Acting isn’t just a career option for those who want to appear on stage or screen, it has been a huge benefit for the medical community. In fact, people who have lost their limbs play an important role in training soldiers and others on the battlefield how to treat severe injuries.
June and Ted DiStefano, who both lost their left legs when their motorcycle was hit by a car fifteen years ago, now work as actors for Strategic Operations (STOPS), which conducts a “hostile environment training course.” Kit Lavell, a Vietnam war veteran who runs STOPS, points out that individuals in the course become shocked when they see the DiStefanos. He explains, “The individuals who are going through the training here are not expecting to see an amputee. And so the shock effect of seeing that happen is priceless.” The hope is that the initial shock of seeing people who are missing limbs will help those in the course become experienced with that surprise.
Makeup artists make the amputees appear as if they suffered a major battlefield injury, and trainees are asked to treat them under battlefield conditions. STOPS, which is based in San Diego, has trained American soldiers and other battlefield personal, including reporters.
Heather Morales, who lost her right leg to cancer at eight years old and spent several years as an actor in Hollywood, also works for STOPS. Morales refers to her injury as “a gift,” pointing out, “Everyone else there out there in the world that thinks that this is something to be ashamed of, don’t. If there’s something wrong with you, don’t fix it. Embrace it.”
June DiStefano points out that the gratification she receives makes her realize how important of a role she has. She explains, “When you go home at night, and lay your head on the pillow and know that you have the ability to change someone’s life it’s priceless.”