Meet Valerie Hirschfield – Our new Ambassador

Who are you?
I’m a “French-South African” lady, married with children. I was born in Toulon (France) in 1964 and still an infant when my father decides he would like to emigrate and the whole family went off to South Africa.   I grew up in a suburb of Johannesburg and studied, worked and had 2 of my 3 children there.   The youngest was born in France as we moved back to Toulon in 1993.

What is your story?
In 2004 I suffered 3rd degree burns to my leg, which led to many surgeries and during one of these I caught an infection.  Finally, I didn’t really have a choice but to amputate as septicaemia set in and that was a life-threatening condition.  I’ve been an amputee for 15 years now.  After the amputation I just wanted to get straight back to my family as my kids were young and needed to have their mom back in their lives.   So, I decided that I would finish off the summer holidays with them and when their school year was about to start, I would then go to rehab and learn how to walk using a prosthetic leg.  By then I was so used to walking on crutches and without a prosthetic leg that the situation lasted 10 years.   I finally got a prosthetic when in 2015 I came across a stand-up paddling race which takes place in Holland.  The event is the “11 city SUP Tour”, a 220km race, going through 11 beautiful historical villages and over a five-day period. This was a real boost for me and since then I windsurf, snowboard, surf, play stand up tennis and of course walk in everyday life.  Nowadays with prosthetics instead of crutches.

What does ”Xtend your life” mean to you?
I’m a person who likes to challenge myself and being out of my comfort zone triggers me. Of course, an amputation is a life changing situation in many ways,but I’m lucky enough to have a good prosthetic leg and foot. The motto “Xtend your Life”, doesn’t mean I will have extra years ahead of me, but will enable me to live life to its fullest in a comfortable and easier way.   I like that motto and I could easily make it mine.   I try to live my life in a healthy way, even if I tend to push my body to its limits.  I just want to carry on with what I do for as long as I possibly can as that is very important both mentally and physically.  Some say we should never look back, but I don’t agree.   Looking ahead and moving on is great but one must look back to see just how much they have done and where they have come from.

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