Thursday, August 25, 2011

Meet Lindsey Carmichael, Two-Time Paralympic Archer

The following is an excerpt from our interview with Lindsey Carmichael, two-time paralympic archer and user of Mobilegs crutches. Watch for her future guest posts here on the Mobilegs blog.

I was born with a rare bone condition called McCune Albright Syndrome. Basically, it amounts to lots of broken bones in my adolescent years, and as I like to reassure people, “rockstar parking.” It isn’t the kind of condition that really lends itself to sports, because even in something gentle like swimming there is the chance of slipping and falling.

When I was in middle school, a teacher suggested that my friend and I go take an archery class, and I stuck with it. Archery woke up my competitive nature. As much as I enjoyed practice with friends, I began to look forward to each new tournament, where I might have a chance to prove my abilities and determination. Little did we know at the time that my teacher's suggestion coupled with my enthusiasm and determination would pave my way to Athens and Beijing.
Photo Credit: Marsha Miller 

Archery is a sport that is open to just about everyone—whether you are short, tall, male, female, six years old or ninety-six, able bodied, on crutches, in a wheelchair, one-armed, or even blind. I fit into some of those categories (short, female, and on crutches) but I have seen all kinds of people find joy in the sport of archery, which really does try to level the playing field for everyone.

I upgraded to a pair of Mobilegs in February of 2011 at the suggestion of my dad, who is also my primary archery coach. My old pair of crutches had once seemed cutting edge, but over a decade of use had strained the nerves in my wrists enough to give me carpal and radial tunnel syndrome. This is bad news for someone who relies on her arms and hands all the time!

My crutches were causing me pain during archery practice and made me dread the days where I knew I would have to cover a lot of territory on foot. Sometimes I would have to ice my forearms before going to evening archery practice. So clearly, even though I had grown very attached to my crutches—enough to joke about them as extra limbs—they were doing me more harm than good.

I feel silly admitting this, but I actually put off trying Mobilegs because I was so attached to my old crutches. When you rely on something so much that it’s nearly impossible to imagine life without it. But once we took them out of the box and adjusted them for my short height and my unusually long arms, I was beginning to consider using them — you know, maybe as backups to my normal crutches.

Then, I noticed how similar the grip of the Mobilegs was to my archery bow grip – so much so, that when I first had the honor of talking to Jeff Weber, the designer of Mobilegs, I asked if he had used an archery bow grip as his inspiration. (He hadn’t—he just has the good sense to make an adaptive product that conforms to a moving human body, instead of the other way around.)

Mobilegs have become far more than I guessed they would. I use them all the time and can barely stand to be on my old pair of crutches. I took Mobilegs with me everywhere throughout my final semester at the University of Texas, with all its staircases, steep hills, crowded hallways, and slippery linoleum. I even used them to walk in my commencement ceremonies when I went to receive my diploma and more recently, out dancing with my boyfriend.

Additionally, I really like that Mobilegs look cool. My old crutches were things I went out of my way to hide, to the point that I would photoshop them out of photographs. Mobilegs feel more like big accessories. I get compliments on them just as much as I would from a nice purse or pretty pair of earrings. That may seem like a small consideration… but when you have to keep something with you 24/7, you want it to look good.

Most importantly, though, at the end of a day spent on Mobilegs, I can shoot archery without pain. I can type, and write, and swim laps, and chop vegetables, and do all the things that used to make my wrists ache after a day spent bearing my full body weight at the worst possible angle.

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