by AUTUMN BIPPERT//Editorial Assistant
Abby Rodgers has overcome physical challenges she has been living with all her life by keeping positive and working towards her goals every day.
Rodgers is currently attending the South Plains College Levelland campus to pursue an associate’s degree in education. She found her passion for teaching after participating in peer buddies, a program where students help their peers who have special needs in class, at Georgetown High School. She plans to transfer to Texas Tech University after two year to reach her goal as a special needs teacher.
Rodgers was born two and a half months early due to a placental abruption from her biological mother’s drug’s use while pregnant with her. When Abby was born, the doctors discovered she was not fully developed.
Rodgers was born without a developed bottom jaw bone, no arms and no legs. She was admitted to the NICU for 30 days until she was released to her biological mom, Tori. At 5 months old, Rodgers was taken by Child Protective Services from her biological mom.
After a month in Child Protective Services, Rodgers was placed in a foster home that later she would call her forever home. Originally, Rodgers wasn’t supposed to stay with her foster mom, Angela Rodgers. The plan was for her birth mother, Tori, to get her back. But she did not follow through with the plan set out to her by Child Protective Services.
After being with her foster mom, Angela Rodgers, for two years, Angela decided to adopt her. On Sept. 21, 2001, Abby was officially adopted.
Later, her family grew when her mother married Jacob Lester. Rodgers is very grateful to her mother and her father who have helped her through all the hard times and have taken care of her.
“I know I’m extremely lucky to have ended up where I did,” Rodgers said, “my life would not be anywhere near as good if I had not ended up with my mom and dad.”
“I just have to keep positive. There are two things I can do. I can joke about it and stay positive, or I can lay in bed and cry about it, which isn’t going to get me anywhere in life. So I stay positive”
Growing up and going to school was a hardship on Rodgers.
“There were a lot of times I got made fun of in school, or people told me I was abusing my accommodations,” recalls Rodgers. “I don’t really know how I dealt with it. A lot of the time I just internalized it. I realized that wasn’t healthy. I guess another way I dealt with it was, I wasn’t social. I’d have one or two close friends to talk to and deal with it.”
Even though Rodgers has gone through a lot in school with bullying, she keeps a great sense of humor about her situation. She often jokes about her lack of hands or about popping off her legs and throwing them.
“I just have to keep positive,” Rodgers explains. “There are two things I can do. I can joke about it and stay positive, or I can lay in bed and cry about it, which isn’t going to get me anywhere in life. So I stay positive.”
The majority of the time Rodgers leans on her family or her close friends in trying times.
“Some of the hardest times have been after I have had surgery and can’t eat solid foods, or even get out of bed on my own,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers has had more than 26 surgeries on her face alone, as well as many more on her legs. Most of her surgeries have been Distractions Osteogenesis to fix her lower jaw bone. Distraction osteogenesis is a way to make a longer bone out of a shorter one. The surgery consists of breaking the current jaw bone in two places, and then placing a device called a distractor, which has two screws coming out from under the chin, that needs to be turned two times a day to create a centimeter-wide gap for new bone to grow into.
Another major surgery was a bone graft. Normally with bone grafts, live bone is taken from the tibia or the scapula. But in Abby’s case, the bone had to come from her femur. Two weeks before doctors took live bone from the femur, they stretched the muscles from the bottom jaw so that there was room for the new bone to heal properly. After she healed, doctors took 11 centimeters of bone from both femurs to place in the jaw bone.
Although Rodgers has no hands or legs, she still functions independently, using prosthetics. She takes care of herself like any young adult would. She has her driver’s license and can drive a car without any special modifications. She can do a wide range of things, from putting in and taking out contacts, to tying a tie and texting.
“I’m excited to go start school here, because it’s a good place to start out,” Rodgers explains. “It’s a small place where you can get hands-on help from professors.”
“This is where my whole family started out, so I’m happy to be close to them this year,” she adds.
[Photo by AUTUMN BIPPERT/PLAINSMAN PRESS]