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32 in Motion Volume 21, Issue 5 September/October 2011

emotional times to go through, but this is when friends and family pull together.”

Having undergone chemotherapy in March 1987, Tepper’s defning moment arrived when she attended the U.S. National Amputee games in Tennessee, in July that year.

“Paddy had urged me to participate in the games, but I felt like I couldn’t do it,” Tepper recalls. “I guess I was still feeling self-conscious. I do have an athletic background, playing college softball. Not having gone back to work yet, I did have time and traveled to Tennessee with a friend to watch the games. Well, what did I see? Not the games, but the people/athletes who were enjoying and competing at the games. I said, ‘I can do this!’ There were amputees and disabilities of all shapes and sizes. The orga-nization actually let me partake in some events such as a walk-on in the javelin, shot put and discus. That September I received an invitation to join the U.S. Amputee Athletic Association – and my traveling began.”

Just 18 months post-amputation, in 1988, she attended the Australian National Amputee Championships with the New York team. Her frst trip involved four stops before a bus ride that brought her to Adelaide.

“It took 40 hours of travel time from my door to the hotel,” Tepper says. “This was 23 years ago, back before 9/11; the airlines didn’t have as tight a security [system]. I didn’t experience any patdowns as I do now. I remember there were ample wheelchairs available in Los Angeles for anyone who wanted them during the layover.” That same year Tepper traveled to England and Seoul,

Korea, with the Paralympic team, hopping over to Japan for a visit with family residing there at the time.

Between participating in bicycle fundraisers and returning to night school, earning an Associates in Nursing in 1999, Tepper continued to squeeze her schedule full with travel. Her long list of travel experiences includes South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Panama, Peru, Germany and the Antarctic. Through all of this, she managed to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, becoming Orthopedic Nurse Certifed in 2005.

Proof that life does move forward after adversity, Tepper’s travel experiences demonstrated to her what she was capable of doing, despite her mobility impairment, and also highlighted society’s changing attitude toward disability.

“I don’t ever feel discrimination when I travel,” Tepper says. “My biggest concern is allowing enough time to get through security lines. When it’s warm, my prosthesis is visible so it alleviates some of the guesswork for TSA personnel. [They know] why the alarm goes off. Some of the patdowns are a little familiar, but it’s neces-sary to ensure safety for all travelers. I’m always asked if I would like the patdown in privacy.

“My biggest concern is taking my extra leg onboard as a carry-on. These legs cost a lot, not easily replaced if lost or damaged, so I don’t check it [as baggage]. Sometimes I get detained for the extra leg, mostly in the U.S. I usually sit in the back of the plane; this doesn’t bother me unless I need to get to a connecting fight. On one occasion we were traveling for a weekend to Texas for a wed-ding, with a connecting fight in Tennessee. I had only carry-on luggage and notifed the fight attendant I would need assistance or ground transport to make the connection. It didn’t happen. Missed the connecting fight, had to take two other fights to get to Austin. Did barely just make it to the wedding.

“I try to allow myself plenty of time. Most of the time I travel with someone, but have traveled alone and feel very comfortable doing it. Giving yourself plenty of travel time is the best advice I would give, and packing as light as you possibly can.”

Time and travel really seems to heal all. For Tepper, it’s a tonic that works.

“Without travel, I would never experience the thrill of seeing the sights I have seen, or met the people I have met,” she says. “I have walked on the path of Sir Ernest Shackleton in the Antarctic; seven continents, one step at a time.”

Photography by Laura Cummings

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