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A disability doesn’t define us, it is just a part of us

Welder, plumber, firefighter, damage control professional and self-proclaimed “bedazzler” Gayle-Jayne Allyson, an Army and Coast Guard Veteran, who served from 1987 to 1997 is not only unstoppable, but unmistakable. With her bright red lipstick and sparking green eyes, she is as colorful as her self-jeweled motorized chair, complete with an amputee Wonder Woman bear strapped to the back.

After six years, Allyson is returning to National Disabled Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colorado, for her second time. The first time she participated she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, additional medical issues led to the amputation of her right leg, and then a year later, part of her right hip.

“When I had my amputation two years ago, I thought, ‘I’ll get a prosthetic. I see people doing stuff all the time. I’ll learn how to walk again,’” Allyson said. “But then last year, when they removed my hip, I knew there was no chance of prosthetic. I wondered what was next since I’d be in a wheelchair after I worked so hard to be out of it.”

Allyson, who receives care at the Cleveland VA Medical Center, said it was important for her to come to Winter Sports Clinic (WSC) again as an amputee because events like WSC remind people that “It’s not over yet.” And flying down the mountain in a bi-ski for the first time Monday reminded her that she can still participate in life, just differently.

“A disability doesn’t define us, it is just a part of us. If you set your limits really low, you are not going to do a doggone thing and you’ll close up inside yourself. If I can get to Colorado on a plane and go skiing, I can certainly travel closer to home to do other things I want to do.”

Accompanied by her good friend and caregiver, Lisa Button, Allyson said that she felt “Button” (as she is known to those at the clinic) had also learned from the experience, because she has now seen what other Veterans are capable of doing on their own.

In addition to skiing, Allyson will also participate in snowmobiling and sled hockey, and beyond that she looks forward to supporting others while making connections.

“You have to lift each other up because we miss being with our squad or company,” Allyson added.

The 36th National Disabled Winter Sports Clinic, a world-leader in adaptive winter sports instruction co-hosted by Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is being held in Snowmass, Colorado through April 1.

A amputee Wonder Woman bear adorns the motorized wheelchair of 10-year Army and Coast Guard Veteran Gayle-Jayne Allyson.

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