Texas Woman Climbs Mount Everest on One Good Leg
It would have to be someone from the Lone Star State. A 61 year old Lubbock woman recently climbed Mount Everest and people around the world are talking about her, because she climbed the world's tallest mountain with just one good leg.
Rhonda Graham's left leg was amputated in 1980 because of a staph infection after a total knee replacement. She got around on crutches for 25 years because infections and surgeries prevented her from getting a prosthetic leg.
Finally, six years ago, she got the new leg - and climbing Mt. Everest was all she could think about. "I couldn't seem to get the mountain out of my mind. I thought I have to go see this mountain for myself," she said. "This mountain… it was there and I had to see it."
So, in October, Graham went to Nepal on her new leg and made the climb. She made it to the top in good health, even though her prosthesis gave out on her.
She laughs when she tells that story. “The hydraulic seals of the leg broke, probably because of altitude. So the leg basically was not functioning very well by the time the trip was over. It was more or less just hanging on.”
Graham says she wants to prove that people really can do almost anything they really want to do, even if they are limited by a disability of one kind of another. You can do it if you want it badly enough she says.
"A leg does not define you. This leg does not make me who I am. I have my heart and my soul - without the leg or with the leg," said Rhonda. "I want people to realize they're still who they were before the amputation....and there's still a lot of things and a lot of life they can live out there."
It took Graham seven days to climb up Everest, but only ten minutes to come down. One of the other climbers in her group got sick, so a helicopter was sent to air-lift him down.
The pilot insisted that someone with medical experience ride down with him, so Graham, who was a nurse for 25 years, volunteered for that.
Graham is now in Oklahoma City getting her prosthetic leg repaired. When that's done, she says she'll start training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in July.