Rayna DuBose is a natural athlete. She says that when she was
younger, she wasn't that interested in academics, preferring to
spend all the time she could practicing ballet and playing
volleyball and her beloved basketball. She was a much recruited
prospect after high school and was courted by several colleges,
ultimately accepting a full athletic scholarship to Virginia Tech
to play Division 1 Women's Basketball.
In April 2002, part way through her freshman year, she was
struck down with meningococcal meningitis, which resulted in her
spending three weeks in a coma. She awakened to her family and
doctors crowded around her hospital bed, her plastic surgeon
delivering the news that all four of her limbs would need to
amputated. This was in addition to the collapsed organs,
non-functioning kidneys necessitating dialysis, and liver and
circulatory problems she continued to battle against. It was the
circulatory issues that caused the gangrene that affected both arms
and legs. Ultimately, Rayna spent 96 days in the UVA Medical Center
in Charlottesville, Virginia, fighting for her life.
"Being an athlete, we have a fighting spirit ingrained in us to
bounce back from adversity," said Rayna. In order to recover, she
would need to call on that instinct and rely on her strong faith,
as well as draw on the support from her devastated but close-knit
network of friends and family.
"My parents and my brother had a hard time talking about it at
first, it was so traumatic for everyone. Over time, we were all
able to tap into the tremendous support system from our communities
- sports, amputee groups, friends. We quickly learned that we were
not the only ones going through something like this and that was
An important decision
When faced with her new life as a quadrilateral amputee, Rayna
felt she needed to make an important decision.
"I could either sulk or I could make a life for myself. I
decided to do the latter. God had a plan for me; I didn't yet
realize what that plan was, but over time my eyes were opened to a
whole other world. Because of my illness and my amputations, I now
accept everybody. What we go through in life teaches us who we are,
makes us grateful. Some people, like me, need life-altering events
like this to wake us up. Being an amputee is one of the greatest
things that's happened to me because it's given me an opportunity
to help other people."
Rayna persevered and finished her schooling, graduating in 2007
with a degree in consumer studies from Virginia Tech. She also
returned to the basketball court as student assistant coach,
maintaining an active role with the Hokies.
Rayna recognized herself the inspirational role her story could
play for others and started to book speaking engagements with
groups that wanted to hear her unique take on priorities in life,
determination, perseverance and never giving up. Her upbeat
attitude and inspirational story have formed the foundation of her
own successful motivational speaking company that sees her
traveling the world, speaking to business, school and other
Her courage and exceptional attitude have garnered her countless
awards. In 2003, she received the Most Courageous Award at the
Men's Final Four in New Orleans. In 2005, she received the Wilma
Rudolph Award. She was also given the 2009 National Ethnic
Coalition Organization Congressional Ellis Island Medal of Honor,
and was the 2009 McDonalds Athlete of the Day for the Military
Paralympics. Her latest recognition came when the Cirque du Salute
at the 2011 NCAA Women's Final Four feted her as an honoree.
In early 2010, Rayna accompanied a lower-limb prosthetic
supplier to a prosthetics trade show. In between demonstrating her
"running legs" to tradeshow attendees, Rayna talked with the
exhibitors in the adjacent booth, Touch Bionics. As a bi-lateral
upper extremity amputee, Rayna became keenly interested in the
company's products and by the end of the conference had decided
that it was time for an upgrade to her prostheses. She had been
wearing traditional myoelectric prostheses but was excited at the
prospect of moving to the latest in prosthetic technology.
In May 2011, she was fitted with an i-LIMB Pulse on her dominant
right hand and a lifelike LIVINGSKIN passive aesthetic hand for her
left. Prior to being fitted, she drew some analogies about her new
Once fitted with her two new hands, Rayna was effusive.
"I feel like my old self again! Getting fitted was truly like
Christmas. I LOVE THEM!"