Living Without Arms

Barbie, 37, is a mother of two, a motivational speaker and a fitness competitor with an unusual talent: She does all her daily routines with her feet! When she was just two years old, Barbie grabbed onto the wires on a transformer while playing outside her apartment complex. The electrical current traveled through her hands and out from her feet, burning her arms irreparably. Both her arms were amputated at the shoulders and from then on, her feet became her hands. Not one to be kept down, Barbie’s parents fully supported her being as active as she wanted to be and instilled in her a strong determination to never feel disabled.

“'Can’t is not an option’ is kind of my motto, and that came from my parents,” she says.

Barbie says that growing up, some kids would make comments to her, but she chose not to play with them and, instead, focused on her real friends who didn’t let her situation bother them. She also became very active, taking dance classes, playing soccer and even joining the swim team.

“Telling me I can’t do something is a big mistake, because I’ll make you eat your words,” she says.

Although fitness has always been a big part of her life, she didn’t start competing professionally until 2003. She says at first she faced some odd stares that implied doubt in her abilities, but she put all those doubts to rest once she performed her routine. She has since gone on to win first place in several competitions, including the 2009 West Texas Classic.

“What you teach all of us is that what some may view as a disability is actually an opportunity,” ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says.  

Barbie emphasizes that she doesn’t feel disabled. “I think it’s a mindset,” she says, adding, “If you choose to have that attitude, ‘Oh, poor me, I’m disabled,’ then that’s what you’re going to be.” 

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