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Survivor’s first amputee contender Chad Crittenden to deliver keynote at Ann Arbor limb loss event

Former competitor of CBS hit reality series “Survivor” to speak at local limb loss event co-sponsored by University of Michigan and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR, Mich. —   Best known as the first amputee to brave the elements on the ninth season of CBS’s “Survivor,” Chad Crittenden is coming to Ann Arbor to share his story and message: there is life after losing a limb.

The accomplished athlete will be the keynote speaker of the area’s first-ever limb loss event co-sponsored by the University of Michigan Health System and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor on June 21. The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College, 4800 East Huron River Drive. 

Crittenden’s leg was amputated after doctors found a rare and deadly cancerous tumor on his foot called Synovial Sarcoma. The teacher and father of two competed with a prosthetic leg in “Survivor Vanuatu” in the volcanic islands of the South Pacific in 2004 just a couple of years after his amputation.

“Facing a choice between my own mortality at age 33 or what I thought to be the unspeakable – an amputation – was not something I could have ever prepared for,” Crittenden says. “It was not an easy journey but this ultimately turned into a new beginning for me.

“After my surgery, I started with small goals and worked my way up to competing in my first triathlon, first marathon and of course the reality TV show “Survivor” that I was such a big fan of. I’m looking forward to sharing my story with the Ann Arbor community and telling people that they too can turn adverse circumstances into positive outcomes in their lives.”

Chad Crittenden
Courtesy photo

The limb loss event will also include sports sessions with Eastern Michigan University basketball players and experts in golf and gait training. Attendees will have the chance to hear from presenters on topics ranging from caregiver support and pain management to nutrition and yoga for both adults and youth with limb loss.

“Having an amputation can be a traumatic event often followed by grief over not only the physical loss of a limb but an overwhelming fear that life as you know it is over,” says U-M’s Limb Loss Support Coordinator Carla Vollmer, who leads the university’s amputee support group U-CAN and who is also an amputee herself.

“Chad Crittenden is the ultimate inspiration of how people with limb loss can continue a life doing what they love. We hope this event brings the community together so people see that they’re not alone, learn about the rich pool of resources available to them and be inspired to lead a full, active and satisfying life.”

Read related blog posts "Life after limb loss: Carla’s story" and Chad Crittenden of Survivor inspires fellow amputees" on

“We are thrilled by the opportunity this event brings for our two hospitals to collaborate on such an important initiative for this community,” says Natalie Palay, LMSW, a social worker at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor who runs the amputee support group at the hospital. 

“Hearing the word ‘amputation’ can be a devastating, life-changing moment and no one has an easy time imagining life without an arm or leg. Hearing from others who have found ways to cope and move on to normal lives is incredibly comforting and empowering. We hope people are able to learn from each other and build on connections made at our first limb loss event.”

The agenda includes sessions on estate planning, bully-proofing, art for kids, fitting healthy choices into a busy lifestyle, caregiver support, yoga and meditation. M. Catherine Spires, M.D., professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the U-M Medical School, will give a presentation on the treatment of neuroma, a painful condition which affects the nerves. Vice Chief of Staff David P. Steinberg, vice chair of the department of Internal Medicine and medical director of Rehabilitation Services at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, will also speak on pain management after limb loss.
Among attendees with be Saline Police Reserve Sgt. Larry Wiedmeyer. Connecting with others with similar experiences is an important part of healing, says Wiedmeyer, whose leg was amputated 14 years ago after an infection caused by diabetes.

“For me it was a scary thing because I kept thinking ‘how am I  going to live with one leg?’” says Wiedmeyer, an active member of both amputee support groups at U-M and SJMAA and who was able to continue passions like riding his motorcycles, hunting and running after his amputation.

“I thought I’d be the only one walking around with an artificial leg but boy was I wrong. It was good to know that there are a ton of us out there and to learn from other people’s experiences, which is why these kinds of events are important. I always tell people there are some really dark moments and you have to work hard to get through it but you can get back to a life you love. It hasn’t stopped me from doing anything. Networking with others is a key part of the process.”

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