Whether she is demonstrating the best back bend in gymnastics or competing with her four siblings, 9-year-old Samantha doesn’t back down from a challenge.
And challenges have been a part of her life from birth. A congenital defect in the womb meant Samantha would be born without most of her left leg, starting at the middle of the thigh.
Samantha’s birth mother, unequipped to meet Samantha’s needs, abandoned her outside a tea factory in China.
From an orphanage in China all the way to Atlanta, Samantha’s smile and story caught the attention of the Fraser family. Susan Fraser, Samantha’s adopted mother, recalls seeing her daughter for the first time in photos.
“Once we saw Samantha’s infectious smile, we knew she was our daughter,” she said.
After completing the adoption process, the Frasers got to meet their 2-year-old girl. She was everything they hoped for and more.
As the excitement of a new family member continued, Susan knew they needed to outfit Samantha with everything she would need to be active. So, she brought Samantha to the Children’s Orthotics and Prosthetics Clinic for a prosthetic fitting. Then came the hardest part: Samantha began the task of learning how to walk on two legs.
Learning to Walk
Samantha was initially resistant to the prosthetic.
“She fought us through all of the interventions, (measuring, casting and fittings) screaming at the top of her lungs,” Susan said. “The orthotics team told us that we shouldn’t be surprised if it took a few months for her to walk unassisted. But once Samantha got the hang of it, she astounded her doctors. She was up and walking in three weeks, and running in four.”
What truly surprised her family was her ability to conquer athletics with ease—even those that most people with two legs have trouble accomplishing.
A Love of Rock Climbing
But running and other sports have now taken a backseat to Samantha’s latest obsession—rock climbing. It was Eric Gray, one of Samantha’s Therapeutic Recreational Specialists at Children’s, who suggested she get involved in rock climbing. She is now scaling walls as high as 50 feet, and according to her trainers, she’s a natural.
“Not only is she good at it, she really loves it,” said Eric. “It’s amazing to see all the progress she’s made.”
Samantha's mom says that she keeps getting stronger.
“I was thrilled that she could participate with Catalyst Sports in their efforts to bring such a great activity and skill to those with disabilities,” Susan said. “Samantha never loses strength—she likes to show others with disabilities what’s possible.”
With Samantha taking the lead, life will never be anything less than exciting. And after all of the challenges Samantha has had to overcome, she’s not backing down. She continues to go higher and higher