Jian Jackson was born healthy. At about 5 months old, she had a high fever at the orphanage where she lived in China. Four days later, she wasn’t moving her legs anymore.
“By then they took her to a doctor, but it was too late,” explains Stacie Jackson, Jian’s adoptive mother. “The doctors here think it was polio.”
The 8-year-old suffered nerve damage to both legs, and she now uses her hands to move, with her legs and feet hopping or dragging behind. She’s amazingly agile, and her upper-body strength is great enough for legless rope climbs, bar muscle-ups and handstand walks.
Stacie has been working with her daughter every day after school on walking. The child has made progress, one day taking 113 steps unassisted from the back of the school to greet her mother.
“The first thing I started her doing was the rowing machine,” recounts Stacie, a member at CrossFit affiliate Ignite Fitness in Alabama. “She really needs to build up her quad strength, and so that push-pull on the rower was really good for that.”
Ignite Fitness owner Shane Rodriguez has also been working with Jian.
“She’ll try almost anything I do, so I guess I need to start doin’ more things, ’cause I don’t think I’ve showed her something that she hasn’t been able to do,” he says with a smile.
Stacie says Jian has a positive attitude, often encouraging herself through physical challenges.
“It’s just amazing how well the kid can thrive just with love and a home and food.”
Video by Mike Koslap.
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Additional reading: All Access: Part 1 by Chris Cooper, published March 30, 2014.