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Meet Dani: Adaptive Athlete, Model, & Coach

by Naomi Schwenk |

People ask me all the time, “How do you do this?” or “I am so sorry that happened to you.” Don’t feel sorry for me! Don’t feel bad! Don’t have pity for me… this is all I have ever known…

I was born without my left hand and forearm. I have had my entire life to learn to adapt. I learned from a young age how to tie my shoes with one hand. In middle school, I learned how to put my hair up with one hand. 

I still have to ask for help sometimes. I used to have a hard time asking for assistance doing something because I did not want to be viewed as ‘weak’ or ‘incapable.’ Now I realize there is no shame in asking for help. I ask my roommates to help me zip a dress or clasp a necklace. I sometimes have to ask for help carrying something. 

My name is Dani Aravich, and I am training to qualify for Team USA in both Paralympic Track & Field, and Nordic Ski. I am an adaptive athlete, model, and coach for other limb-different children.

Although people may not realize it, there is a huge difference between being born without a limb and losing it. Those who are born without their limb are referred to as ‘congenital amputees’, and those who lose a limb are ‘traumatic amputees’. 

It is hard for me to relate to someone who has traumatically lost their limb. I cannot imagine what it is like to have to experience something like that. I have never experienced a phantom pain. I have many friends who have lost a limb, a variety of ways. Some in motorcycle or car accident, others an ATV, and even from a train. 

While we cannot truly understand another’s person’s trauma, we can try to be empathetic. But again, just like I do not want you to ever feel pity for me, my friends who are traumatic amputees do not want you to feel sorry for them either. 

When you see someone who looks different than you, do not be afraid to ask questions. Curiosity is a good thing. I am never offended when someone asks what happened to my hand. I welcome the questions, especially when it comes from children. We need to try to teach kids that people are born differently, and look different from one another.  

So Happy Limb Difference Awareness Month! Ask questions. Be curious. 

– Dani

Want to know more? Read limb loss statistics from the Amputee Coalition and limb loss facts from the AbilityLab. 


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