Donavia Walker is the definition of inspiration. The 16-year-old Florida native was born with Bilateral Amelia – an extremely rare birth defect marked by the complete absence of one or more limbs. Despite her deformities, she has set out to be an inspiration to many.
Walker is now an accomplished Junior Reserve Officer cadet – a federal program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces in high schools and also in some middle schools across the US and United States military bases across the world. The program was originally created as part of the National Defense Act of 1916 and later expanded under the 1964 ROTC Vitalization Act.
Walker learned to use her feet to do everything from homework, eating, answering her phone to driving. Determined to rewrite her story, Walker is now a squad administrator on the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).
“I remember the first day she walked through the door,” Walker’s instructor, Sergeant Major Rudy Carter, US Army retired, said. “I had high hopes for her and she hasn’t disappointed.”
“Every day that I see her walk through my classroom is a day that I realize that when I get up in the morning there is nothing that should limit me or nothing should hold me back,” Sergeant Major Carter added. “It’s people like Angel that make my job worth getting up for in the morning, make me want to get up and do the best that I can.”
When Tisa Jones was pregnant with Walker, her daughter’s condition was hidden from her. She wasn’t told that Walker had not developed arms in the womb. Jones said that filled her with a betrayal.
“I felt betrayed, like nobody told me nothing,” Daily Mail quoted Jones as saying. “I’m feeling like the person who did the ultrasound should have known.”
Walker embraced her condition at a very young age and horned her inner creativity to do everyday tasks using her feet.
“It really didn’t affect her life because the way she does stuff, everything comes to her naturally,” Jones said. “She taught herself to draw, she actually can tie other people’s shoes, she feeds herself, she takes herself to the bathroom. I’m still trying to figure out how, but she does it.”
Walker said people would put her down because they didn’t think she could do “as much as I can”. “They would tell me, ‘You can’t hold it, you have to use your hands to hold it” or “You can’t get that, you gotta use your hands to get it”. And I was like, “I can get it with my feet. I will find a way”.
Focused on graduating high school and passing her final driving test, Walker said she wants to be an inspiration to others; saying: “I would say to anyone with a physical condition that you should love yourself and find people who make you feel comfortable with yourself.”