A woman whose leg was amputated after she was born with a rare congenital condition has turned into a TikTok star thanks to her playful and educational videos about her prosthesis and life as an amputee.
Alyssa Cleland, a 23-year-old influencer and para-dressage rider, was abandoned at birth in a small town in Ukraine and was diagnosed with paraxial tibial hemimelia, affecting one in a million people. The athlete spent the first year of her life in a hospital and was not expected to live much longer.
Due to the rare condition, she never developed middle fingers or the shin on her right leg. When she was four years old, she was adopted by her American parents and had her leg amputated above the knee so she could use a prosthesis for walking.
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Journey: Alyssa Cleland, 23, from Texas, was born with paraxial tibial hemimelia and had her right leg amputated above the knee when she was four
Born this way: Due to the rare condition, which affects one in a million people, she never developed middle fingers or the shin on her right leg
“I’ve lived a prosthetic all my life,” she explained in a TikTok video. “I’ve had a lot of prostheses in my life, and honestly, I couldn’t imagine my life any different.”
Growing up in Southern California with her adoptive family, Alyssa defied expectations by becoming an impressive athlete.
She competed in triathlons, played soccer, baseball and volleyball and developed a passion for horse riding.
“I started driving when I was ten, but it turned out to be quite difficult because many facilities didn’t allow me to drive because they saw my leg as a liability,” she wrote in her Facebook bio. “That’s why I switched to volleyball instead.”
Backstory: Alyssa was left at birth in a small town in Ukraine. She spent the first year of her life in a hospital and was not expected to live much longer
Family: When she was four, she was adopted by her American parents and her leg was amputated above the knee so she could use a prosthesis for walking
All smiles: Alyssa grew up in Southern California with her adoptive family and defied expectations by becoming an impressive athlete
She played volleyball in high school and high school. In 2015, she moved to Oklahoma to join the Paralympic Seat Volleyball team, but she still loved riding and did it whenever she could.
Alyssa eventually left the team to pursue her equestrian dreams and moved to Texas to train full-time as a para-dressage rider with the goal of participating in the 2024 Paralympic Games.
During her training, she used her social media platform to share her journey and answer questions about being amputated and having a prosthesis.
Alyssa has over 674,000 TikTok followers thanks to her positive videos, which often show her dancing with – and without – her prosthesis.
Looking back: Alyssa has had a prosthetic leg for most of her life and has experienced more than a few of them over the years
Equestrian: Alyssa now lives in Texas and trains full-time as a para-dressage rider with the goal of participating in the 2024 Paralympic Games
Earlier this month, she celebrated her 23rd birthday with a video telling how she had been abandoned at birth and was not expected to survive the age of one.
“I’m turning 23 today and I’m fine!” she captioned images of herself dancing.
Alyssa joked about how she ‘can’t turn people off’ because she doesn’t have a middle finger. In one clip, she explained that people constantly ask her what she can and cannot do with four fingers on each hand.
She further showed how she types and points out that it is not really different from how other people type.
Using her voice: Alyssa shares her journey and answers questions about being amputated and having a prosthesis in her popular TikTok videos
Influencer: Alyssa has over 674,000 TikTok followers thanks to her positive videos, which often show her dancing with – and without – her prosthesis
In another video, she showed fans how to drive her left leg while getting her prosthesis out of the way.
Alyssa even demonstrated how to get to the bathroom with her prosthesis, admitting she didn’t realize she could leave it until she was 20.
She was recently interviewed about her relationship with her 58-year-old boyfriend Rick, who is 36 years her senior.
He was her boss when they met while working at the same surveying company in 2018. They agreed with Tinder, but initially agreed not to take things further because they didn’t want to complicate their working relationship.
Educational: In her videos she has demonstrated everything from how she drives with her left leg (photo) and how to type with just four fingers on each hand
Look of love: Alyssa’s boyfriend Rick, 58, is 36 years older than her. He was her boss when they matched on Tinder in 2018
Happy: Because of her disability, Alyssa says she has had negative experiences with men her own age, but thinks Rick’s age means he has a lot of insight. ‘
However, after meeting and enjoying an engaging conversation for four hours, they soon changed their minds and agreed to date – as long as they stopped working together.
Rick eventually left his job as CFO so they could start their relationship, and the two have lived together ever since, intending to get married in the future.
“I’m definitely in love with Rick. And I’m just waiting for a ring at this point. Even if it means changing his diapers, I’m going to be in it for the long haul, “she said.
“I can be hit by a car tomorrow. No one knows how long we have on this earth. And so I guess I just spend it with the people you love despite getting older and faster. It’s all we can really do. ‘