“Impossible is an opinion not a fact,” says Cameron Clapp. These are words of epic meaning coming from a young man who became a triple amputee at the age of 15. One late night in September of 2001, disheartened by the tragic events of 9/11, Cameron was walking along the train tracks near his home in Pismo Beach, California. He fell asleep on the tracks and when he awoke in the hospital several days later, three limbs were missing. He had lost both his legs above the knees and his right arm just below his shoulder.
As tragic as it sounds, Cameron didn’t give up. He lived up to his words and learned to use prosthetics in place of his missing limbs. He attributes his success to several factors. First and foremost was, and still is, his incredible support system. “My family and friends are what helped me get through those first harrowing weeks and months. They still help me.”
His advice to new patients: “Surround yourself with good people… good doctors, therapists, family and friends. Set reachable goals, work hard and maintain a good attitude.”
Now 23, Cameron epitomizes the ultimate California dude. His tousled blonde hair and easy conversation engages people of all ages. He willingly talks about his accident and using prosthetics. As an ACA Certified Peer Visitor he spends time mentoring other amputees and helping to show them what is possible in their lives. “It’s all about attitude,” says Cameron. “Be determined and ambitious; you have to want to do something about your situation. Accept that your body is different. The sooner you accept your new body image, the sooner you will move on with your life.”
Cameron believes that staying active is critical to a successful outcome; a belief he whole-heartedly pursues. From running to swimming to cooking, Cameron’s activities are numerous and diverse. He’s even added acting to the list of things he enjoys. To date he has appeared in the HBO series “Carnivale” and the NBC comedy “My Name is Earl” and later this year he’ll have a major role in the motion picture Stop Loss.
“Many of the activities that I love to do would not be possible without prosthetics,” notes Cameron. “Prosthetics enable a person to pursue the things that make their life richer.”
Cameron has been invited to demonstrate his skills to wounded service members that have lost limbs in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Helping the soldiers is one of my most fulfilling things I have gotten to do. It’s tough for them, coming home from the war without an arm or leg, or both. I talk to them and show them that life is not over. I want them to see me and know that they can have a very productive, fulfilling life, too.”
Each summer Cameron attends Camp No Limits, a camp for children struggling with limb loss. He physically demonstrates what is possible. He gives them hope. “This camp helps these kids learn how to use prosthetics properly. It helps build character and confidence,” says Cameron. “The spirit, enthusiasm and determination of these kids is phenomenal. They help me just as much as I help them. It’s a privilege to be in their presence.”
Cameron’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. In 2005 he was nominated and honored with the prestigious Shining Star award, an award that recognizes the achievements of an outstanding person with a disability. Other notable recipients of the award include Christopher Reeve and Ray Charles.
Cameron currently lives in California. As if he’s not busy enough, he wants to learn to kayak, go back to college, continue with motivational speaking and acting, and eventually become a prosthetist, or maybe a foreign diplomat.
His mantra certainly rings true: “Impossible is an opinion, not a fact.”
For more information about Cameron you can visit his website at www.cameronclapp.com