Monday, February 4, 2008
My Letter to Oprah
You know, since we're talking about him and this website he wants to create, I figured this would be a good time for me to tell the world what an inspiring person Jarem Frye is. I don't know why I haven't done this long ago. I've had this letter to Oprah written in my head since I met Jarem. The whole world should know about him, but I guess my own blog would be a good starting place for my letter.
When he was just 14 years old, Jarem was diagnosed with bone cancer. He had nine months of chemotherapy treatments during which doctors informed him that he would need a bone transplant in order to preserve his leg. With this transplant, a metal rod would be inserted into the length of his leg, leaving him unable to bend his knee. Jarem asked for other options. He was given two: he could have an artificial knee joint inserted, which, at that time, would severely limit his activity to walking only; or, he could have his leg amputated and get a prosthetic, allowing him an almost-full range of motion. Armed with that knowledge and knowing he didn't want to live with limitations all his life, he became a 14-year-old, above-knee (AK) amputee. After his amputation, he endured another nine or ten months of chemotherapy before his cancer was officially pronounced in remission.
When he was fitted with his first prosthetic leg at age 15, Jarem says, "I didn't like the look of it because they tried to make it look real. So I stripped it down to the aluminum, the mechanical stuff, and put a band aid on it along with a sticker stating 'mothers worry.'" His sense of humor never left him. Neither did Jarem let the fact that he only had one leg stop him from pursuing an active lifestyle. In fact, he used it to motivate him above and beyond what the average biped does in his lifetime. He puts me and my two healthy legs to shame with what he can do with his one leg. At just 15 years old he was skiing for a US National Junior Ski Team (AJET - Alpine Junior Elite Team) in the Slalom and Downhill events. At 16, he moved into the open class and was ranked anywhere from 14th in the world to 27th in the world in a variety of events including Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G, and Downhill. He could have gone on to Olympic competitions, but instead he chose to serve a full-time, two-year mission to England for the LDS Church.
When he returned from his missionary service, he says, "My priorities shifted from becoming the best in the world to being the first in world," and as his passion grew for extreme sports like wakeboarding, rock climbing, snowboarding, skateboarding, and downhill skiing, he became more and more frustrated with the lack of extreme sports compatible prosthetics. So, he did the only thing left to do, he created the XT9, "the only prosthetic knee device designed to mimic the functions of the quadriceps during intense athletic and extreme sports use by highly active amputees." With his ground-breaking knee, he became the first AK amputee in the world to telemark ski, wake board, and rock climb on a professional level. Not only is he the proud owner of these lofty distinctions, he is also an accomplished competitor around the globe. In the summer of 2006, he competed in a world wide rock climbing competition in Florida called the eXtremity Games (equivalent to the X-Games, but for amputees), and walked away with the gold medal, $5,000, and some much needed advertising for his innovative and revolutionary prosthetic knee. He has also been extended an invitation to compete with the US Paralympic Cross-Country Ski Team at the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. He is still considering this option at this point. As often as business and family permit, Jarem competes for worthy causes like the 100 mile cycling event he entered in Connecticut that gave all its proceeds to cancer research and the 70 mile Live Strong Challenge held in Portland, Oregon. In March he will be traveling to Norway to provide an educational clinic on the XT9 for a group of amputee, extreme-sport hopefuls wanting to learn more and try out his ground-breaking knee.
With the XT9, Jarem's enabling prosthetic knee, other amputees have also captured the title of "first" in the world. One example, Nicole Roundy (21), a native of Utah, became the first AK amputee snowboarder to board on a professional level using the XT9, and won a silver medal in the adaptive slope style competition at the 2006 United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA) National Championship. Also noteworthy are the many military personnel that are back on active duty thanks, in part, to Jarem's XT9.
Jarem has now turned his full attention and dedication to the manufacture and distribution of his prosthetic knee and, by so doing, has touched the lives of many well-known and not-so-well known leg amputees. They are now doing things with their lives that they never thought would be possible again. He is an angel and a godsend to these people because he gives them hope to replace tragedy and loss. He is deeply religious, has a great sense of humor, and never stops moving forward.
If you want to see some awesome video of just what Jarem can do with his knee, check out his website, Symbiotechs USA, and click on the videos link. There are a few videos, but one of my favorites is the third entitled, "Man Builds Machine Builds Man." In addition to amazing footage of Jarem telemark skiing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and rock climbing, you get to see his kooky side as he goofs off with his prosthetic leg. It's amazing that with all he's been through he still has such a great sense of humor. For all this and more, I am inspired by and have much admiration for my brother-in-law, Jarem.