Posted: Dec 10, 2012 4:55 PM by Emily Spain
Updated: Dec 10, 2012 10:54 PM
COLUMBIA - Walking the halls of Parkade Elementary School, Judy Berna reunites with her childhood memories and her earliest fears.
"I remember feeling not like everybody else, but wanting to be like everybody else," Berna said recalling her years spent at the school.
While at Parkade, Judy learned at a young age that life isn't always fair.
"This was definitely when I was in these halls, the transition that I realized that it was different. It was something that I was going to have forever."
Doctors diagnosed Judy with spina bifida when she was born, leading her parents to take her to Boston Children's Hospital for treatment.
"It's a lot of uncertainty, I had never heard about this type of thing," Judy's dad Leon Johnson said. "We didn't know how to interpret it and how to go from here."
Spina bifida is the incomplete development of the spinal cord, coverings or spine. Doctor's tried to fix Judy's case when she was a baby.
"Sent me home and said best of luck and it seemed like everything went great," Judy said. It wasn't until she came to Parkade, that she first noticed her left foot start to curl in the fifth grade.
"Always when I had a growth spurt, the spinal cord was blocking the signals," Judy said. "I couldn't go do all the things I wanted to do."
The disease left her foot useless, curling more with every growth spurt. Judy used crutches and a leg brace to get around. "I still can't remember what it feels like to run," she said.
So, Judy got used to watching life from the sidelines. "You know I had four kids who were middle school down to five and it just wasn't fair that I didn't get to go do things."
After nearly three decades of letting her foot step in the way of her mobility, she decided to take action.
"I really started to think maybe I need to think about amputation, I mean that was drastic."
Sounds pretty crazy, right?
"I think it's so shocking that you don't have a reaction," Judy's dad said.
In 2004, at the age of 37, Judy decided to replace her less-than-perfect foot, with a prosthetic state-of-the-art one.
"Mine is a back wards story that I was thrilled to have it done, I couldn't wait to get rid of it. It meant I got to start over," Judy said.
Doctor's were skeptical of what Judy proposed, calling her foot healthy, but she fought for one that worked. A doctor in Utah ended up amputating her deformed foot just above the ankle near the mid-calf, leaving enough room for her prosthetic foot to fit.
"I always say it's my hero because I can do everything I want to do."
Since the surgery, Judy's been skiing, hiking and bike riding, no longer disabled by a deteriorating limb.
"I clicked this leg on and it was amazing, like I just felt like this is what I've waited for," Judy said.
A 37-year wait, to finally step off the sidelines and into a new walk of life.
"I felt like I was finally one whole piece," she said.
Judy also wrote a book about her experience titled, "Just One Foot: How Amputation Cured My Disability." For more information on Judy or her book, click here.