The Proof

Condition: Unilateral below-knee amputee

Experience: Unlike many amputees, Suellen Henneberry chose to live the rest of her life without her lower left leg. When she came down with COVID-19 in January 2021, Sue developed pneumonia and suffered from Long COVID, which triggered the return of an autoimmune disease that she had battled for years. Known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), the condition had caused her to spend eight years on crutches while her four daughters were young. Now, a new wound formed on Sue’s left foot. More wounds soon appeared and her overall health plummeted. After numerous surgeries and heavy antibiotics, in August 2022, she consulted two prosthetists, then asked her doctor to amputate her leg. “It was my choice, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Sue said.

A lifelong athlete who had competed in gymnastics, softball, and volleyball, Sue was especially eager to get back in action. She found cherished friends and mentors in Robin Yoder and Carol Baker, amputees whom she met through her prosthetist, and they pointed her toward the Gait Center. After weeks of physical therapy with David Lawrence and Nicole Pandak, she was climbing the long, famously steep stairs at Richmond’s Libby Hill Park. Sue, who truly exemplifies Mission Gait Foundation’s belief in the human spirit’s ability to prevail, soon joined the organization as its interim administrator. In April, six months after being fitted for her prosthetic leg, she ran all six miles of the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K, with the Mission Gait family cheering her on. The end of the race was emotional. “Don’t cry yet, keep loading the foot,” she told herself. “It was a huge accomplishment,” she said. “It makes you say, ‘Yes, you can still do the things you love.’”

Personal interests: Sports of all kinds – running, rowing, rock climbing, pickleball, cycling, etc. – and time with her family, friends, and dog, Miller.

“My disability will never hold me down.”