In 2003, 13 year old Bethany Hamilton was attacked by 14 foot Tiger Shark while she was surfing near her home in Hawaii. She lost her left arm just below the shoulder, but survived the shark attack.
In 2008, 5 year old Teagan Baughn was walking around Hinkle Field House in Indianapolis while her brother was at baseball camp when she saw a “PASS IT ON” poster of Bethany Hamilton. It shows a picture of Bethany in a blue tank top holding her surfboard with a giant shark mouth shaped chunk missing and it said “Me Quit? Never!”
“Mommy, that girl on the poster doesn’t have an arm.” She said.
“No, she was surfing and a shark attacked and bit her arm.” I replied.
“Does she still do surfing?” She asked.
“Yes.” I said.
“Well if she can surf with one arm, I can do stuff too ‘cause I still have my arm.” She said.
“Yes, you can.” I said.
That was all she needed to know. From that point on, in her mind, she could do whatever she wanted to even if her left arm didn’t work properly. Because the girl on the poster didn’t even have a left arm and she could still surf. So softball, soccer, roller skating, swimming, riding scooters – those things became do-able. No matter how complicated, or how much modification had to made so she could do them – she did them. And she still does them — with the exception of softball because the girls have gotten a lot bigger and can hit a lot harder and she still isn’t great with catching and throwing one-handed – that was a mom rule out for safety. And a highly unpopular mom rule I might add. She has bugged me non-stop this year to go back to gymnastics because her friend Savannah can do 1-handed cartwheels.
We’ve told her time and time again she doesn’t have to play sports if she doesn’t want to. We’re always afraid she’s trying to live up to brother. But she keeps bringing up things she wants to do or to try. This summer Dr. Goodman said just to let her keep doing whatever she wanted to do. She suggested that a lot of brain tumor kids do martial arts. With Teagan, that frightens me. I suggested swimming, unless she swims out of her lane there are no other kids to injure.
We tried last year to read the “Soul Surfer” book, but it’s a little out of her reading range. And we’ve watched the “Soul Surfer” movie. She will tell you she likes the movie but it’s scary. She always says the shark part is what scares her the most but I catch her crying here and there – like when Bethany pulls the left arm off her Barbie Doll. It really is an inspiring story but it’s one of those that triggers a lot of emotions. There have been some movies and books I just refuse to watch or read because the slightest thing can trigger an avalanche of emotions.
Teagan has never forgotten that poster in Hinkle Field House. I think if nothing else it gave her hope that despite her disability she could do the things she wanted to do.
About a month ago, completely out of the blue, she told me she wanted to learn how to ride a horse and go surfing. I told her she could talk to her aunt about riding horses. And one evening I picked her up from my sister’s house and she told me all about riding Sierra (I thought she’d forget about it, or she was joking). When I asked her why she passed on surfing lessons when we were on vacation she said it was because she thought she would have to go out in the really deep water – she didn’t know they did the lessons close to shore. Then she casually mentioned she might be afraid of sharks but she still wanted to surf.
Surfing…. Swimming…. Soccer… Horseback Riding …. Karate (gulp)…
She’s wants to do them all. And, again, she keeps asking about going to gymnastics.
Bethany Hamilton now age 22