Heading to college, while learning to walk all over again

Local News

Most families preparing to send a freshman to college this month are dealing with the stress of COVID-19 and the risk of their student being exposed while on campus.

That’s true for one Sioux Falls Lincoln High School graduate and her family. But COVID-19 is far from Corrin Gillespie’s only challenge.

KELOLAND News has been bringing you Corrin’s story since May, after her doctors discovered she had bone cancer and her right leg below her knee would need to be amputated.

Last month, we showed you Corrin’s bravery as she walked across the stage on crutches to receive her diploma following the amputation. Now, we have the latest chapter in Corrin’s story as she is learning to walk on a new prosthesis and is about to head off to college

Corrin Gillespie, made the long walk across Howard Wood Field to accept her diploma while on crutches, just weeks after undergoing amputation of her right foot.

Following that ceremony she was fitted for a prosthesis at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where she was able to take just a few steps on two feet again.

“It was very emotional to see her. She was pretty shaky. But it was the start of the process. It was the moment we were all waiting for, Angie Gillespie said.

“It was really exciting because I had been on crutches for almost a month or two, so it was so nice to be able to take steps again and walk,” Corrin Gillespie said.

Corrin Gillespie takes her first steps at Mayo Clinic after being fitted for a prosthesis. Video courtesy Angie Gillespie

But during an intense week of physical therapy, Corrin and her mom, Angie, had to lower their expectations of just how much she could do and how fast.

“I cried a lot during that week because it’s so hard. It’s just so hard to learn how to walk and my legs weren’t strong enough and I had a lot of nerve pain at the time,” Corrin said.

“What we really came to realize is that the process is going to be a lot harder than we thought, than she thought, it was going to be,” Corrin said.

“I thought at the end of physical therapy I’d be able to like run, and jump and dance. But it turns out most people are just on crutches at the end and they can’t really,” Corrin said.

Corrin Gillespie with her new prosthetic leg. Photo courtesy, Angie Gillespie

Corrin is down to one crutch for balance with her new prosthesis. Now her family is preparing to take her to college on Saturday.

“I keep saying this is what’s best. Corrin, this is what you have to do to gain some independence back,” Angie said.

“My life in the past four months has just been so hard. I just want to have a normal experience again. And be around people my age and being independent,” Corrin said.

Corrin knows she will have additional challenges navigating a college campus. However, she says the whole experience has changed her, making her grateful for everything she took for granted in the past.

“Little stuff I used to be able to do got taken away from me. So now, as I’m gaining the ability to do them again, I’m just very happy and excited, Corrin said.

“And I feel lucky. I feel lucky that her cancer was low-grade. And yes she had to have an amputation, but she’s going to school and she’s healthy,” Angie siad.

This former dancer is determined to ditch her crutch by September.

“There’s nothing I can’t do. It’s just a matter of time,” Corrin said.

The Gillespie family also wants to get a waterproof prosthesis for Corrin to use in the shower at school or while swimming. So far insurance has refused to cover one. If you’d like to help, you can take this link to the family’s GoFundMe page.

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