was fitted with a bionic knee, which is controlled by the weight and movement of her upper leg.
Kristy's micro-processing knee can also be operated by her smart-phone and can be switched into different modes for activities like running and even tennis.
“My husband said he has seen such a big change in me, he said it’s made me a much stronger person. I’m able to be so much more active with my daughter now, and I hope to get a special running leg, with a blade at the end so I can finally run around with her for the first time.”
“Looking back at those photos of my “ugly” leg… I have absolutely no regrets. I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing, living my life hiding. In fact, I wish I had done it years ago, especially when I think about all that time I wasted worrying about that leg."
The amputee plans to take part in November's Project Athena, an event where she will cycle and kayak 120 miles along the Florida coastline.
"It's daunting because it's something I would never have been able to do before, but I'm determined. I want to make up for those years I missed out on now that I can. I definitely won't be wearing pants, that's for sure."