Team Tritanium!

When my husband lost his legs in 2012, we became part of a community I never knew existed. Neither of us had any experience with prosthetics. I had never seen a prosthetic leg before, and little did I know they would become as normal to me as a spoon!

The amputee community in San Antonio is amazing. It has been wonderful to find support and encouragement through the San Antonio Amputee Foundation and organizations like Hanger Clinic. While there are many reasons for limb loss, the people who share this bond also share many qualities, including strength, perseverance, and courage. People who happen to be amputees are living life to the fullest, sometimes living their lives together in our own city.

Mona

Our family was blessed when we met our dear friend, Mona Patel. An advocate for amputees, Mona was one of the first faces we saw soon after my husband had his amputations. Mona was there to encourage, support, and answer any questions we had in our new path. I remember thinking how cute she was. She was petite, with one prosthetic leg, covered in silver sparkles. When I looked down at her feet I noticed her pretty matching toenails. She had polished the fake foot toenails to match her real foot! I loved the confidence she carried. I admired her.

Mona became dear to us. We ran into her often at Ian’s prosthetic appointments. We quickly learned she was an encourager to many in that community. A few years after meeting her, she put together a team of amputees to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. Mona approached Ian about going, and although he’d never done much hiking, he agreed. My husband, Ian, was the only member on the team missing both legs and all his fingers. You can read about how that trip went here.

After Kilimanjaro, Ian decided to try running. He received a grant from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which covered the cost of a pair of running legs. He started training and has now run three half marathons. That is no easy feat for a guy whose knee gave out on him when he still had feet. He is a better runner now as an amputee than he was before!

Yvonne

I met Yvonne Llanes at a fundraiser for Ian’s Kilimanjaro trip. As our family of five walked up, I noticed a sweet lady sitting on a bench outside. I don’t recall if she was wearing her prosthetic legs that day. What I do remember is her sweet, kind smile. I greeted her with a hug, feeling like I’d known her for years. I admired her, too, just as I had Mona. Although I didn’t know anything about her yet, I knew she had to be tough. Yvonne was missing both legs below the waist.

What I find remarkable about Yvonne is what I found out later about her. She had been in an accident when she was 36 years old. While loading bags into the back of her SUV, a driver high on meth crashed into her, pinning her to the car. Yvonne’s legs were severed from her body. It was a miracle she survived. After her accident she became so depressed she spent the next nine years sitting in her wheelchair. It wasn’t until the death of her father that she decided to stand and walk again. Since then she hasn’t looked back. She continues to push herself and accomplish the most unimaginable goals. She wants people to know it’s never too late to accomplish anything in life.

A New Challenge

Once Kilimanjaro was under the belt, Mona still had a desire for more. She continued to exercise regularly. Last year, she climbed Machu Picchu and loved it. Mona is always looking for new challenges. About a year ago, she found another one: a triathlon.

The triathlon would consist of a three-man team, with each person doing one portion of the triathlon: one would run, one would bike, and one would swim. With Ian running his half marathons recently, he seemed to be a great fit for the running portion. Mona asked him, and, well, you just can’t say no to Mona!

So, Ian would do the running. Mona decided to take on the biking, a new challenge for her. They needed a swimmer. Yvonne to the rescue! That is how Team Tritanium was formed. Now all that was left was training.

Team Tritanium

This week, Team Tritanium will be traveling to San Diego, California, to complete the San Diego Challenge. After more than six months of training, Mona, Yvonne, and Ian will show off their skills on Sunday, October 22. Our three kids and I will be at their side to support and encourage them. I am pretty sure I’m the most excited in our family.

Mona and Yvonne are two San Antonio moms who happen to be amazing athletes. They’ve decided to embrace what makes them different and do great things. Maybe you don’t participate in triathlons. Maybe you are a mom living a life that can be hard to live sometimes. We can all learn from their courage and tenacity. Yvonne learned it’s never too late to stand up and walk. Mona continues to challenge herself to find new adventures, encouraging others along the way. My dear Ian is a dad to our kids, and he happened to marry to a wife who doesn’t make excuses for him and pushes him to do the hard stuff. Be inspired by Team Tritanium today. Let’s cheer them on this week as they set off to accomplish another one of their challenges. Go, Team Tritanium!

These two San Antonio moms were kind enough to answer some questions for us. Their responses are below.

Q&A with Mona

Q: How did you become an amputee?  
A:
At 17, I was a pedestrian walking on my college campus, struck twice by a drunk driver. I underwent a forefoot amputation initially. Seven years and 20 salvage attempts later, I finally elected to have my leg amputated below the knee.  

Q: Tell me about your kids. How many do you have, and what are their ages?
A: I’ve got two beautiful, fun, sweet, compassionate daughters. Anaya is 14 and in 9th grade. Arianna is 12 and in 7th grade. They are the best kids a mother could ever ask for. They are fun, driven, kind, and respectful to others.  

Q: What do you love about being a mom?  
A: I love being a mom because I get to serve as their mentor and role model. Shaping them into young ladies who will possess traits and skills that will help them be successful in all realms of life, one may see this as a heavy burden, but instead, I see it as the biggest joy and honor.  

Q: What is the most rewarding part?
A: Most rewarding is watching how they love others. I see how my daughters love each other, their father and me, their grandparents, my boyfriend of five years, school, their teachers, and their friends.

Q: How do you balance being a kick-butt triathloner and juggling your kids needs/activities/schedules?
A: Balancing life is always a challenge for moms, regardless of whether they work outside or inside the home. As a working, single mom, I need to always be vigilant about choices and focus on the priorities that are in the moment. For example, if I have a conference call at 2:00 P.M., but my daughter has an award assembly at the same time, we, as a family, need to make some decisions. How crucial is it that I be on the call (unless I’m leading it, of course)? If it’s crucial, I have an open conversation with my child about the conflict. My daughters are very responsible and self-driven, so morning routines are smooth. We sit down with our schedules a week in advance, so I know where we are to be and when. Rarely any big surprises! And when unexpected things emerge, we handle them as they come up. Communication and functioning as a team is the winning combo.

Q: When do you fit in training?  
A: I fit in my training usually after 8:00 P.M. I’ve been trying to start my day with getting my workout done, but every morning I find myself pushing snooze…OK, maybe a few times! I work out six days a week. My training is different, depending on what my goals are. Currently I am training for the 44-mile cycling part of the triathlon, so I’m cycling 4–5 days a week and strength training twice a week.  

Q: Do your kids eat the same foods you do?
A: My diet tends to be pretty healthy, so no. Ha!

Q: What is the hardest part of being a mom with a prosthetic leg/amputation?
A: Nothing at all!

Q: What do you want your kids to learn from your experiences?  
A: I want my daughters to have the mindset that life will always throw challenges and obstacles their way. How you deal with those situations is what makes the difference. We always have a choice as to how we will react to any adversity in life. ALWAYS having the courage to stay in charge of their lives and circumstances are lessons I try to instill into my daughters every opportunity I get. The other lesson that’s very important to me is how they treat others—always with kindness. Unless we are in other people’s shoes, we do not know what their lives are like. Do not judge; always be kind and respectful. My favorite quote comes from Cinderella’s mom: “Have courage and be kind.” In the face of life’s not-so-good points, never waver from having courage and being kind to others. Inner beauty is lasting and most important. Always believe in yourself, because you are always enough. These are a few things I want my daughters to learn from my experiences.  

 

Q&A with Yvonne

Q: How did you become an amputee?
A: I was hit by a driver high on methamphetamines in September of 2005. I was a pedestrian loading packages into the back of my vehicle when he struck me from behind, pinning me between my vehicle and his, severing my legs on impact. I sat in my wheelchair for nine years and seven months before I decided to rise and become a full-time prosthetic user. I haven’t looked back since!

Q: Tell me about your kids. How many do you have, and how old are they?
A: I have four children. Katie, 27, lives in Connecticut and works in the hotel industry. Adam, 25, lives in North Carolina and is a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. Felicia, 24, lives in California and is a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps. Daryl, 16, attends Warren High School and is a member of their JROTC program.

Q: What do you love about being a mom?
A: As silly as this may sound, the thing I love most about being a mom is being called “Mom.” Being a mom is the most special thing in the world, and knowing that four human beings call me that is priceless. It’s a special name I was fortunate enough to be blessed with, and I have the honor of being claimed by four beautiful people.

Q: What is the most rewarding part?
A: Being hugged, kissed, comforted, wanted, and needed by my children is the most rewarding part of being a mother. Seeing my children thrive and succeed in both their health and careers allows me to experience all of those rewards.

Q: How do you balance being a kick ass triathloner and juggling your kids needs/activities/schedules?
A: I always put the needs of my children first and work my schedule around that. Since I only have one child left at home, balancing my physical activities and his school/extra-curricular activities has gotten somewhat easier. He is an avid gym goer, so we both do our weight training together in the evenings three days out of the week. So not only do I get my workout in, but I get to spend quality time with him as he gets his workout in. And since my husband is our trainer, we make it a family event. It’s one of our best bonding moments.

Q: When do you fit in training?
A: I train six days a week, sometimes twice a day. During the week, I drop my son off at school and immediately head to the pool for my A.M. swim training. On the days I’m not weight training with my husband and son in the evenings, I’m at the gym doing some type of cardio exercise/stretching. I use my Saturdays to rest and recoup and enjoy quality time with my family.

Q: Do your kids eat the same foods you do?
A: Yes, my children have always eaten the same foods as [I do]. As my older ones are now on their own, they prepare their own meals. But my son Daryl eats everything I prepare. He appreciates healthy meals, such as I do, but does enjoy eating fast food at times, such as I do!

Q: What was the hardest part of being a before your amputations? What is the hardest part of being a mom now?
A: The hardest thing about being a mom before my amputations was juggling the schedules of four children, teaching full-time, going to night school for my master’s degree, and managing a home, all while my husband was at war overseas. Being a mother of four with an active duty Marine as a husband was very difficult, as he was gone much of the time, and I had to manage many tasks all on my own. The hardest part of being a mom now is my inability to do things quickly because I can’t move around as quickly as I used to. I have worked hard to become mobile in the last two years, and can now do just about anything and go just about anywhere, but it does take me a bit longer to do these things. Some obstacles I’m still learning to overcome. However, I’m extremely thankful to the Lord above for allowing me the ability to do these things, even if it is at a slower rate. Slowly but surely wins the race!

Q: What do you want your kids to learn from your experiences?
A: I want my children to know that there is nothing you can’t do in your life, if you just think positively and set your mind to the task at hand. You may have to do it in a different way, but it can be done. I want them to know that giving up is not an option, and that fighting for what they want and believe in is critical for achieving success in anything and everything they do. They may or may not be the best in whatever it is they are trying to achieve, but what’s important is that they try their best.

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