by Stephanie Millis
Sierra Miller won the gold medal in the kayak event at the United States Canoe Association (USCA) Nationals, held in Newaygo, on August 9.
Sierra, 15, lost her leg in a lawn mower accident when she was 7 years old. Initially, doctors told Sierra’s parents that even though Sierra’s leg would be amputated below the knee, she wouldn’t be able to bend her knee. Doctors also said Sierra should expect many surgeries into her adult years.
Sierra’s parents had to make a fast decision about their daughter’s amputation. They decided to have the surgeon perform a through-the-knee procedure, which would allow Sierra to bend her knee. The procedure eliminated the need for many of the surgeries down the road.
“As her parents, it was an easy decision,” Shannon Miller, Sierra’s mother, said. “This option would allow her to run, play and be a normal seven-year-old.”
After the initial surgery, Sierra’s amputation became infected. She underwent surgery a second time to remove a portion of her leg above the knee. The surgery still allows Sierra to bend her knee. Sierra is also a patient at Mary Free Bed Orthotics & Prosthetics in Grand Rapids, where she was fitted for her prosthetic leg.
Sierra is like any other teenager. She’s enthusiastic and excited to participate in sporting events.
A sophomore at Lakeview High School in Trufant, Mich., Sierra is a member of the junior varsity cheerleading squad. In middle school, Sierra participated in wrestling and volleyball.
Sierra is the youngest in a family of eight. Being part of military family – where mom, dad, and two brothers serve in some branch of the military – Sierra, too, has grown up wanting to serve her country. When she was 13, Sierra wrote a letter to Dave Camp, congressman from Midland, Mich., pleading her case. She told the congressman that it wasn’t fair that she would never be able to serve in the military because she is an amputee.
Sierra doesn’t let her amputation slow her down. She has her sights set on participating in the kayak event at the 2016 Paralympics.
“I’m not going to give up,” Sierra says. “I will always keep trying.”