CrossFit as Prehab for a Future Amputee

November 27, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Breanna Cunningham
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We, as CrossFitters, will get frustrated when we fail a back squat or miss a PR on a squat clean. It’s the same with handstand walking and locking out a heavy jerk. We often fail to appreciate that we have legs to walk with or arms and hands to hold things. 

That is, of course, until they are taken from us.

Samantha Shea Lemoins knows precisely what it is like to have something taken away from her.

Lemoins suffered a life-changing accident on September 2nd, 2017, and recovery has been a long journey. Through experiencing a roller coaster of both awful and amazing moments of growth, she went through 6 surgeries in total. After heavy thought and consideration, Lemoins is now moving forward with a below-knee amputation (BKA). 

  • Lemoins explains: “This was a big decision that has weighed heavily on not only myself but my family… I feel good about this decision, but with it comes some additional stresses.”
  • “With this major surgery, there will be additional, large medical bills, the need for additional equipment in our home, a wheelchair that will allow me to get back to work and my students ASAP, a prosthetic, and all of the rehabilitation that comes along with it.”

Lemoins is a member of CrossFit MKT located in Columbia, MO, and like any CrossFit community, they jumped in to help her. Bree Cunningham has been coaching CrossFit for almost three years and became close with Lemoins after she joined their affiliate.

Cunningham, who is dealing with her own physical limitations–she has had several knee surgeries–would often train with Lemoins in afternoon classes, where they would each modify the workouts.

Although an athlete earlier in life, Lemoins found CrossFit much later.

  • Cunningham explains how Lemoins found her affiliate: “Sam was asking about gyms that would be good for accommodating limitations. She reached out to us on social media, and one of our coaches suggested she come to our gym as prehab for her amputation.”

There were very specific things that Lemoins had to train for.

  • “She would have to transfer herself from the bed to the wheelchair and from a wheelchair back to the bed once she had the surgery. She would also have to be strong enough to get up and down the stairs with rails.”

It wasn’t just the physical preparation that CrossFit was giving her. It was mental as well. 

  • Cunningham explained: “It was a whole mindset going into the training. It’s been one of the best things mentally for her to release stress, but then also, she wants to go into this amputation strong physically, as well as mentally and emotionally.”

The physical training first started to build overall strength, but as the date of the amputation began getting closer, the coaches started to modify Lemoins’ workouts so she could begin to see how she would scale them post-surgery. They moved away from leg-based exercises and incorporated her wheelchair into the programming, like seated dumbbell snatches and strict presses.

It will be a while for Lemoins to get her prosthetic after her surgery; she will spend at least six to eight weeks in her wheelchair before she can start working with her prosthetic.

Lemoins does have insurance coverage, but due to the nature of her injury and the ongoing surgical procedures, she will have high out-of-pocket costs. The average cost for amputation can range between $30,000 – $60,000, and the cost of prosthetics can range from $10,000-$100,000. 

Her family and friends have set up a GoFundMe for Lemoins, and any money raised will go towards her health and rehab.

Lemoins is appreciative of what her CrossFit community has done for her.

  • “I didn’t realize how much of an impact CrossFit and my MKT CrossFit family would have on me in such a short period of time,” she said. 

Because of CrossFit and MKT, I feel mentally and physically strong. And while this next phase of my journey is terrifying, I am ready, and I know that CrossFit will be there waiting for me post-op with some of the best people I know cheering me on.”

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