Amputee shares ‘inconvenience’ with Libertyville students

By Beth Kramer December 2, 2011 9:24PM

LIBERTYVILLE — Having a prosthetic leg is not a disability, Mike Carzoli told about 125 fifth grade students Friday. He called it a “minor inconvenience” that doesn’t hold him back from anything — he can run, jump, play sports, go swimming and live the lifestyle he wants.

Libertyville Friday 12.02.11. Prosthetist Mike Carzoli talks to Butterfield School students about his experiences with a prosthesis on Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, at the school in Libertyville. Carzoli had his right leg amputated during a fight against cancer at the age of 18. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

Carzoli shared his personal story with students at Butterfield School as a tie-in to his wife’s class recent reading workshop. Carzoli’s wife, Mandy, teaches fifth grade at Butterfield and just finished a book with her class about a girl who was an amputee.

“I think (the presentation) sent a powerful message. Life is going to send you some trials and troubles. If you try, you can overcome them. I think that’s the important message,” Mandy said.

She said she tries to select books with good morals like “The Running Dream,” the book the class just finished reading. The book dealt with prosthetics and that is something she and her husband deal with every day, she said.

She invited her husband to speak. This was the first time Mike appeared at the school and addressed children.

Mike’s story encapsulated “all the things we talk about” like problem solving, said District 70 Superintendent Guy Schumacher.

He said he has known the Carzolis for several years. Schumacher used to be the building principal at Butterfield.

“He (Mike) has moved to another dimension of cool. It’s amazing that he’s here to spend time,” Schumacher said.

Mike lost his right leg (below the knee) to cancer in 1996 when he was 18. He said he went from being a healthy high school student to a cancer patient with few options.

He decided to go the amputation route and had a prosthetic leg later the same year of his surgery.

“Learning how to walk again was probably the most difficult thing to learn. I hope none of you go through that,” Mike told the students.

He learned to walk on his prosthetic leg, first using a walker, then a cane and then no additional support.

Mike went on to get a degree in math from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and had a successful career in the insurance field as an actuary. He and Mandy have been married for about eight years.

About two years ago, when his wife had their son, he decided to go back to school to design prosthetics.

He brought working prosthetic legs and an arm to show the students.

“I think it’s amazing that people can actually make legs,” said student Kylie Skie, 11.

She said it was an incredible experience to touch a real prosthetic leg.

Fellow student Makenna Rudolphi, 10, was also impressed with the presentation.

“It’s really cool because I was really interested when we read the book about it,” Rudolphi said.

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