Finding Freedom with Prosthetics

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Brett Botelho - prosthetic limb snowboarder
Brett Botelho snowboards at Mammoth Mountain, winter 2017

For Brett Botelho, sports are the best medicine.

These days, it’s snowboarding: gracefully whooshing down snowy slopes, his board and body moving as one. Brett says he is grateful to be able to strap on a snowboard at all.

Brett was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a neurodegenerative disease that causes the immune system to attack the nerves. This rare autoimmune disorder required many surgeries on Brett’s legs, hips, and ankles. His latest surgery has stopped the daily pain and given him freedom to hit the slopes.

“I stopped him in the middle of his words and asked, ‘What if I just take it off?'”

“I can press play on my life now,” says Brett, 29. “I’ve never made a better decision. I wake up and I know I’m not in pain. It’s no longer a question of ‘How am I going to get through this day?’ but ‘What am I going to do with this day?'”

Choosing amputation

Brett’s illness sometimes paralyzed him for months at a time. The paralysis caused his muscles to atrophy, and his feet began to turn inward—making it difficult to walk. While surgery addressed his right foot, the left would get better for a few months, then begin to turn inward again.

He made an appointment with Dr. Timothy Charlton, a Cedars-Sinai orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Charlton presented him with several options.

“Never let fear decide your fate,” he says. “If you do, you will never get to see your full potential.”

“Again, they were going to be temporary fixes,” says Brett, who was tired of living with severely limited mobility and nearly constant pain. “I stopped him in the middle of his words and asked, ‘What if I just take it off?'”

Brett Botelho - prosthetic limb snowboarder

Brett had been considering amputation for two years. To be free of his daily pain and able to go back to the sports he loved, he had to be free of his constant foot and ankle problems.

“This would allow me the freedom that I had always longed for, and I could gain back the independence that I had just lost,” Brett writes in his book, Standing My Own Ground, which details his struggles with chronic illness.

Back on the slopes

Brett created a collage of photos of himself snowboarding as part of his surgery preparations. He hung these photos over his bed so he could visualize his first runs back on the mountain.

He returned to the slopes within weeks of wearing his new prosthetic limb. Every run played out the way he imagined it would, he says.

“It’s no longer a question of ‘How am I going to get through this day?’ but ‘What am I going to do with this day?'”

“Brett’s condition took away some of the basic functions that most people overlook,” Dr. Charlton says. “Yet, Brett embraces life in ways that most of us should envy. Faced with choices that would be difficult for most to contemplate, he made them with focus, faith, and courage.”

During his recovery, Brett was inspired to reach out to Adaptive Action Sports, a Colorado-based organization that creates opportunities for people with physical disabilities to get involved in skateboarding, snowboarding, and other action sports.

Brett Botelho - prosthetic limb snowboarder

His dream is to snowboard in the Paralympic Games in 2022.

“Never let fear decide your fate,” he says. “If you do, you will never get to see your full potential.”


Brett is a grateful patient and supporter of the Campaign for Cedars-Sinai. Learn more about the Campaign.

Are you a grateful patient, family member, volunteer, or loyal supporter? We want to hear from you. Your story can inspire others who may be facing similar challenges—and most importantly, provide hope. Share your story of gratitude or see how others are sharing #CedarsGratitude.

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