CARTHAGE, Mo. — Haven Shepherd’s life might have ended shortly after it began.
She was born in Vietnam, the results of an affair between her married father and one other woman. For causes which will by no means be absolutely clear — from potential societal shunning to monetary hardship — her organic mom and father determined to kill themselves and Haven. They strapped suicide bombs to themselves and set them off. Both dad and mom have been killed immediately.
But Haven survived.
She was discovered about 40 toes from their burning residence with extreme harm to her legs.
Villagers took her to the closest hospital in Da Nang, the place medical doctors saved her life however could not save her legs. Other sufferers donated to her hospital fund so she might proceed receiving take care of practically 40 days.
Meanwhile, the world over in Carthage, Missouri, Rob and Shelly Shepherd felt known as to add one other youngster to their household of eight.
Shelly’s good friend had began a basis in Vietnam and so they have been opening a handicap shelter. The good friend heard about Haven and informed the Shepherds about her.
Initially, they have been skeptical.
“I was like, we have so much going on. We’d need a kid with feet, they’ve got to keep up,” Shelly stated. “And then when I met her, you know, she’s just so joyful…and I realized, it’s just feet, we can do this, we can bring her into the family.”
At 20 months outdated, Haven flew with the Shepherds to the United States.
They took her to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City to have a surgeon have a look at her wounds.
“[The surgeon] was just like, ‘I’m just amazed.’ He said, ‘Her amputations are beautiful. We couldn’t have done any better here in our hospital.’ And so that was a huge blessing,” Shelly stated.
Haven blended into the Shepherd household rapidly. Her six older siblings have been all athletes, and Haven wished to play sports activities, too.
At first, she tried operating monitor, but it surely wasn’t a great match.
“Turns out I really don’t like the heat and I don’t like to sweat,” Haven stated. “I just remember telling my mom, I was like, ‘I’m done. I don’t want to do this.’ I quit at the prime age of eight years old.”
Haven had been swimming since she was 4 years outdated, however till she turned 9, she by no means thought-about competing. At her first meet, she realized she had expertise and really loved doing it.
Swimming additionally had one other profit — she might take off her prosthetic legs for a number of hours.
“Not a lot of people realize that wearing prosthetic legs all day is really tiring,” Haven stated. “And when I get to take my legs off in the middle of the day for like two or three hours, that was like bliss to me.”
She began with classes on the native YMCA. Then she transitioned to Berzerker Swimming, a aggressive USA Swimming membership.
At age 13, she set the purpose of constructing it to the Paralympics.
“She never really wavered from her decision,” Shelly stated. “And it’s a grueling schedule. I never really had to say, ‘yes, you have to go to practice.’ She never really questioned it.”
Haven continued to rise throughout the ranks of aggressive swimming. When she was 16, she gained a silver medal on the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru.
In June of 2021, she competed in the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her efficiency earned her a spot on Team USA.
“It was just such a long process and [it] didn’t really hit me until I got home,” Haven stated. “I knew how excited I was, but it didn’t really hit me because you’re just so so stressed for that whole time and then it happened. So you have the relief, and then you’re exhausted.”
After years of coaching — together with an additional 12 months due to the pandemic — Haven stated she’s prepared to full the purpose she set when she was 13.
“I don’t really have any expectations on myself,” she stated. “I just want to go in being me and having fun.”
For her mother, it is a reflection of all the arduous work it took to get to this level.
“When I think about where she came from, the little amputee, just orphaned girl that we picked up, to how much life she has lived in 18 years — that’s such a miracle,” Shelly stated.
Haven continues to share her optimistic spirit and never dwell on the previous.
“I don’t look at the things that I’ve lost,” Haven stated. “I mean, I’ve lost so much in my life. I’ve lost my legs, but I’ve never let that hold me back.”
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games start Aug. 24. Haven will swim in the 200-meter particular person medley on Aug. 28 and the 100-meter breaststroke on Sept. 1. NBC could have primetime protection in addition to streaming choices for the occasions. For extra particulars, go to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics web site.