In truly inspiring fashion, Julia Richardson persevered through a devastating injury to accomplish her goals. After losing her left leg, she chose to move forward and pursue a goal of completing a 10K race. Today, she continues to strive for new goals, and teach others about how to live life to the fullest. Instead of succumbing to a life dictated by what she can’t do, Julia leads a life on her terms, and hopes to help others in a similar position do the same.
Name: Julia Richardson
College: Saint Josephs University
Graduation Year: December 2018
Instagram and Twitter: @supjulz
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Julia Richardson: Learning to walk and run again.
HC: What was the hardest part of recovering from your accident?
JR: Besides the obvious of having to learn how to walk again, the extreme pain that I had to go through during the actual accident itself and the first few months of physical therapy, I would say the hardest part of recovering was learning to accept myself. At first I hated the way I looked. I hated all my new scars, I didn’t like my “nub” (which is what I call my residual limb), and I gained some weight from not being able to really move around much for about the first few months. When I was discharged from the hospital before I had my prosthetic, I had to use crutches to “hop” around and people would constantly stare at me when I was in public. Even after I got my first prosthetic they would still look at me, and I couldn’t stand it. I hated going out because of that, and now I know that it was only because they were curious, but at first I let my anxiety get the best of me and convinced myself that people were looking at me because I was ugly, weird and couldn’t walk right.
Now that it’s been a year I’m in a totally new spot. I love myself and what I look like. I don’t mind going out in public, and people looking at me doesn’t bother me anymore. The looks little kids give me are actually pretty funny haha, they’re the best—they usually come up and ask me what happened the most because they’re just kids and don’t understand. Most adults are too afraid to say something because they think they’ll offend me, but I don’t get offended easily at all. I love when people come up to me and ask me what happened, or tell me that they think I’m encouraging or inspiring or that my leg looks cool, because to myself I’m just out living a normal life doing the same things I used to do before my accident, but to others I’m doing something really incredible and hard and knowing that I can help people in some way by simply living my life will never get old.
HC: Why did you decide to switch ice hockey for running, and why is staying active and setting goals, like running a 10k, so important to your life?
JR: Honestly, I switched because running seemed easier to learn. If I wanted to keep playing hockey I could, but I would have to play sled hockey which honestly seems harder than normal hockey and it’s a large investment. I (supposedly) can still skate with my prosthetic and I’m hoping to try that out soon since I didn’t get around to it last year because everything was still so new, but I don’t think that I could skate very fast and take hits anymore. I also didn’t want to risk hurting myself or breaking my prosthetic, which is not cheap. I’m pretty open and I like to try new things and running was something I hadn’t done before. I didn’t really mean to pick it up but one day my aunt and cousin were talking about how they were going to run a half marathon in November and something came over me and I just instantly said I wanted to run it too. I think I really just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I got talked out of running the half marathon by my physical therapist because she didn’t want me to set myself back, since I wasn’t a runner before the accident, and a half marathon is hard for anyone but especially for me now that I’d have to run it with my prosthetic, so that’s how I decided on a 10k.
Staying active is especially important to me because I struggled with an eating disorder for a bit in high school so during that time I wasn’t allowed to be very active. I had to take a break from hockey, which I didn’t like, I wasn’t allowed to work out and I needed to try and burn as little calories as possible. Now that I’m recovered, it’s so nice to be able to be healthy, look and feel good, and be able to run and work out without feeling awful afterward.
HC: Who in your life most inspires you?
JR: My younger sister. She’s 17 and she has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, a speech disorder and left hemiplegia (which in her case means that she has a hard time using her left hand). Jordan is one of the happiest people I know, despite having a life way harder than I and most other people ever will.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
JR: Attitude and patience are key. Your attitude will truly make or break everything, and it’s incredibly rare for something amazing to happen over night. It takes hard work, dedication and staying strong through the failures.
HC: What are your top goals and priorities post-graduation?
JR: I want to go to graduate school to get a master's and then a doctorate in psychology. I know I want to go down the clinical route and become a therapist but I also like behavior analysis and forensic psych, so I’m hoping to study them all.
HC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
JR: “If you focus on what you left behind, you will never be able to see what lies ahead.” - Chef Gusteau (Ratatouille)
HC: How would you describe yourself in five words?
JR: Funny, passionate, accepting, understanding, loving
Reilly Tuccinard is a junior at the University of South Carolina and is pursuing a career in Publishing. She's currently the Beauty Editor for HC and also the Editor-in-Chief of HC South Carolina. Friends will tell you she's a a self-proclaimed Grey's Anatomy addict, she can't just watch a movie once, and is a firm believer in never having too much chocolate. You'll probably either catch her reading (and tripping) on the brick paths around campus or laughing with friends.