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Playing With A Prosthetic: Emily White's Comeback Story

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(Photo courtesy of Emily White)

Emily White was like every other college softball player. She wanted to play the sport she loved for as long as she could and decided to play at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix. However, her life changed when an ATV she was on flipped over and she was pinned underneath it.

She was forced to make a choice between keeping her foot or optimizing her quality of life. White decided that she would rather remove her foot and re-learn the sport she loved with a prosthetic rather than keep a foot that wouldn’t serve her. For White, making that choice was a no-brainer.

“I had played my last game with both legs and didn’t even know it,” she said. “The biggest thing I learned, and I can’t tell people enough, is that time is so precious. Who’s to say that your last day isn’t today, tomorrow, in a week or in a few years?”

As for softball, White had to make a lot of adjustments to see the field again. Previously an outfielder, she had to learn infield because her blade was better accommodated in the dirt. She went through prosthetic-specific personal training three times a week, while also attending daily practices with the team.

“I learned that qualities such as attitude and effort are the only things you can control,” White added. “If you give 100% effort and have a good attitude and are able to be coachable, it really sets you apart from everyone else.”

White was able to get through this challenging time because of her belief that softball was worth it. Her best friends and her best memories all tied back to softball, and she refused to let her time playing the sport be cut short without a fight.

“The field is the only place I can go where I don't think about anything but the game,” White said. “It's almost like nothing else matters except what’s right in front of you.”

College sports require tireless dedication and an ability to balance multiple aspects of life. Student-athletes are not able to focus solely on playing their sport. They must work hard in the classroom, while also trying to make time for friends and family. White managed to find that balance, while also learning how to play with her prosthetic.

“I didn’t really prepare for it, to be honest,” she added. “I saw how fast I was recovering and wanted to set a goal to be the first female amputee to play collegiate softball in such little time. I knew my limits, and told myself to be the best I can be today.”

Having been through this life-changing and body-altering experience, White has a completely different mindset about life after her accident and what it means to her.

“I always think to myself now that if today was my last day, would I be fulfilled with happiness in everything that I accomplished in life?” she said, “Or would I be upset that I didn’t do that one thing or go all out for that play that could’ve won the game?”

White's story is so inspiring to people because she reminds others that life is something you make happen, not something that happens to you.

“My experience constantly puts into perspective how fortunate we are to experience the things we can,” White said. “I was fortunate enough to be given help from people such as my doctors, family and coaches. Not everyone can say they have such a great group of people that believe in them and help them.”

*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that Emily White became an amputee in a car accident, but it was as a result of an ATV accident.

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