The view from this horizon
AFTER EVERY PARABOLA, the command was: “Feet down!” as gravity grabbed. After the final command and as the historic flight landed, Cooper and her team felt more determined.
“This is really just the beginning,” she said at that moment. âWe had thousands of ideas and bounced off the walls when it started again: What do we want to change? How do we want to do that? It was so exciting. “
Maybe she’ll get this chance.
âI would like to be an astronaut,â she says. âThis is my lifelong dream. It is a lofty aim, of course, but it is that amazing aim. One day, going into space won’t be the craziest idea in the world. My children will probably go on an excursion in a zero gravity flight and ask: ‘Which parent companion would like to go into space next weekend?’ “
The journey into space, or at least into weightlessness, began uneasily. Although the sonograms showed no abnormalities, Mary was born without a fibula and with a shortened and curved tibia.
“It was an absolute shock,” said her father Tom Cooper. âSomething was seriously wrong right away. You could see that. “
Tom and Lynn Cooper were told different things by different experts: Mary’s life was in danger; it may never run. Through their own research and using Tom’s military connections as a Coast Guard helicopter pilot, the family finally got answers.
But that didn’t end the fear or confusion. Should they amputate the leg or try to save the leg by placing a metal rod in place of a bone and expect surgery for a lifetime?
âEmotionally, as a parent, amputation is a life decision that your child will have to live with for the rest of their lives,â said Tom. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right decision.”
Mary was 11 months old when her left leg was amputated. She has no memories of life before.
“Being amputated is part of me,” said Mary. âI forget all the time. People come up to me and ask, ‘What happened?’ I ask myself, ‘Is there food in my teeth? Something in my hair? ‘”
As a toddler, Mary was used to sliding around on her own. At the age of three, she received her first prosthesis – basically a block of wood with a foot and some foam, all covered with a plastic shell. Shortly afterwards, she was plopped onto a soccer field. Go score goals.
âThat’s how I learned to use my prosthesis,â she says.
That didn’t mean she accepted it. Mary had a habit of removing her leg and dropping it, which worried her parents very much.
At the checkout of a grocery store, Mary dropped her leg on the conveyor belt. At Walmart, she hid the leg on a shelf. Another buyer picked it up. Fortunately, Lynn noticed.
“I think you have my daughter’s leg in your shopping cart,” she said.
In youth football, it was hard to tell Mary was amputated because the shirts were long, the socks were high, and the shin guards were bulging at the ankles. Your teammates knew. But opponents, parents and the referee? Not as much.
Imagine her shock when Mary’s leg flew away during the game.
“I used to feel for them,” said Tom. âWe’d laugh because we were used to it. But you have to imagine, if you’ve never seen this before, if a child’s leg flies off, you would be ashamed. Absolutely humiliated. Mary just hopped on her leg and carried on. “
Forget caution, Mary learned to ride a bike by taping her foot to the pedal because her prosthesis kept slipping off. She fell many times, but she learned.
At the seaside, when others said, “You shouldn’t put your leg in the water,” Mary turned to her father instead. “We’ll find out,” he said, and they immediately went inside.
“We came back from the beach and my leg would weigh 20 pounds more because it was full of sand,” said Mary. “So we went to a gas station and blew the air on it to get the sand out and take it apart in the garage.”
It was from these situations that Mary became interested in engineering. She often tinkered with her prostheses, which have been made better and better over the years and preserved through the Wounded Warrior Project. Mary was studying how they worked, the pieces scattered around her room. She learned to carry a WD-40 and an Allen key. If she wanted to wear high heels to prom, she manipulated a prosthesis. Paragraphs on.