Please don’t stare! We expect it from kids. That’s okay. But adults should know better. And please, if your kids have questions, let them ask. Don’t quiet them and drag them away wondering. That just teaches them that people with a disability aren’t worthy, and could cause loss of respect or fear. The most common questions I get are, what happened to your hands or why are your legs so different? Let us help the kids learn and understand, and not develop that second-class citizen opinion. Personally, I welcome all questions. I know you have them.
As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Wallace.
Wendy Wallace is a wife, mom, Christian Inspiration blogger, author and digital product creator. She is also a quadruple amputee. She loves her family, flowers, and ice cream. You can find her at One Exceptional Life, where she helps women rediscover God’s joy and peace amid the trials of life.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I got the business bug when I became a mom. I left my corporate job when I went on maternity leave to come home and raise a family. While caring for our three children was important, I always felt the need to contribute to our household income. I ran several home businesses over the course of the last 28 years.
My business endeavors came to a screeching halt 10 years ago when I contracted a flesh-eating bacteria, but only for a short while. Now, as a result of my disability, I run a website using the tools I learned to bounce back. While my kids have flown out of the nest, I still work from home. There’s no other place I would rather work.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?
In 2011, I contracted a flesh-eating bacteria called necrotizing fasciitis. It landed me in a coma for three weeks and the hospital for three months. When I came home from the hospital I was a quadruple amputee. I am missing both hands above the wrist, and both feet above the ankle.
I was someone who was always busy. So losing my limbs had a drastic effect on my mindset for a period of time. I wasn’t nearly as impacted by the loss of my legs, because prosthetics quickly solved that problem. But the loss of my hands felt like I was no longer capable of reaching the goals that I had set. I went through a woe-is-me period. My family however, never saw me as disabled or incapable of accomplishing anything that I set my mind to.
One day my daughter Megan, invited me to go tubing. I thought she had lost her marbles by inviting a woman with no hands and no feet to float in an inner tube down a river. She didn’t think it was an odd idea at all. Through that adventure, which was one of the best days of my life, I came to understand that I was capable of so much more than I was giving myself credit for.
By the grace of God and His prompting, I decided to use my situation to help other people. The next day I started my website, One Exceptional Life, where I help women rediscover God’s joy and peace amid the trials of life.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability?
Through One Exceptional Life, I have been able to reach far more people than I ever thought was possible. I write articles about Spiritual growth, overcoming challenges, gratitude, joy and positivity. I should add that I do not use voice-to-text to write my blog posts. I use a stylus strapped to my wrist. And with that, I am able to write my blog posts, run my business, and create digital products to help my readers.
I receive regular emails from my readers that tell of the encouragement they’ve received, as well as, the inspiration, hope and greater relationship with the Lord, just from things that I share on my site. I am a huge proponent of gratitude, joy, kindness and positivity. And I encourage my readers to keep and grow their faith in order to get through the hard challenges they face. Challenges are a blessing because they help us to grow. They are a tool to build our perseverance and spiritual maturity, which brings hope.
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
Rather than dwelling on what you can’t do, focus on what you CAN do. You may not always be able to do things the way you’ve always done them. But adaptations can give you the ability to still complete the task. Don’t use the word disability or limitation. You are absolutely able. You just need a change in perspective and a commitment to complete the task.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I am thankful to my daughter Megan for encouraging me to try a new adventure. And I’m thankful for my husband. Life without hands is challenging. There are still certain things that I cannot do for myself. My husband Mike has been an inspiration beyond belief. He never lost faith when doctors gave me less than a 1% chance of survival. And he cares for me in ways that I never would have imagined when we married 31 years ago.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The Bible says that God comforts us in all of our tribulation, so that we may be able to comfort those who need help. When hard times hit, it’s typical to look for people who have gone through a similar situation. Early on, I read books and articles to help me know that this challenge I was facing was not the end of the world.
I believe wholeheartedly that my illness and amputations were meant for me to be an encouragement to others. It is my greatest witness for Jesus Christ. I inspire people to seek God and to grow their faith so that they too, can have the hope they need.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
1. We are still people. Unfortunately, many people with physical limitations are looked down on by others, as if they are second-class citizens. That is absolutely not the case. We are human, with hearts and feelings and opinions.
2. People who have faced major challenges in their lives, like having physical limitations, are in a constant battle. It’s a spiritual, physical, and emotional battle. However, in my experience they are also some of the strongest people that you will ever meet.
3. Don’t jump right in to offer help unless you’re asked. This is a hard one for people. Most of us naturally want to help. But we all have our ways of doing things and are pretty determined, even though it may look to you like we’re struggling. Wait for us to ask for help.
4. We don’t view ourselves as disabled, but rather differently-abled. We can still get things done. However there’s typically an adaptation for the hard things.
5. Please don’t stare! We expect it from kids. That’s okay. But adults should know better. And please, if your kids have questions, let them ask. Don’t quiet them and drag them away wondering. That just teaches them that people with a disability aren’t worthy, and could cause loss of respect or fear. The most common questions I get are, what happened to your hands or why are your legs so different? Let us help the kids learn and understand, and not develop that second-class citizen opinion. Personally, I welcome all questions. I know you have them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
My life lesson quote comes from the Bible. It says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
This scripture is the first prayer I made when I woke up in the hospital without my hands and feet. And it has gotten me through every single doubt, fear and struggle that I have had since then. I know that it’s a popular verse for trials. But it truly is my life verse.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
There are actually three people that I would love to meet. Nick Vujicic and Amy Purdy because of their ability to live a joyful life without limbs. And Lysa Terkeurst. She offers such wonderful spiritual guidance and encouragement in her writing which has had a very powerful impact on me.