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HOMETOWN HERO: Fearless amputee encourages others to live life to the fullest

Rose O’Neill never gives up
Rose O’Neill doesn’t let anything hold her back after losing her leg in June 2019. (Photo submitted)

Domestic violence survivor and amputee Rose O’Neill has no shame with her eyes set on supporting and creating visibility for others like herself.

O’Neill divides her time between her home in Quesnel and Vancouver Island where she has to go for any maintenance and care of her prosthetic leg.

Several years ago, she was struck by a vehicle requiring emergency surgery and stayed in the hospital for many months. While she was able to walk out, an eventual wound on her foot proved to be troublesome.

O’Neill went through multiple surgeries to get the wound to heal and contracted several infections before ultimately deciding to have her leg amputated in June 2019.

“I pretty much said if I’m going to die, I’m going to die by my choice, so it’s time to cut my leg off, and thank goodness it turned out well,” she said.

It took O’Neill around a year to heal and get a prosthetic.

Since then, she has learned how to walk and run again.

“Anything that has happened to me, I have zero shame,” O’Neill said, adding while it has not always been an easy journey, she remains optimistic.

“I gave myself 24 hours to grieve my leg after I lost it, and then it was time to move on,” she continued. “Ultimately, at the end of day, you’re the one that decides where you’re going to go in life, and I’m not going to go in a dark and gloomy place.”

O’Neill has recently completed some races putting in 3,500 kilometers since the beginning of this year, requiring a new footplate for her prosthetic.

She even completed the Emperor’s Challenge, a mountain run in Tumbler Ridge, as the first adaptive athlete in two decades. O’Neill hopes to shave off more time next year, eventually completing it in the same amount of time when she was non-disabled.

“I just want to show people that it can be done,” she said.

O’Neill’s strength and fearlessness has attracted the attention of others, including Spartan Races which O’Neill is working on gathering a list of names of enough adaptive athletes to receive passes for all of their games worldwide, hopefully.

O’Neill believes fear stops many amputees from going out and recalls wearing shorts to a Quesnel restaurant in the summer, where a woman told her she should not be out in public like that.

“You can’t let that ruin your day,” O’Neill said, shrugging it off, adding it says more about them than it does about her.

“I can’t tell you how many times I was offered a wheelchair or told to give up by so many people I thought supported me, and you learn quickly who’s in your corner and who’s not and who wants to be seen with an amputee.”

When in Quesnel, O’Neill typically runs every day on Garner Road and shares some laughs with those passing by, including a gentleman who once asked if she needed a hand.

She quipped, ‘no, just a leg.’

“Perspective is everything,” O’Neill said.

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