Amanda Ortiz Cutler Achievement Award Story

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Amanda Ortiz’s Story

They say the hardest battles are given to the strongest warriors.  Although I hear this constantly, it’s so cliché yet so true. At the age of five, I was diagnosed with a debilitating disease called scleroderma. Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases. The word “scleroderma” comes from two Greek words: “sclero” meaning hard, and “derma” meaning skin. This led to my left leg resulting to skin and bone. Before I was ten years old, my left femur was stretched almost 4 inches. I was home schooled for almost a year. My elementary years were difficult as I was made fun of for how I looked. I completely stopped wearing dresses or shorts.

My life from that point till about the age of 25, I was ok. About a year   after having my second child, I noticed a small tear on my left ankle. For months I went to wound care, traveled out of town to see specialists but the wound was not healing. It was getting worse. Because of all the doctor’s appointments and wound care, I was fired from my job in 2013. Life without medical benefits during this time was difficult, but making the situation worse was losing my home and car all at the same time.

In 2015, I started working again full time but still, my leg had not healed.  In fact, it was so bad that ultimately I was told by my doctor that I should consider parting with my leg. This was something that I always knew could eventually happen. I was in denial and made every attempt to not have my leg amputated. This was the most difficult decision I would ever have to make. I quickly became depressed but went through with the amputation. I had just started my full-time job three months before the surgery, so the thought of losing another job was in the back of my head. I returned to work three weeks after my surgery. To look down and not see two feet made me sad, however, I continued working and being the mother and wife I already was.

Three months later, in December 2015, I finally received my prosthetic leg. I expected to put it on and start walking, but that wasn’t the case. It took four months with crutches to learn how to walk on my own two feet. I look back and see how far I have come from wondering if I’d ever been able to walk on my own two feet, to doing everything as I did before, in a lot less pain. I often wonder how I made it through these difficult times, but I chose to keep going. Not only for myself but for my family. I have two sons who depend on me and my journey is for them.

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