Girl Overcomes Amputation of Legs - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/27/04 - Lindale

Girl Overcomes Amputation of Legs

In a 6th grade gym class at E.J. Moss Intermediate School in Lindale, there's one girl who stands out. Mariya Spencer can run with o without her legs.

"She just jumps in and she does everything," Paul Smith, her P.E. teacher, said. "There's nothing that she won't try."

"I just enjoy being free and being able to run around," Mariya said.

Mariya was born in Russia. Her legs were deformed, so they had to be amputated when she was only a baby. And because her birth parents couldn't afford to give her medical care, Mariya was adopted by an American couple and brought to Arizona.

"We thought surely there was something we could do to help," Susan Spencer, her adoptive mother, said.

Susan, her husband, and their six children recently moved to East Texas, where Mariya continues to impress teachers and coaches alike.

"She pushes herself a lot more than a bunch of these kids do," Coach Smith said. "Her arms are a lot stronger than the rest of them."

That's because, before she received prosthetic legs, Mariya had to walk around on her hands. She also uses her hands to design and sew clothing. Mariya takes ballet, jazz, and hip hop dance classes. But it doesn't end there.

"I love to sing, so I want to be a singer," Mariya said. "I love to dance. I want to be a dancer."

"I just really feel God has a purpose for her life," Susan said.

And Mariya believes she was meant to be a part of the Spencer family.

"I believe that she was the one who was supposed to have me because I love my life now," Mariya said.

Mariya doesn't let her physical challenges discourage her.

"I do ask myself, why me?" Mariya said. "Why is it me being in prosthetics? A lot of times I do wish that I could do things other kids can do that I can't. But then there's stuff that I can do that they can't, like take off my legs. There's stuff that I can do and there's stuff that I can't, but I enjoy it both ways. Wouldn't want it any different."

It's that kind of spirit and energy that makes it hard for Mariya's siblings and peers to keep up with her.

Mariya's mom says her daughter's artwork has won state awards in Arizona and her pieces are now part of museum exhibits traveling around the country.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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