A Champions Soul

Traditionally we like to feature stories of courage, personal experiences of members present or past, often of a triumphant or uplifting nature, in our Limbkids publications. Often these will strike a chord with our fellow members, as we identify similarities in those close to our hearts. The following is one such story. My wife Cindy met the writer through the Ican mailing list, bouncing emails back and forth, and in a surprisingly short period of time they developed a rare friendship. We were excited that we were granted permission to print her inspirational story, but this story has a sad epilogue. Within days of her sending that email, the writer passed away. We would like to dedicate this posting to the memory of Jan Smothers Bryant, a mentor, wife and mother. - President

Jan’s StoryJan Smothers Bryant

I was born Janice Kay Smothers. I am the second of five children born to J.L. & Robbie Smothers. I have a sister, Faye who is eleven years older and three younger brothers, Jim, John and Bill. We were a fairly ‘normal’ family, only I was born without arms or hands. My mom saw this when they did a sonogram, so she was ready for me in her head but her heart surprised her. She told me she never knew how deeply a human being could love another. My mom told me that I was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen when they put me in her arms.

When I was born, I only weighed five pounds and lost down to three. Due to complications at birth, my throat was closed and later on I developed scoliosis. The doctors sent me home and told my parents to bring me back if I lived. If I lived! Did I ever. My mom fed me with a medicine dropper for hours on end. In one week, I gained a pound and a half. Doctors were amazed. I was on the medicine dropper for several weeks before my throat finally opened up. Mom saved my life. When I was three months old, mom was doing dishes while I lay on the floor on a quilt (my favourite place) when she heard our kitten howl. Mum came running to see what was going on and saw that I had that kitten by the tail between my toes and was not about to let it go! She laughed and cried at the same time. A few days later, I was on my quilt again and Mom was in the same room with me this time. I picked a hair up and held it up between my toes with both feet and pulled it apart. That was when she knew I was going to be OK.

At the age of one year the doctor referred me to the Crippled Children’s Clinic because my back was beginning to curve significantly. The doctors there watched until I was five years old. During that time, they tried artificial arms with me and I wore those things off and on until I started school. One day I had Mom put them on me. When we looked in the mirror, mom said “see you look so much better”. That is when I broke down and screamed at the top of my lungs and said “NO I DON’T!!!.I sobbed! My Mom took the arms off, grabbed me up and held me and exclaimed “You are right, my angel, you are beautiful just the way you are and you don’t ever have to wear those things again!” That’s the day those heavy, hot prostheses went in the garbage. Well, the doctors wanted to know how I was doing. They even brought in a ‘specialist’ from Michigan who saw me and told

them I could do more with my feet than I would ever do with prostheses. I had surgery on my spine at age five. They took bone marrow from a goat and place it over my spine. This kept it from getting any worse. I know I find it hard to believe the goat story too. At fourteen I had two metal pins put in my left knee to stop the leg from outgrowing the right.

I was not allowed to go to the city school because they ‘could not provide for a child like me’, so I went to a little country school until they closed it down after third grade. Our mail carrier, who was also on the school board intervened. The rest is history. I graduated high school, went on to college, worked, married, have two great kids, and truly enjoy my life. This would not be possible without my parents who believed in me, encouraged me, supported me, but most of all, they loved me. They are the ones who had the greatest influence on me and made this little “Steel Magnolia” a success! - Jan Smothers Bryant.

A Personal Note:- Jan Bryant was a remarkable woman, a source of support, encouragement, and knowledge, for many who had the privilege of knowing her personally, or reading the emails that she sent to inspire them. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you, and to let her family know that, over the first six months that I had been in contact with ICan on behalf of Limbkids, Jan has touched our family with her kind words of support. 

Jan was very interested in knowing more about Limbkids Support Association, and had even offered to compile a video tape for us. She was thrilled that we wanted to print her article, and I had promised to forward a copy to her. I am honoured to share with you her amazing journey, and I am sure you understand what a great loss this generous soul will be.

Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and two children.

Cindy Maki-Neste - Secretary