Written by: Ronnie Dickson
Along with being a Prosthetist, Dickson has been a major player in growing the sport of adaptive climbing in America, including establishing the first stand-alone USA Paraclimbing National Championships in July 2014.
THIS IS WHY I CLIMB
Mobility has been something that is essential for me. I am an above the knee amputee, and have been without my left leg for twelve years. Without my prosthesis, my capacity for mobility would be severely limited, and so would my capacity to push myself. Movement has always fascinated me. Each of our bodies moves it’s own way, and no two people are the same. This intrigue of movement, and of overcoming adversity, led me to become a climber ten years ago. I have specialized primarily in technical rock climbing, specifically bouldering, a very free flowing form of climbing where you climb without a harness with only crash mats for protection. Really you only need your shoes and chalk bag. The neat thing about climbing is that your only constraints are your own, and everybody has to learn how their own body moves. Having one leg was never that big of an issue, because the battle I am fighting is against myself. Taking on my own fear, my own failure, and pushing through those boundaries to turn the impossible into possible.
After achieving cutting edge difficulty standards, and taking home the silver medal at the 2014 World Paraclimbing Championships, I have been searching for different ways to continue to broaden my climbing experience. This, coupled with experiences that have deeply shaped who I am, have led me to Climb For ROMP in our attempt to summit Antisana, all while raising money to help give others the same opportunities that I had access to. Providing others the same opportunities that changed my life and allowed me to grow into the fullest version of myself.
I’ve always been a big believer that you can only play the cards that are dealt to you. That is what you get, and you can’t change that. You can affect how you play that hand, but you can’t physically change the hand itself. There are people who do little with what is given to them, and those who choose to do a lot, even when what is given is marginal at best.
I played my hand, and my life, despite it’s challenges, is very rewarding and good. I am fortunate and lucky. I am a product of a great support structure, a high quality health system, with a mix of determination and tenacity.
What if the cards I had been dealt had been worse? What if I didn’t have access to a prosthetic leg? How would my life be different if I could not work because of social stigmas that are still caught behind? My life would be very different. There is no denying that.
I know this, because I have seen it with my two eyes. I am half hispanic, my mother is from Venezuela. I spent all of my childhood summers down in Maracaibo with my family, learning how to speak Spanish fluently by age 12. The culture difference was impressive, and it really made it’s mark on me. There were very positive aspects, like closer family units, seeing people be happy living in poverty, realizing that material objects and those things are just barriers to that happiness as long as you have the essentials of food and shelter. There were also negative aspects, like seeing the kind of crushing poverty that you never get out from, almost like a cycle that is bound to repeat itself over and over again because of lack of opportunities or economic growth. My most shocking realization was that if you were disabled, in Latin America, you had almost no chance at a normal life, cast aside even further.
This is why i’m climbing for ROMP. To help make my mark in a culture that means a lot to me. To give somebody that luck, that opportunity, that others don’t have access to. Sometimes thinking about the big picture is so overwhelming. There are countless people who need our help, how can we truly make a difference? The answer is simple, one at a time.
The biggest hurdle for me is not the climb itself, but getting others involved with the ROMP mission. WE CAN’T DO THIS ALONE. It takes a community to make a difference, and by coming together we can make the greatest impact. ROMP is starting a global movement towards fair access to care. They are asking that you get out and celebrate your own mobility in July so that someone may have the chance to reach their own summit someday. Climbing for ROMP 2017 aims to help 100 amputees gain access to the critical prosthetic care they need to get moving again.
Please, join our cause and sign up to climb or donate today: www.crowdrise.com/climbingforromp2017
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Photo Credit: Andrew Chao