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Woman won't let plight get her down page 2
King George woman who lost her leg and her vision after service in Bosnia has shared her story across the nation.

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Date published: 11/12/2012

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Her left leg was amputated below the knee, and the tissue loss to her thighs was ghastly. She jokes it looks like a shark visited--and stayed for lunch.

In her purse, she carries photos that show the bruising, swelling and scars at their worst.

"I guess it's a testament that I survived this," she said.

'I REFUSE TO GIVE UP'

Smith's ordeal didn't end with the crisis in September 2002, when she was retired from service and classified as 100 percent disabled.

Again in 2005 and 2010, she began to hemorrhage, just as she did in her leg, except it happened in one eye and then the other.

Smith was left legally blind, though she still has a slit--thin as a pencil line--that she can see out of her right eye.

Her case baffled military and private doctors, who determined they don't know what caused her condition. They say it's possible she was exposed to a chemical agent or toxin in Bosnia.

Initially, Smith had a hard time grappling with an unknown poison lurking in her body, ready to strike again.

"But I've kind of come to terms with it," she said. "We may never know what is."

She also vowed that her nameless enemy won't defeat her.

"I refuse to give up or give in to what's happened," she said.

'THEY'LL BE OK'

Smith doesn't want to give the impression that losing a leg was no big deal.

She was devastated. At one point, she thought she'd never leave the house again or forever wear snow pants to hide her loss.

Instead, she asked for a prosthetic leg that she could wear with high heels and practiced--and practiced--until she could walk with a seemingly perfect gait.

Early on in her recovery, she told her mother she'd always been the cheerleader. Her mother replied, "And now you can be the coach."

Smith began to think it was meant to be for her to be in Bosnia and lose her leg when she did. She was one of two amputees in Walter Reed at first, but she was quickly followed by a wave of soldiers and Marines injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She became trained as a counselor. She wanted to help others with the same issues she faced.

Joe Bowser, an assistant to the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon, remembers the first time he saw her.


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