Watch above: She was a competitive athlete and working three jobs. Now, Angelena Dolezar is turning a vacation tragedy into an inspiring story. Su-Ling Goh reports.
EDMONTON – What was meant to be a fun houseboating trip in B.C. last summer turned tragic for 29-year-old Angelena Dolezar.
The Edmonton school teacher was out tubing when she felt the boat she was being pulled by was going too fast.
“I was scared, so I let go with one hand to signal ‘slow down,’ like the universal slow down signal [resembling a thumbs-down sign].
“And somewhere the communication line was broken and the spotter didn’t see, or the driver didn’t hear, and the driver turned. So because I wasn’t holding on with one hand, I was whipped into the wake.”
Dolezar says her body went one way and her left leg went the other way.
Surgeons at a B.C. hospital tried to do everything they could to save her leg, which had suffered internal bleeding due to a severed artery. But after a few weeks, her doctor told her the leg would need to be amputated above the knee.
“That was a hard moment for sure,” she says, tearing up. “Even though I knew it was always a possibility, it still really shocked me.”
Not long after the surgery in September, Dolezar was transferred to Edmonton, where she began her journey of rehabilitation. That soon included personal training sessions with Carrie Robinson, who has been amazed by Dolezar’s positivity.
“She’s been fantastic, she works so hard, she never complains,” the personal trainer says.
“I originally thought when I heard about Angelena, that it’s going to be someone who’s a little sad, and it’s going to be hard to pull her out of it. But she came to me smiling!”
Dolezar now has one more reason to smile. This week she became the first Canadian to acquire the world’s first complete bionic leg. She explains that the technology behind it was actually invented for race cars.
The prosthetic auto-adjusts to ramps and hills, allowing the former competitive soccer player to still lead an active lifestyle.
“This leg, it’s going to change my life,” she says.
She’s started an adapted swim program, and has plans to compete in a para-triathlon. Her sessions with Robinson are helping Dolezar train for that dream, and are inspiring those around her.
“We’ve had [clients] come up to us after and say, ‘you know, during my session I was exhausted and didn’t want to do what my trainer was telling me.’ They looked over and Angelena’s busting her butt on the rowing machine or the cable machine and they felt, ‘what the heck am I complaining for?'” says Robinson.
“She’s taught me a lot about patience and not taking things for granted. And being able to live through life and still smile and say, ‘this happened, but I can still have a quality of life.’ Of course she can. Why wouldn’t she?”
Robinson, along with other staff and clients at Prime Strength, are planning a fundraiser to help pay for Dolezar’s new prosthesis which costs $65,000 and is not covered by Alberta Health.
Details are below:
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News
© Shaw Media, 2014