‘I am so grateful that I’m still here’: Claire Bridges prepares for heart surgery, looks forward to the future

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For Claire Bridges, every day is a day of thanks.

Months have passed since she lost her legs because of COVID-19 complications. After getting prosthetic legs, the 21-year-old is getting back to doing what she loves, rock climbing.

“The community has been great, especially at Vertical Ventures, the gym that I go to, they want to work with me and other disabled climbers on getting a disabled climber group together,” Bridges said.

She’s still adjusting to her prosthetics, and working on getting her strength and weight back.

“I just got my rock climbing legs and I’m so excited about that,” Bridges said. “I’m very appreciative for the support and to be able to help people just by, I don’t know, existing.”

Bridges says at first, she didn’t realize her story impacted or helped so many other people, not just in the Tampa Bay area, but around the world.

“I still have people reaching out to me,” Bridges said. “I made a friend in Spain. We’ve been talking. He’s an amputee below the knee.”

“I feel like this has opened the eyes of the community more to disabled people and I think that people are realizing disability doesn’t have just one look,” Bridges said.

Bridges is pushing through the toughest chapter of her life, but it’s not over yet. She has heart surgery next month, which she says will allow her to have a full recovery. She was born with a heart valve disease and COVID-19 made it worse.

Despite it all, she has much she’s thankful for.

“I am so grateful that I’m still here and able to do everything that I love, and I even started writing notes down about reminding myself if I ever forget, like, what I am grateful for. I’m grateful for rain, I’m grateful for the humidity, for people, for laughter, like, just the little things that make my day better and make it worthwhile,” Bridges said.

Bridges says she’s into art now and has been using that as an outlet. She’s looking forward to getting back in the gym in January once she recovers from heart surgery.

She’s also trying to become completely self-sufficient and hopes to get signed for modeling.

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