From Limb Loss to Limitless Possibilities
Most people who learn they have to have a limb amputated are devastated. Not so for Katie Bondy, a science teacher at the Innovation Learning Center and soccer coach for the girl’s Darby High School JV team. In fact, she was excited about the chance to have a new lease on life.
Diagnosed with Spina Bifida and scoliosis as a child, she underwent several surgeries a few years ago to assist with her leg length discrepancy. These surgeries and the braces she wore as a result led to pressure sores that had her visiting the wound care clinic regularly. Then, in 2022, she went to the doctor with a fever and they discovered she had MRSA, a bacteria that causes life-threatening infections. She didn’t realize the seriousness of her illness because she had no feeling in her left leg. She was admitted to the hospital where she underwent two more surgeries in an attempt to clear the infection. On the day she was to be released, her orthopedic team shared that MRSA was hiding behind the screws and plates in her ankle and broke the news that it was time to think about amputation.
“I’ve had more than 30 broken bones in my ankle, tibia, fibula, and I’m a very athletic person. I love being outside and taking my dog on walks, and I was limited on what I could do before, so when they started talking amputation, I said, ‘yes, please take it,’” she said.
One of the best parts about being an amputee for Ms. Bondy is that she can now have an unlimited shoe collection. Before, she required lifts in her shoes, so was limited to two pairs a year due to the cost and length of time it took to make them. Now, she can order Air Jordans on Amazon and wear them the next day!
She said, “Before, I looked disabled. Now, I can wear what I want when I want. It’s the simple things like this that people take for granted.”
And, thanks to encouragement from her physical therapist and Kevin Dougherty, a fellow teacher and coach of the varsity girl’s soccer team at Darby, Ms. Bondy connected with Adaptive Sports Connection, which had recently begun offering amputee soccer thanks to a grant from U.S. Soccer. Traditionally a lacrosse player (she played goalie at Wittenberg University) and coach, Ms. Bondy said she’s willing to try anything once and joked that the worst thing that could happen is that she would like it. Well, like it she did. Played on forearm crutches and with only one leg/foot, amputee soccer puts everyone on the same playing field.
“I didn’t like it when I first started because the forearm crutches, which I’d never used before, weren’t fit correctly. But then I discovered that I could move fast and for the first time, I had ankle movement,” she said. “Because of my time playing lacrosse, I had good field vision, and I rock climbed a lot before my amputation, so I have good upper body strength, which helped.”
She was so good that she garnered a look from the U.S. Women’s Amputee Soccer team, and is fortunate to have gotten the chance to play on the team in its first-ever international match in Poland last month.
“It was life-changing,” she said. “I’m honored to have been a part of it and have built so many different relationships.”
Later this month she will also play in the American Amputee Soccer Association’s first-ever national championship. Did we mention she also helped coordinate the event!? The competition will be held Oct. 27-29 right here in Columbus and is open to the public.
Ms. Bondy is the ultimate mentor to her students and athletes. Not only does she model the importance of time management and delegating so that she can achieve her goals, but she also showcases resiliency, one of the five competencies of the district’s new Portrait of a Learner.
“I met a lot of the girls on my soccer team when I couldn’t walk. They have seen me on crutches and now they know me as an amputee. I’ve been able to teach them empathy, but not in the sense of feeling sorry for me,” she said. “They have also learned service animal etiquette thanks to my service dog, Oliver, and they know they can talk to me about how to ask certain questions when encountering those who are disabled.”
Ms. Bondy said she loves working in Hilliard. It’s her home and she is grateful to be able to give back to the community.