Dana Bowman Brings Hope
ALEDO - For 20 students in Stacie Ragle's fourth-grade class at Stuard Elementary School, helicopter pilot Dana Bowman's visit Friday was an exciting learning experience. For one student, 10-year-old Kylie Houx, the visit was a chance to prepare for the fact that on May 8 her feet will be amputated.
Bowman, a former Army Golden Knights parachutist who lost parts of his legs in a skydiving accident seven years ago, flew to the school in a Bell 206 Jetranger III to show Kylie and her classmates that losing an extremity does not necessarily mean losing ability. "It's not about disabilities. It's about abilities," the retired Army sergeant said.
Kylie was born with a medical condition that retards bone growth in her lower legs. As she grows, her feet lean inward, causing her to walk increasingly on her instep.
The problem becomes more severe over time, and although surgeries and medical devices have given her some relief, the best option clearly is replacing her feet with prostheses, said her father, Frank Houx, a 45-year-old car salesman.
Bowman, who lives in Weatherford, was injured Feb. 6, 1994, as he practiced with fellow Golden Knights parachutist Jose Aguillon over Yuma, Ariz. The two collided at a combined speed of about 300 miles per hour while rehearsing a maneuver in free fall. An automatic device opened Bowman's parachute when they collided. Aguillon was killed.
Bowman's left leg was amputated below the knee, his right leg above the knee. Since the accident, he has jumped with the Golden Knights, has earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautics from the University of North Dakota, and has become a certified helicopter instructor. He also skis, on snow and water, and scuba dives.
Through the Dana Bowman Limb Bank Foundation, a nonprofit organization he heads, Bowman makes speaking appearances nationwide. He distributes information about himself and his foundation through a Web page, www.danabowman.com.
Bowman told the students that he overcame the mental and physical pain of his injuries and loss and lives a full life. He uses modern prostheses of steel and titanium. His brain has allowed him to pick himself up and to do anything he wants, he said.
"I've still got my mind, right?" he told the students.
Turning to Kylie, he encouraged her about the pending surgery.
"You are going to be able to do whatever you want to do," he said.
After the talk, Kylie and her parents went up for a few minutes in the helicopter.
Kylie, small, blond and shy, said she learned much from Bowman's speech but didn't quite feel like talking much about the day.
During the helicopter ride, she talked away, her father said.
"She was just rattling away on the headsets."
Joanie Houx, 47, said the visit helped her daughter.
"Kids get scared about this," she said. "When they see something like this, it makes everybody more comfortable."
For more info go to Dana's web site
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