Meet the metro Detroit woman competing for Team USA in the Amputee World Cup

Posted at 7:28 AM, Jul 05, 2024

A local woman is overcoming a rare genetic disease to compete for Team USA.

Elayna Alexandra had quite a tough childhood. She was born with a rare bone disease called Congenital Pseudoarthrosis, which made the bones in her legs brittle and easy to break. She had endured 22 surgeries by the age of 21.

Things got better. She was surgery-free for about 10 years, but during the pandemic, her mobility sharply declined. In the summer of 2020, after not being able to walk, she received sobering news.

"In that first doctor’s appointment, they were like, you know, probably the best option is to is gonna be amputation. And, I knew that was a looming possibility," she said.

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She had her left leg amputated and started using a prosthetic limb to move around. It was a new normal for her, but she was able to be mobile again.

Last summer, as she was leaving a prosthetic event, someone randomly stopped her.

"She was like, 'have you ever played soccer?' And, I was like, 'no.' She was like, 'do you want to? Do you play sports? We’re going to Poland.' She’s talking like 90 miles a minute. And, I heard we’re going to Poland. And, I was like, I'’m in.'"

Alexandra never played sports growing up because of her condition. She wasn't even necessarily a soccer fan, and hadn't kicked a ball until last year.

But her competitive drive and playing alongside people just like her was simply an opportunity she couldn't pass up. So, she began learning the sport and training with the team.

Now, she'll be representing the U.S. in the inaugural Amputee World Cup in Colombia from Nov. 2-11.

"Smaller field, six players on the field. And then, a goalie. So, the goalie is missing an arm. So, it’s one-armed goalie. But, has both legs. And, all of the field players are on four-armed crutches," she said.

"Do you care whether you win or lose when you go? Or do you feel like you’ve already won?" I asked.

"That’s a difficult question. Yes, I feel like I’ve won in many ways. But, yes I care that I win. I’m representing the United States. I want to have our team be able to do well," she said.

I also spoke with Brad Mann, who works as a certified prosthetic technician with the nonprofit rehab center Mary Free Bed. They have locations throughout Michigan and Indiana.

"We made the insert off Elayna’s mold. But, she had mentioned that she wants more arch support than what that was giving her. So basically, we took a piece of material and we filled in the arch. So now, it’s a flat surface which will give her much more support when she’s using it," Mann said.

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He was certainly proud to help put a smile on Elayna's face and gear her up for the competition.

"Do you understand how much good you do for people?" I asked.

"So, I do. I’ve learned that over the 30 years - yeah. And, I’ve told myself, my father struggled with MS. So, I told myself when I got into this field, I'm going to treat every patient as if they were my dad and do the best job that I can for them," Mann said.

Alexandra said she's eternally grateful to get her life back.

"People with disabilities are just like anyone else. They have hopes, dreams and desires. And, they can do things," she said.