Barbie Thomas is a one of a kind, she is an armless body builder who has inspired the fitness world with her determination.
When she was only 2-years-old, she was playing outside her apartment complex, when she decided to climb a transformer by grabbing on the the wires. The electric current charred her little arms and they had to be amputated from shoulder level.
In the bio on her website, Fitness Unarmed, she explains the extent of her injuries at the time,
“They were like charcoal. They were completely dead and had to be amputated at the shoulders.”
Thomas was not expected to survive and for most people the injuries she suffered would have been enough to cripple her for life, but instead she persevered and is now a competitive body builder and model. Talk about inspiring.
The body builder now lives in Phoenix and says she thanks God she is alive. Barbie Thomas has two teenage sons, 13 and 17 who call her shoulders “nubs”.
While speaking with ABCNews.com, and holding the phone between her ear and right shoulder, Thomas says that her positive attitude is what has kept her going.
“I was not allowed to be negative and say I can’t do something. I was always taught to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do,” she said. “It probably has a lot to do with my personality — I can’t imagine being a negative Nancy all the time.”
Her dance routines during fitness competitions include high kicks, splits, and some ninja moves, which participants are required to do on top of their strength performances.
Last year, the amateur division of the International Federation of Body Builders, the National Physique Committee (NPC) was so impressed with Barbie Thomas that they gave her the first ever Inspiration Award.
“She chose the most difficult division of all,” Miles Nuessle, Arizona chairman of the NPC commented.
Neussle says “the crowd went nuts” with her incredible dance moves, which he can’t put into words.
“We were thinking, ‘How can she do that routine?’ but she blew our minds,” he said. “She was absolutely beautiful. She was on the floor jumping up and doing splits. I don’t know what half the moves were called. She was rolling all over the place and shaking it — sexy, athletic, fun and emotional.”
The NCP chair says that Barbie Thomas might “punch you in the face” if you use the word “handicapped” in front of her. “Barbie is not handicapped.”
Thomas says she undertook a lot of physical and occupational therapy, but at times things were challenging and she would have to improvise and think outside the box.
She speaks of caring for a newborn and picking her therapist’s brain in the process.
“I did have to pick my therapist’s brain to help with a few things with the newborn baby,” she said. “But the second one was a piece of cake. I had to kind of prop them up on a pillow and lay next to them as a holder when I nursed them. I could hold them the right way in my lap by using my leg when they were a little older.”
Thomas says that fitness has been a part of her life “forever” having done dance, soccer, and aerobics running.
After her first child was born she got into aerobic lifting with weights and later became an instructor. Encouraged by a friend, she decided to get into fitness competition in 2003 and faced some odd stares at the beginning.
Barbie Thomas could tell by body language and the looks she was getting, what people were thinking.
“They looked at me like, ‘What the heck is she doing here?’” she said. “I put their doubts to rest when they saw my fitness routine.”
Thomas realizes her story is an inspiration to others,
“I realize it inspires many people, and not just those with physical challenges,” she said. “Follow your dreams and keep pushing and where there is a will, there is a way. We all have our own stuff to deal with and our own limitations and handicaps. Mine are just more visible. There’s always someone else out there who has it worse.”
Barbie Thomas is one of the most incredible stories of beating the odds you will ever read about. The complete piece on her journey can be found here.