20 weeks into her pregnancy, Karlyn Pranke, of St. Paul, Minnesota, learned that her now three year old daughter, Ruth Evelyn “RE” Pranke, would be born without arms. While researching her daughter’s condition, Pranke came across the story of Jessica Cox, a motivational speaker, disability rights advocate, and pilot.
“I started Googling stuff and coming across Jessica,” Pranke said. “Ever since, it’s been very inspirational to me that she has come as far as she has to overcome her disability — and my daughter has always said, especially lately, ‘I want arms, I want arms.'”
“I wanted her to see she doesn’t have to have arms,” she added. “I wanted her to see all the things Jessica can do.”
Cox, 32, of Tucson, Arizona, was born without arms, but that has not stopped her from pursuing her dreams. Cox has learned how to surf, play the piano, and received a black belt in Tae Kwan Do. In addition, Cox has learned how to fly an airplane and in 2008, she became the first pilot in the world licensed to fly using her feet.
Prank contacted Cox through Facebook, and they kept in touch. Prank and RE got a chance to meet Cox on July 24, when they attended the premiere of “Right Footed,” a documentary about Cox’s life.
While at the premiere, RE got to spend time with Cox, who showed her the many things she can do without arms and her airplane. RE also showed Cox the way she is able to write with her feet.
“I thought it would be motivating for her — showing that she can overcome your disability no matter what you are born with, or what you are born without,” Pranke said. “You adapt to what you are given. She [RE] is able to do some feeding for herself and shes able to use an iPad like its nobody’s business. She’s able to pick things up with her feet and carry it under her chin while she walks.”
The experience has made an impact on RE’s life. Since returning home, RE no longer says that she wants arms, but rather feels happy knowing that she shares something in common with someone who has accomplished a lot.
While at the premiere, RE and Cox took a picture hugging. The photo shows the special bond between the two.
“That picture clearly showed that you don’t need arms to embrace someone. It was special that we could feel the same, mutual feeling — what a hug is without arms.” Cox said.