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Terri Ross lost her right leg in a motorcycle accident in 2003. She spends an afternoon at home on her farm with her horse, Lady, and dog, Lola.

A Lost Leg, a Helping Hand

story by Lisa Guerriero

Terri Ross lost her right leg in a 2003 motorcycle accident. After coming home from the hospital, she made a list of things she would never be able to do again, including riding a horse and standing in the ocean.

"Eight or nine months later, I found the piece of paper and told myself I was going to do all these things, and now I've done them," she says. "My friend Sonya Windt called me one day and said we were going to Florida. I walked out (into the ocean) and ruined my first prosthetic leg. But it was worth it."

Sonya started noticing there was an abundance of expensive medical equipment at yard sales. In 2006, she started buying these items and bringing them to Terri's house. Realizing there were people who needed but couldn't afford them, Terri began cleaning and giving them away.

She put ads in the newspaper asking for medical equipment donations. The response was overwhelming. As soon as the paper was delivered on Monday mornings, her phone started ringing.She connected with the Kentucky Assistive Technology Services (KATS) Network and in 2014 merged her effort with Project CARAT (Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology). So far, they have redistributed equipment worth more than $500,000 to more than 700 people.

Terri's free time is spent with her family on a peaceful farm with two horses, three dogs and a cat. She says helping others in need energizes her and has been the most rewarding job of her life.

In addition to being the site coordinator at Project CARAT, Terri started the Paducah Area Amputees in Action support group. She has protested in Maryland for Medicare reform, is an inspirational speaker who counsels and visits new patients at Lourdes Hospital and even takes members of her support group to see movies.

A few stories stick in her mind and give her motivation to continue the work.

"A man brought his wife in to talk to me," she says. "He said she was ready to give up (because of her disability). When he rolled her into the office, I noticed that there was no rubber left on the wheels of the chair."

Terri told her she was going to replace her old wheelchair with a new one. The woman said, "You would do that for me?" As she was leaving, she turned to Terri and said, "I haven't felt this happy in years."

"Being paid in hugs is priceless," Terri says.

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After Terri received her prosthetic leg and began walking again, she started a type of recycling program out of her house. Her friend, Sonya Windt, would scour thrift stores and yard sales for used medical equipment. Terri would then clean each piece and redistribute it to people in need.

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After Terri merged her effort with Project CARAT (Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology), she got a warehouse to store used equipment for sterilization and redistribution to low-income people.

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Terri stops to give Anthony Lancaster some food and clothes which belonged to her father. Anthony, also an amputee, lives downtown in the Irving Cobb Apartments, which is subsidized housing.

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Terri cleans donated medical gear. She says it is rewarding to see people's faces when they receive equipment they need but couldn't afford.

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Terri also is president of the Paducah Area Amputees in Action support group. In that role, she shows recent amputee Evelyn Hesser her prosthetic leg for the first time. "It energizes me when I help someone," Terri says.

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Terri gets emotional after reading a file about one of her most touching cases at Project CARAT.

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Terri visits her mother on the family farm. The family is close, and all live near one another.

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Terri spends time with her mother-in-law, Louise Ross, who lives across the road from her. Here she adjusts the control for her mother-in-law's heating pad.