In 2009, Brazilian Pedro Pimenta was a typical 18-year-old enjoying school, sports, and social activities when he was struck down by bacterial meningitis. He was given little chance to survive; his only option to save his failing organs was amputation of his arms above-the-elbows and legs above-the-knee.
Doctors told him he would never walk again and after months of rehabilitation, Pedro was almost convinced of it himself.
"I woke up from a coma with a completely different life. At first, because of six months in a hospital bed, I couldn't even sit up by myself because my muscles had atrophied."
Despite his very limited success using stubbies, Pedro was determined to learn all he could about prosthetics and he attended conference to see what was available to amputees. "I had no idea what the prosthetic world was all about," he said.
It was at one such conference that he met Hanger Clinic's Vice President of Prosthetics Kevin Carroll, MS CP, FAAOP/D, who offered Pedro words of encouragement and provided his contact information. It wasn't until sometime later when Pedro was in Chicago getting fitted with prosthetic arms that he made the decision to call Carroll.
"It was a very difficult time. I was still in a wheelchair, and not using the arms much. I was watching videos of Cameron Clapp and other amputee patients of Hanger Clinic and they were doing a great job. I wasn't going anywhere after 10 months of rehabilitation. I decided to give Hanger Clinic a try. It was going to be my last shot because I was getting tired and starting to get convinced my future was in a wheelchair and with limited independence."
After speaking with Carroll, Pedro traveled to San Diego to attend the Challenged Athletes Foundation triathlon where Hanger Clinic was a national sponsor.
"I got to meet Cameron and a couple of other guys missing legs above-the-knees, and we hung out all week. They made me walk on my stubbies and it was a defining moment. I understood then it was possible. Right after that I went straight to Oklahoma City to participate in Hanger Clinic's Bilateral Above-Knee Amputee Bootcamp. That completely changed my life," Pedro said.
The activities and speakers at Bootcamp motivated Pedro to give up his wheelchair and work using his prosthetic components.
"It took a lot of energy and a lot of effort, but it was possible," Pedro said.
With his new mobility Pedro moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, to attend college. He graduated in 2016 from the University of Southern Florida with a bachelor's degree in business economics. During this time, he also became a patient advocate for Hanger Clinic and attended many amputee and prosthetic conferences.
Today, Pedro lives independently in Florida, travels worldwide, drives a vehicle without adaptations, finished a 5k triathlon race and is pursuing his previous passion of snowboarding. He has not used a wheelchair since Bootcamp in 2010.
Pedro also was named National Coordinator of the Hanger Clinic AMPOWER program. It is the Hanger Clinic arm for peer-to-peer interaction and support for Hanger Clinic patients.
In addition to his responsibilities at Hanger Clinic, Pedro travels the country as a motivational speaker. Using his own personal experiences, he delivers a powerful message to never give up.
"The first two months after an amputation are the worst because it is so difficult and can be so discouraging. I was literally giving all my energy to walk 10 steps. To walk through a mall, a college campus or an airport, I had to give everything and push myself hard," he said.
"I tell amputees, give everything and make it a goal to not use a wheelchair those first two months. If your legs are amputated or if you are missing arms, put your prostheses on when you wake up and only take them off at night. That is your full-time job to wear those prosthetics for two months. Once you break that first threshold, you are going to be stronger mentally and physically."
Through his words, actions, and attitude, Pedro inspires others to draw on their inner strength and the knowledge that have the power to overcome any situation in life. He personifies Hanger Clinic's mantra of Empowering Human Potential.