Opinion

Kyle Troutman: A likeness but an inspiration

Saturday, May 1, 2021

In my years as a journalist covering news and sports, I have conducted thousands of interviews, but none of them have made me as nervous as the one I did on Tuesday afternoon on a metal bench by the Pierce City softball field.

For those of you who have never met or seen me in person — I have one hand.

My interview on Tuesday was with Pierce City softball player Mollie Beeson — she has one foot.

As I did my normal internal mind prep for the interview, I found myself struggling. Most interviews involve me learning something new and passing along that knowledge and information to readers.

In this case, there may only be a handful (pun intended) of other journalists in the country that could honestly say they’ve experienced exactly what Mollie has in her life.

With that realization came a great pressure I put on myself to not only tell her story well, but to do so without integrating any of my past experience and knowledge of what it’s like to be a prep athlete with limb loss.

Despite my nerves, Mollie made things easy on me. She is a vibrant, smiling, optimistic high school junior. While she may have only one foot, she is a step ahead (again, pun intended) of many of her peers and many adults when it comes to overcoming life’s trials and tribulations.

Amputees come in every shape and size, and with every demeanor. Some, like Mollie (and myself) are exuberantly open about what happened to us. We love to make jokes and surprise people who may be unaware, and life brings plenty of opportunity to create joy from a seemingly negative situation.

For Mollie, some of those moments were when she slid into home and her prosthetic leg fell off and extended the length of her leg, making her safe, or when she was hit in the prosthetic foot with a line drive, never feeling a thing despite the loud cracking noise made by the impact.

For me, as a soccer player all my life, my moments always came when the ball touched my hand. The fear in some referees’ eyes whether to make the handball call or not brought many a humorous moment. If the referee did make the call — the correct call in most cases — you could almost always count on my dad to yell from the sidelines, “How can it be a handball when he doesn’t have a hand?”

I also have a favorite one-liner. I can take almost any activity and say, “Better be careful doing XYZ. That’s how I lost my hand.”

I did not ask Mollie if she has any such quips, but judging by her nature in the interview, I bet she has a few.

Other amputees are more reserved and prefer to go on without anyone noticing, asking or commenting on it. Some of those may be experiencing depression or other mental health issues stemming from the amputation.

In fact, about 1-in-3 people with limb loss experience depression at some point in their lives, and about 600 youth per year in the U.S. lose a limb the same way as Mollie, in a lawn mower accident.

More than 2 million Americans live with limb loss or difference, and many more every day face the possibility of loss due to a myriad of reasons. This piece is coming out a day late, but April was limb loss and limb difference awareness month.

Truthfully, I did not even know that month existed. I have personally benefitted some from being a congenital (from birth) amputee, rather than losing a limb due to an accident or medical condition.

I could not imagine having to deal with the surgeries some must have to endure, the phantom pains or the adjustment period of going from having a certain limb to it being gone.

Even as an amputee, and admittedly one who shies away from being called or considered an inspiration, stories like Mollie’s are inspirational to me.

I hope everyone who reads this piece and her story can use it to overcome something setting them back, no matter how big or small.

Inspiration comes from many places, and with a little help from a standout softball pitcher without a foot, you can find a leg to stand on (I’ll see myself out).

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Monett Times since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-235-3135 or editor@monett-times.com.

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