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news News Thursday, January 11, 2018 Thursday, January 11, 2018 2:35 PM - Thursday, January 11, 2018 2:35 PM

Former patient builds prostheses for injured veterans

Mike follows his passion of helping others and representing USA in rowing

Former patient builds prostheses for injured veterans

Michael Varro came to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Twin Cities after he was born with an underdeveloped foot. At the age of 11, he had to have his leg amputated. Since that day, he’s become an inspiration to so many – working as a prosthetist for wounded soldiers and representing the USA in Paralympic rowing. He says it’s his positive experiences with staff and other patients at the hospital that led him on his journey to success.

Before and after his amputation, Michael worked with a prosthetist, Todd, to develop his prosthetic leg, which would allow him to walk again and participate in the activities he loved. “I can still remember Todd, a prosthetist that was also an amputee and came to talk to me before my surgery, to give me some words of encouragement and to be an example of how active one can be after an amputation,” he said. As he grew older, working with Todd inspired him to become a prosthetist himself. He’s now followed that dream and is currently working for the VA Hospital, in Lake Nona, Florida. While Michael wished he could have served in the military himself, he was disqualified due to his amputation. But with great pride he says, “In a really cool way I found this career and get to serve those that served, which in many ways fills my heart more than I could have hoped for.”

Michael takes his physical limitation and turns it into a positive in his work, as he shares dozens of "amputee life hacks" to teach his patients. He says he can also connect emotionally with people going through what he did, by sharing the ups and downs. He tells his patients that “sometimes things can be hard, but just like a sport, if they put the time into it they will get proficient at using their prosthesis and eventually it will be second nature.”

Michael discovered rowing through meeting a Paralympic rower at a work conference. From that day forward, he has used all his strength and determination to get him to where he is now. “After going on the water once, I knew I loved the feeling of moving quickly across the water from your body's power,” he said. Earlier this year, Michael was selected to join the U.S. National Paralympic Rowing team. He and his team won a Silver medal at the World Rowing Championships in August. He’s now currently training for selection camp for his next challenge, the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan.

If Michael could say anything to children going through similar experiences today, it is “Stay positive, your mind can be just as powerful as any physical limitation life hands you!” He says the most successful people in life adapt and keep moving forward “even if you fall down here and there”.

To follow Mike’s journey visit his Facebook page.

Mike also needs financial support to make it to the USA Paralympic Games selection camp, to help, visit his GoFundMe page.

Mike and his team