Woman gaining independence after losing arms

BELLFOUNTAIN — It's been three years since Shelley Durrant lost both of her arms in a tractor-mounted auger accident, but the 41-year-old woman says she still has a lot to be thankful for — and counts as a continual blessing the outpouring of community support she's received since the accident.

"It's helping me slowly regain my independence," Durrant said at her home in Bellfountain. "Without their generosity, I don't know where I'd be."

Durrant was digging fence posts the morning of Oct. 3, 2008, when her clothing got caught in a tractor-mounted auger. She spent more than three months recovering at a Portland hospital. At times, she says, her recovery has been slow and frustrating.

But then a show of support helps to boost her spirits. The most recent boost came on Nov. 2, when Play It Again Sports in Corvallis donated a recumbent exercise bike for her to use.

Durrant said the donation was spurred by a visit to her nutritionist in late October, during which they discussed ways for Durrant to be more active.

"My nutritionist made a few calls," Durrant said. "I visited Play It Again. They had a half-dozen bikes for me to try. I found one I liked. The next thing I know, they loaded it into my van. I'm so grateful to Play It Again."

The bike has enabled Durrant to be more physically active and work on increasing her stamina. She's also trying to get in better shape.

"I was in a wheelchair for more than a year," Durrant said. "I was really limited to what I could do and gained a lot of weight."

In addition to losing weight, Durrant said her goals are to increase the amount of time she can stand and walk before she gets tired. She said she usually walks daily around her property and to get the mail.

Since she received the bike, Durrant said she has been riding it for 30 minutes, two times a day, for a total of about 10 miles.

"It's definitely a workout," Durrant said. "I feel the burn. But as I do it more, I know it's really going to help me."

She's also excited because having the bike enables her to stay active when the weather is cold and wet.

Durrant's youngest daughter, Leanna Logan, said she's noticed changes in her mother's personality since she started riding the bike.

"She seems happier and more awake," Logan said. "She seems able to do more."

Other donations to Durrant included one from the Corvallis High School drama department, which gave her $2,500 worth of lumber in the summer of 2010. The wood was the remains of a set that had been used by the department.

Durrant said some of the lumber has already been used to finish her front deck and to build shelves.

"There's still a lot left that is going to be used for improvements to the bathroom and to make the back deck larger," Durrant said.

The next big step for Durrant in her recovery is finding prosthetic limbs that work and fit well.

The past two years, she has been working with Advanced Arm Dynamics, a company that specializes in upper extremity prosthetic rehabilitation.

Durrant said she usually travels to Portland twice a month for fittings and to experiment with the prosthetic limbs. She's tried them before and had some success. However, she said it can take some time to find the right fit.

"I'm hoping to have a right arm soon after the holidays," Durrant said. "Then we can work on the other arm. That would be huge for me."

Despite the up and downs of her recovery process, Durrant said she feels blessed. She's celebrating Thanksgiving today at home with her parents, aunt and uncle.

"Words can't describe how I feel toward everyone that's helped me and encouraged me," she said. "For me, it's just about keeping on going."

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