Zone: I lost my leg in an accident at the age of 6, but I fought to become a model.SHE has the willowy wil·low·y
adj. wil·low·i·er, wil·low·i·est
1. Planted with or abounding in willows.
2. Resembling a willow tree, especially:
a. Flexible; pliant.
b. Tall, slender, and graceful. body, caramel skin and pronounced cheekbones of a true beauty.
As a sought-after model, Aviva Teichner is used to being seen as a paragon of physical perfection. Yet she hides a devastating dev·as·tate
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark. secret.
At the age of six, she lost her left foot and ankle in a farming accident.
That alone would tax to the limit the courage of most people.
But two years ago, at the height of her career, Aviva chose to go under the surgeon's knife once again.
This time, the 28-year-old asked doctors to remove a further six inches of her leg to make it easier to fit a more natural-looking replacement.
Losing a limb would make most women want to hide away from the world. Not Aviva.
The 5ft 10in beauty accepted the challenge - and won her way on to the books of New York's top modelling agency.
Speaking at her white-walled apartment, on the upper East side of Manhattan, Aviva is all too aware of the incongruity in·con·gru·i·ty
n. pl. in·con·gru·i·ties
1. Lack of congruence.
2. The state or quality of being incongruous.
3. Something incongruous.
Noun 1. of being both a model and an amputee am·pu·tee
A person who has had one or more limbs removed by amputation. .
"The average model," she says, "freaks out if she gets a pimple pimple, small pointed elevation of the skin that may or may not contain pus. The formation of pimples is frequently associated with infection, irritation, or overactivity of the sebaceous and sweat glands. Repeated eruptions of pimples are often termed acne. or a wrinkle Wrinkle
A feature of a new product or security intended to entice a buyer. . The emphasis is on perfect beauty, though no one can say I have that.
"But when I was young, modelling gave me the confidence to prove that I could do what other girls could.
"It reinforced my belief that I was still attractive."
ONLY last month, Aviva retired from modelling to become a lawyer. But she still looks the picture of New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of glamour, a Sex-In-The-City-style babe in three-inch heels.
And she still turns men's heads, as she did in the early days.
"When I went to nightclubs, men would try to pick me up because they fancied me," she says. "But wearing a prosthetic pros·thet·ic
1. Serving as or relating to a prosthesis.
2. Of or relating to prosthetics.
serving as a substitute; pertaining to prostheses or to prosthetics. limb has literally kept my feet on the ground.
"It was a joke. Guys would look up at you and say, 'Oh, you are so beautiful...'
"And I would think to myself:, 'Well, I'm not as beautiful as you imagine...'"
Yet Aviva admits she still feels hesitant about letting men see the extent of her limb loss.
"When I lived in Paris as a student, I had a French boyfriend who owned nightclubs. I was thrown into a very superficial world, hanging out with rock stars and supermodels.
"I remember a boyfriend saying to me, 'You know, people in this world are never going to accept you.' That made me very angry.
"I had another boyfriend I was in love with. We'd been dating two months.
"Then, one night on the sofa while we were watching TV, he said, 'Well, what will you be like when you are 50? How fit will you be?'.
"It turned out that his parents were concerned that I would not still be able to work or look after children.
"Again, I was furious. After all, I had additional surgery so that I would not have those problems down the line.
"I said, 'How do you know what you are going to be like in 30 years' time'?"
With a throaty throat·y
adj. throat·i·er, throat·i·est
Uttered or sounding as if uttered deep in the throat; guttural, hoarse, or husky.
throat laugh, Aviva says: "Let me tell you, it is a very quick test. If a man met me because of the way I look, then did not want to go out with me because of my leg, good riddance. I don't want to deal with anyone who is that shallow."
BUT Aviva also appreciates that the natural human reaction is to recoil recoil /re·coil/ (re´koil) a quick pulling back.
elastic recoil the ability of a stretched object or organ, such as the bladder, to return to its resting position. from amputation amputation (ăm'pyətā`shən), removal of all or part of a limb or other body part. Although amputation has been practiced for centuries, the development of sophisticated techniques for treatment and prevention of infection has greatly . "In a way, I also understand the fear.
"On a very primal level, any man would probably wonder, "My God, if I make love to her, will she leave her leg on?
"It would scare me, too. It is not a pretty thing and I could understand it being a physical turn-off."
For the past two years, Aviva has been dating Harry, an estate agent she met through friends.
Her experiences made her reluctant at first to tell him the truth.
"We were on our second date. I guess I was having a bad day and I was tired when he asked me, 'Why are you limping?'
"At that time, I didn't really care for him, so I simply said, 'I hurt myself skiing'.
"When we started dating seriously, I wanted to apologise for lying to him. But he already knew the truth from a mutual friend.
"As soon as I brought it up, he said, 'I know about your leg and I don't care. It doesn't matter to me'."
It was only then that Aviva found the confidence to tell him the whole story.
AS A little girl born into an affluent New York family, she had grown up with everything a child could wish for.
Her parents - German model Ingrid and businessman George - named her after the Hebrew word for spring.
Aviva was just six when, during a stay at the family's country home in upstate New York Upstate New York is the region of New York State north of the core of the New York metropolitan area. It has a population of 7,121,911 out of New York State's total 18,976,457. Were it an independent state, it would be ranked 13th by population. , she wandered into a empty barn with a playmate. Together, they quickly learnt how to turn on the conveyor belt conveyor belt
One of various devices that provide mechanized movement of material, as in a factory. Conveyor belts are used in industrial applications and also on large farms, in warehousing and freight-handling, and in movement of raw materials. used to carry cow manure.
What happened next was a nightmare beyond imagining.
Aviva started "riding" the belt - and stayed on a moment too long. Her legs were sucked into the machinery as the belt moved on. Another few inches and she would have been dead.
For an hour and half, doctors battled in rotation to free her from the teeth of the machine.
Aviva has largely blanked out the trauma, but she does remember screaming. "One of the doctors told me to stop. But my dad, who came running when he heard the noise, said, 'You just scream all you want, Aviva'.
"I think I was more scared of the needles they were sticking in me than anything."
Over the next few days she underwent 14 hours of surgery and the countless operations as doctors battled to save her foot. But when gangrene gangrene, local death of body tissue. Dry gangrene, the most common form, follows a disturbance of the blood supply to the tissues, e.g., in diabetes, arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, or destruction of tissue by injury. set in, the fight was lost.
"They tried to save what they could. Then, before my sixth operation, my father came to my bedside and said, 'They are going to remove a couple of your toes, Aviva. You'll be like the bionic A machine that is patterned after principles found in humans or nature; for example, robots. It also refers to artificial devices implanted into humans replacing or extending normal human functions. See biomimicry. woman'.
"But when I woke up, I wasn't missing a couple of toes. I was missing an entire foot."
AT AN age when children delight in running, skipping and jumping, Aviva was facing life weighed down by a cumbersome, ugly false leg. Her first challenge was to walk again. She learnt to put one foot in front of the other as she held tight to parallel bars parallel bars
Event in men's gymnastics in which a pair of wooden bars supported horizontally above the floor at the same height is used to perform acrobatic feats. Competitors combine swings and vaults with stationary positions requiring strength and balance, though swings .
Then, using crutches, she was taught to walk with a prosthetic limb fastened to her knee.
"It was very old-fashioned leg, but I soon got my balance. Within a few days, I wanted to throw away the crutches altogether," says Aviva.
"I kept trying to sneak out Verb 1. sneak out - leave furtively and stealthily; "The lecture was boring and many students slipped out when the instructor turned towards the blackboard"
slip away, sneak away, sneak off, steal away of the apartment and my parents would come running after me. I wanted to be like everyone else.
"Human beings have an incredible ability to adapt. Because it happened when I was so young, I walked very well.
"It's like when you throw a baby into a swimming pool. It sinks, or it learns to swim."
Aviva's parents had far more difficulty coming to terms with their daughter's disability.
"My mother was devastated dev·as·tate
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark. . She would say, 'My daughter was born with the longest legs the world'.
"She really feared for me. She worried that I would grow up never be able to deal with it, that I would ever be able to make love to a man."
"Even now, when I'm 28, they wake every morning feeling sad because this happened to me."
From the outset Aviva insisted on being treated her like an ordinary child.
"The kids at school knew what happened. I had a fixed and clumsy ankle and they used to stare.
"I found it hard not being like them because that was all I wanted."
"I was very uncomfortable wearing a bikini Bikini (bēkē`nē), atoll, c.2 sq mi (5.2 sq km), W central Pacific, one of the Ralik Chain, Marshall Islands. It comprises 36 islets on a reef 25 mi (40 km) long. and going to the beach. My parents knew this and did a beautiful thing - they bought a house in Jamaica so I could have the freedom to run around in private."
As she grew to adolescence, even an amputation could not take away from her blossoming beauty.
But her deep-seated fears about her attractiveness remained.
"I was into every sport and even became captain of my high school volleyball team. But I was limited by what I could wear, and I felt I could not express myself."
When friends were experimenting with clothes, Aviva had to stick to long skirts, trousers and flat shoes that hid her prosthetic limb.
"Thin and 5ft 10in, I wanted a short skirt. Instead I settled for kneeboots."
She admits her disability was hard to bear on top of the normal burdens of the teenage years. "When I was younger, I kept it more of a secret. I had to grow up a bit before I could be comfortable with it."
"Boys she met often knew already. "If they did not, I felt an absolute obligation to tell them on the second date because I did not want to draw anyone in and then give them a shock.
But, when she was 13, a photographer friend of the family suggested Aviva try modelling.
IT WAS what she needed to banish ban·ish
tr.v. ban·ished, ban·ish·ing, ban·ish·es
1. To force to leave a country or place by official decree; exile.
2. To drive away; expel: We banished all our doubts and fears. her subconscious subconscious: see unconscious. fears that she was not attractive. "It was important to me to feel like everyone else. I just did not feel as completely whole and beautiful as girls with two full legs."
From the start, it was made clear what assignments Aviva could do.
"I did head shots, and shampoo and make-up work. If they shot me standing up for a catalogue, they cut the picture off below the knee.
"I was cushioned. I was never sent for any kind of leg work. I was always very open about my limitations."
Throughout college, Aviva kept up her modelling as sideline sideline
See on the sidelines. to her law and language studies.
But, before the camera or not, however beautifully made up she was, Aviva always felt let down by her clumpy clump
1. A clustered mass; a lump: clumps of soil.
2. A thick grouping, as of trees or bushes.
3. A heavy dull sound; a thud.
v. replacement limb.
Skin grafts skin graft Autologous, donated, or surrogate skin removed from one site to cover surfaces on another region with 3rd-degree burns or traumatic tissue loss. See Split-thickness graft. Cf Artificial skin, 'Spray-on' skin. from her thigh had been used to try to cover the wound. But, as her bones grew and started to push through the stump, she suffered agonising pain.
The excess skin from the graft also chafed chafe
v. chafed, chaf·ing, chafes
1. To wear away or irritate by rubbing.
2. To annoy; vex.
3. To warm by rubbing, as with the hands.
v.intr. against her prosthetic limb.
Clearly, a more practical, aesthetic alternative was needed. Yet that, she knew, would mean taking off more of her own leg.
"It occurred to me that if I was going to get married and have children, I did not want to have to care for my stump as well.
"I realised that a better prosthetic would make me more mobile and that would be better for my kids. In short, at the age of 26, I decided I did not want to be a caretaker for my leg."
Incredibly, Aviva chose to be awake through the amputation.
"I elected to have the surgery under an epidural epidural /epi·du·ral/ (-dur´il) situated upon or outside the dura mater.
Located on or over the dura mater.
n. because I did not want to take the risk of having a general anaesthetic general anaesthetic
a substance that causes general anaesthesia See anaesthesia
Noun 1. general anaesthetic - an anesthetic that anesthetizes the entire body and causes loss of consciousness . Also I was not really afraid of the mechanics of the operation.
"They gave me Valium at the start of the surgery and at first I was asleep. Then I woke up. The doctors knew I was conscious and they talked me through it.
"I think I must have been the only person in the history of medicine who, in the middle of it all, asked for a phone to call my mother because she was so nervous.
"They brought one to me as I lay on the table. I rang and told her: "Mommy, they are removing the leg now and everything is okay.
"I could hear the sawing noise at the end of the table, so I put my Walkman on and started listening to dance music."
The operation lasted about an hour and half.
Aviva remembers waking up next day and feeling "very very sad".
"I looked down and thought, 'Oh my God, my leg is so much shorter'.
"I was in extraordinary pain. But I went home four days later and I was pretty much on my feet in a couple of days. In no time, I was walking."
She had to wait a year for her new leg - and, when it arrived, it was a bitter disappointment.
"I was promised a leg that was realistic. But it wasn't.
"The colour was a ridiculous match and it was very heavy. It looked like they had pulled a leg off a mannequin.
"The people there did not care about the cosmetic aspect, the fact that I'm a woman and I wanted to look beautiful."
DESPERATE and depressed, Aviva began to believe she would never find a limb that felt and looked like a part of her own body. But then she met Aimee Mullins Aimee Mullins (born 1976 in Allentown, Pennsylvania) is an American athlete, actress, and fashion model best known for her extraordinary collegiate-level athletic accomplishments, despite a disability that resulted in the amputation of both of her legs. , an American model who had had both legs amputated. And that changed her mind.
"I was at a sports event when I saw this very pretty blonde woman. She was introduced on stage as having had a double amputation.
"Suddenly I was sure that this woman would know where to get the legs I needed.
"I waited to speak to her and, when I saw her legs up close, I could not believe my eyes.
"It was a revelation. I had never met a young, attractive person in my age group who had the same needs as I did.
"Aimee explained to me that the root of my difficulty lay in the fact that in America 77 per cent of amputees are men.
"The women tend to be older people who have lost limbs through cancer, blood clots Blood Clots Definition
A blood clot is a thickened mass in the blood formed by tiny substances called platelets. Clots form to stop bleeding, such as at the site of cut. or diabetes. There is no special provision for younger women."
Aimee's limbs had been made by British designer Bob Watts, one of top prosthetic-makers in the world, on the recommendation of British amputee Heather Mills Heather Mills (born 12 January 1968 in Aldershot, Hampshire, England), also known by her courtesy title (from her husband, Sir Paul McCartney) as Lady McCartney or Heather Mills McCartney .
"I never thought I would get to England," Aviva says. "But I told my parents and they said, 'Right, we're going'."
A few weeks later, Aviva was standing in front of a mirror in his studio in Hampshire, gazing for the first time at a limb that closely resembled what her own would have looked like.
She says: "I wanted to see what a lifelike leg would look like on me because the legs are virtually real.
"There was a leg there that had belonged to Heather Mills. I was the same fit. I put it on and looked in the mirror.
"'Wow,' I said to my mother, this looks like I have two real legs'.
"Bob uses a machine that takes the shape of your leg and exactly matches it.
"The shell is made out of silicone and then sprayed with a special chemical.
"But instead of looking shiny and fake, he matches the colour and even paints hair follicles Hair follicles
Tiny organs in the skin, each one of which grows a single hair.
Mentioned in: Alopecia , moles Moles Definition
A mole (nevus) is a pigmented (colored) spot on the outer layer of the skin (epidermis).
Moles can be round, oval, flat, or raised. They can occur singly or in clusters on any part of the body. and little wrinkles wrinkles
See bells and whistles. on the toes and back of the heels. They don't just match the colour of your toe nail. They match the colour of the crescent in your toe nail. These legs are made by artists.
The leg even comes complete with a foot shaped to fit heel height - so Aviva can wear stilettos for the first time.
"I can wear knee-length dresses, although you can still see the break in the knee. I can even get pedicures for both feet.
"When I finally got my new leg from Bob, my boyfriend was so amazed a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. by how lifelike it was, he called it the Thing, after the moving hand in the Addams Family Addams Family
weird family, presented in grotesque domesticity. [TV: Terrace, I, 29]
See : Eccentricity !
"If I cross my legs, he can't tell which is the false one."
Aviva has always worn her limb more than 80 per cent of the time, except in bed. She is reluctant to have her stump on view, even when she is completely relaxed in a relationship.
"I feel better about myself when I have my leg on," she explains.
"It is wonderful to be close and in love. But I believe that familiarity breeds contempt.
"Even in marriage, I think it is wonderful to have a little bit of mystery.
"I believe in closing the bathroom door unless needs be.
"If my boyfriend had a cut, I wouldn't expect him to flaunt flaunt
v. flaunt·ed, flaunt·ing, flaunts
1. To exhibit ostentatiously or shamelessly: flaunts his knowledge. See Synonyms at show.
2. it. It's the same with my leg.
"It's something that is not attractive. It's like if you have a pimple, you try to hide it, not show it off."
Her shyness meant that early in their relationship Aviva slept with the leg on, despite the discomfort.
"Eventually, I told Harry, 'I have to start to taking it off at night'.
"He was great. He joked, 'Okay, but you'd better watch out because I might steal it!'
"To be honest, though, I think it took Harry a little time to be completely comfortable with it. But if he wasn't comfortable, he never showed it."
MODELLING, more than anything else, has helped Aviva come to terms with her affliction. Though she still wonders why she was given so much, only to have so much taken away.
Now she has decided that 15 years is enough.
"I know how easily beauty goes. I wanted to do more with my life," she says.
Which is why she has finally taken up a career as a lawyer.
"My mother always told me that beauty is all about imperfections anyway. Everyone has their baggage and it is all relative.
"Top models today have moles, and big noses, and awkward, funny lips. I have another kind of imperfection im·per·fec·tion
1. The quality or condition of being imperfect.
2. Something imperfect; a defect or flaw. See Synonyms at blemish.
Aviva insists that she has never felt sorry for herself. That she has never wondered why she was given so much - and had so much taken away.
"It's true I have been frustrated frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: by not being able to wear certain shoes, or disappointed when I've seen a beautiful dress with a split down the middle that I can't wear.
"But my philosophy is that God gives people what they can handle. And I believe he gave me this because he knew I could handle it.
"I am just glad that losing my leg is the worst of my troubles."
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