Fate dealt her what might have been a crippling blow from the very beginning. Her life as an average human being went out the window before she could even open her eyes.
But through sheer will and determination, Hannah Hewett has conquered every obstacle thrown in front of her.
“It’s pretty inspirational,” said John Hewett, Hannah’s father, of the bilateral amputee. “When you watch her do her things, it’s pretty awesome.”
Hannah was born without a tibia bone — which connects the knee with the ankle bone — in both legs. That’s when John Hewett and the rest of his family had to decide the future of both her legs before she was even a year old.
“We had to make a choice,” John Hewett said. “They could have done an artificial implant, but the doctor said the chances were she’d never be able to walk on [her legs]. And think about it, the [tibia] wouldn’t have grown with her, so it would have had to have been replaced as the leg grew. The leg was going to be growing and the muscles were going to grow, but the tibia wouldn’t have grown along with everything else.”
Then the doctor presented the Hewett family with another option.
“The doctor said, ‘If she doesn’t like it, she can always make the decision for amputation when she’s older,’” John Hewett recalled. “We decided we weren’t going to put her through that.”
Thus, Hannah had both of her legs amputated from the knee down at 9 months old.
Another nine months after that, Hannah learned how to walk, and John hasn’t been able to slow her down since.
“It didn’t take long,” John said. “By the time she was 18 months old, she was walking on her stubbies.”
Now, she makes it look effortless.
That’s largely because the doctors amputated her legs evenly, leaving her with a great sense of balance.
“The doctor said, ‘Now, I can salvage this much of this leg and this much of this leg. But I recommend we cut them even,’” John Hewett said of the surgery. “Now, she has terrific balance while we know other kids who can’t get around without prosthetics because they salvaged as much [of the leg] as they could.”
Combine Hannah’s balance, desire and non-stop mobility, and you’ve got one dominant athlete in track and field.
Just ask to see Hannah’s collection of medals and trophies from all the races she has won. For instance, Hannah — who is now 8 years old — recently won three gold medals and a silver at the Endeavor Games at Central Oklahoma University in early June.
And coming up later in July, Hannah will compete in the 2012 National Junior Disability Championships in Mesa, Ariz.
“At the Endeavor Games, it’s likes against likes — double amputees running against double amputees,” said John Hewett, who adopted Hannah when she was 5 months old. “But when you get into national competition levels, she’ll be running against single amputees.”
Hannah will compete in the 60-, 100-, 200- and 400-meter runs at the National Junior Disability Championships, which lists the running events starting July 26 at Mesa Community College.
Eventually, her goal is to compete in the Paralympic Games.
“Are you going to compete some day in the Paralympics?” John Hewett asked his daughter. And not a split second later, her response was an empathic, “yes!”
When Hannah races or goes on a brisk walk, she’ll use her prosthetic legs, which are emblazoned with horses because of her passion for all animals.
“She loves animals,” John Hewett said. “She’s got a cat that will sleep with her if we don’t put it up at night.”
As for being able to function with her legs at all after enduring turmoil early in her life, the soft-spoken Hannah Hewett says simply, “It’s pretty special to be able to walk.”
"Hannah Can" T-shirts for sale
The Hewett family is selling white T-shirts that say "Hannah can" across the front. Each T-shirt sold goes to help the Hewett family pay for expenses for Hannah to compete in athletic events. The cost of each shirt is $12.50 with larger T-shirts (2XL and up) at $15.