Katie Stays Active and Inspires Her Students While Living with Spina Bifida
Born with several conditions, including spina bifida, Katie Bondy grew up with lower limb orthoses, and later a prosthesis. Never letting her differences hold her back, Katie has always been extremely active and participated in many sports. Following her love of the game, Katie became a high school lacrosse coach and science teacher, inspiring her players and students to always follow their dreams.
Growing Up with Orthoses
Katie was born with several conditions, including spina bifida, scoliosis, a tethered spinal cord, and limb-length discrepancy. At two years old, Katie was fit with her first orthosis on her left leg, and then was later fit with an orthotic brace on her right leg, too. She learned to walk with casts, a walker, and an orthosis. To assist her mobility, Katie had over 20 surgeries that started at a young age. She was determined to never let her differences hold her back.
“When I was younger, my doctors told my parents I shouldn’t be able to walk, but I was determined. Using my orthotic braces and assistive devices, I tried to keep up with the other kids. To help with my leg length discrepancy, I also wore a shoe with a lift. When I fell, my parents let me figure out how to get up on my own. This helped form my attitude to just get up and keep going.
As I continued to grow, I knew I wanted to stay active and play sports. I played lacrosse throughout high school and college. I wore two leg braces while I played, and had a variety of orthoses, from a knee-ankle-foot orthosis to my current reactive ankle-foot orthosis.”
Katie’s parents decided when she was young that they were going to teach her to advocate for herself and go for her dreams.
“I feel very fortunate for how my parents raised me, not everyone has that experience. My parents were proactive when I was introduced to new situations, such as when I started to attend school. Starting in kindergarten, my parents met with the teachers before school began. When the school year started, I introduced myself, told the other students about my leg braces and that I needed to wear them to help me walk. Once they knew I could play like them, we were off and running.
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By middle school and high school, I advocated for myself with my teachers and had established my group of friends. If people asked me about my leg braces, my friends would even answer saying, ‘This is Katie, she walks different, she’s really just like you and me.’ Our school was multiple levels, and our day was based on a block schedule. I would meet with the school staff to get as many of my classes as possible on the main floor before having my classes on the second floor to minimize going up and down stairs throughout the day.
When it came to sports, I didn’t run as much as everyone else, but then I would modify with more push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises. This really helped me in my position as goalie on our high school lacrosse team.”
Relationship with Hanger Clinic
“The relationship I have with Hanger Clinic in Columbus, Ohio is amazing. I work with prosthetist Jason Macedonia, L/CPO and orthotist Makenzie Best, L/CPO. They have always been there for me. When I was in high school, they worked with my school schedule to get me in for appointments. There were times when I needed an adjustment or quick fix right before my game, and they were there to support me and help me get out on the field. Jason even came to my soccer practice to get a better understanding of how my prosthesis was working for me on the field and if any adjustments might help. As an adaptive athlete, I don’t take for granted that I have a prosthetic and orthotic device that is fit just for me. The relationship I have with the Hanger Clinic team helps enable me to be mobile and live.”
In 2022, Katie’s left leg was amputated below the knee after developing a staph infection.
“It was scary, but I had seen other people with prostheses playing sports and living an active life. In the end, it turned out to be a blessing. The prosthetic foot has more movement than my ankle-foot orthosis allowed me, I can walk better without my leg length difference, and my back pain has improved.”
Less than a year later, Katie began playing soccer with an amputee soccer club.
“I’ve always been an athlete. In addition to playing sports in high school and college, I’ve enjoyed hiking, rock climbing, boating, and coaching soccer and lacrosse. Now, I’m really enjoying playing adaptive soccer, even getting the opportunity to represent the United States on the U.S. Women’s National Amputee Soccer Team.”
Katie is also a high school teacher.
“In addition to coaching, I teach high schoolers. My service dog, Ollie, is my German Shepard and attends class with me. I’m very open with my students about my orthosis and prosthesis, and why I walk different. As kids, we are taught not to stare, but I feel like students are just trying to figure it out. It may be something new that they have never seen before.
Most often, they are just curious about why I have a prothesis, then after that, the curiosity is gone and I’m just another teacher at school. It’s a good lesson for my students in overcoming struggles to accomplish your goals.
For me, it’s a lot about mindset. According to my chart, I should be wheelchair bound. But I am walking, teaching, playing sports, and living an active life. Instead of looking at all the things that are harder in my life, I focus on everything I am able to do and enjoy just being alive. It’s not always easy, but I make each day the best day it can be.”
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If you or someone you love are looking for personalized orthotic or prosthetic care, get in touch with a board-certified orthotist/prosthetist at a Hanger Clinic near you.
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