Amputee Aerialist Chronicles Her Adventures, Struggles On YouTube

By Colleen Schrappen
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Christina Stephens started taking aerial classes about six months after her left leg was amputated below the knee in January 2013.

St. Louis

Christina Stephens’ persistence at Bumbershoot Aerial Arts is paying off.

She hoists herself off the ground, grabs ahold of two lime-green swaths of fabric suspended from the ceiling of the Benton Park studio, and starts her serpentine ascent.

She has come a long way since her first silks class four years ago, strengthening her core, improving her flexibility and gaining confidence.

Stephens, 35, started taking aerial classes about six months after her left leg was amputated below the knee in January 2013.

“It was kind of a learning process on how I can do tricks and techniques with a prosthesis,” she says.

As she would climb up and down, twisting and inverting her body, her artificial leg had a tendency to pop off.

Eventually, she switched to a device with a vacuum system that keeps the foot in place, though she also sometimes practices without a prosthesis.

Before she lost her leg, Stephens, who lives in the Lemay area of south St. Louis County, had not considered herself particularly adventurous.

“I’m way more active now,” she says. “I feel like I have something to prove.”

‘FORM OVER FUNCTION’
A shade-tree mechanic, Stephens was changing the brakes on her car when her left foot was crushed. The damage was more extensive than her doctor initially thought. Stephens, who has a doctorate in occupational therapy from Washington University, did some research and pushed for amputation.

“As an OT, I’m into form over function,” she says. “I read about foot salvage and amputation. I didn’t want to end up with a brick at the end of my leg that I couldn’t run on.”

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