12-year-old amputee gives hope to veterans

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Andrew Hastings didn’t set out to be an inspiration to wounded veterans, but he’s become just that.
When the 12-year-old lost his left leg about five years ago after being hit by a car while riding an all-terrain vehicle, his biggest concern was whether or not he’d run again.
Nicknamed “the Flash,” Andrew was known for his speed during 5K races and triathlons.
After his leg was amputated, doctors told him he’d never run again.
But his mother, Elizabeth, knew better.
“I said, ‘Don’t ever let anybody tell you can’t do something,’ ” she said.
And he didn’t.
After receiving his first prosthetic, Andrew taught himself how to run and began competing again.
A chance encounter at the Hefner VA Medical Center prompted Andrew to share his story.
He was there visiting his grandfather, a former marine, shortly before he passed away and a nurse mentioned there was an amputee two doors down.
Andrew asked if he could meet him. After checking, the nurse told him yes, but not to get his hopes up because the man was a bit depressed.
“(Andrew) completely turned his attitude around,” Elizabeth said. “He went from not wanting to get out of bed to feeling like he could be back up and walking.”
• • •
Since that meeting about two years ago, Andrew has spent a lot of time at the VA Medical Center, talking to veterans and explaining that a prosthetic can help them lead a normal life.
“I was inspiring people, and I got to hear their stories, so that was neat,” he said.
Elizabeth said her son has told her it’s comforting to realize he’s not the only one who has lost a limb.
Linda Holt, a veteran who is spending about a month at the medical center, called her recent meeting with Andrew wonderful.
“It was great seeing that he’s taking this terrible ordeal that he’s been put through and making his life and the lives of others better,” she said.
Holt sustained injuries to her leg in 1990 when a drunk driver hit her as she rode her bicycle. The leg was amputated in 2002.
“I finally made the decision to have it removed because I couldn’t’ deal with the pain any longer,” she said.
Like Andrew, Holt was a runner before her accident. He told her about a running camp for amputees, which she hopes to attend this summer.
“He’s really encouraged me to seek that same kind of activity again,” she said. “He’s got such a positive attitude that it’s infectious.”
Holt said she’s impressed by Andrew’s courageous nature and his willingness to share his story.
“I really appreciated him coming to talk to me; it meant a lot,” she said.
Dr. Mark Heuser, a geriatrics physician at the VA Medical Center, said he’s seen what a difference Andrew can make by talking to veterans and showing them how his prosthetic works.
“There was one guy who was very despondent, but after talking with Andrew he was motivated and saw the potential in a full recovery,” Heuser said.
• • •
Andrew said he doesn’t just talk to amputees at the VA Medical Center. He reaches out to them wherever he sees them.
His mother recalled a time when she sent him into the grocery store to pick up one item.
“I dropped him off at the front door and I kept waiting and I was starting to worry, but then he came out with a man in the wheelchair beside him and the man said “I just want to let you know you have an amazing son,’ ” Elizabeth said.
Andrew had gone up to the man, who was missing a leg, and said “Sir, I see we have something in common.”
“He’s such a talker and a communicator with people,” Elizabeth said. “He lost a leg, but he gained a heart and that is just amazing.”
Elizabeth said she keeps Andrew optimistic by having him recite positive affirmations daily such as, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me” and the short poem “When you’re down, don’t you frown, think of three and glad you’ll be.”
“When something bad happens, we think of three positive things,” she said. “I just think a positive attitude is the one thing that makes a big difference in every situation.”
Elizabeth said Andrew gets his optimism from her and his strength from his father, Robbie, who serves in the Army.
“His dad always tells him to ‘adapt, overcome, persevere,’ ” she said.
And the family never lets Andrew use his lost limb as an excuse. Elizabeth said after his surgery, she was taking plates to the kitchen sink after dinner each night. But a few months later, she decided it was time for Andrew to do it himself.
“He went to hand it to me and I told him he could take it,” she said. “So he put it on the floor, slid it across the room, then he picked it up and put it in the sink.”
Elizabeth said they try to instill in Andrew that he’s not handicapped, he’s “handicapable.”
“That’s not even a word we use,” she said.
• • •
At 105 pounds, Andrew has outgrown his current prosthetic, which is made for children up to 80 pounds.
“It could break at any minute,” Elizabeth said.
With a price tag of between $20,000 and $35,000, the family has held off on getting a new leg.
Health insurance typically covers 70 percent of that cost for one leg each year, but Andrew can outgrow as many as four prosthetics a year.
That’s why a fundraiser is being hosted to help manage the cost.
Andrew will share his story during the fundraiser at 1, 3:30 and 6 p.m. Friday.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation
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Fundraiser to help 
purchase Andrew’s prosthetic 
A Port-A-Pit Chicken benefit will be held at First Baptist Church, 223 N. Fulton St., from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday to raise money for a new prosthetic leg for Andrew Hastings.
At 105 pounds, he has outgrown the current prosthetic, which is made for children up to 80 pounds. A new prosthetic will cost between $20,000 and $35,000.
Plates at the fundraiser cost $10 each and include half a chicken, baked beans, cole slaw, a roll, dessert and tea. 
Delivery is available for orders of 10 or more. 
In order to purchase the right amount of food, Elizabeth Hastings is requesting an email with a name and number of plates requested be sent to jehastings3@yahoo.com by Thursday. 
Additional plates will also be available Friday. 
For more information about the fundraiser, call Peggy Fisher at 704-640-7939 or Elizabeth Hastings at 704-957-7011.