A motorcyclist whose leg was amputated after a horrific crash has become a model to show off her stump with pride. Tahlor Self, 26, has said she wants to inspire other amputees to embrace their appearance by revealing all in front of the camera.
Tahlor’s life was changed forever when in March 2016 she was involved in a head-on collision with a car whilst riding a motorcycle in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her left leg was severely injured in the crash and despite the best efforts of doctors to save it, they ultimately ended up amputating it from just above Tahlor’s knee. And as a way of helping her come to terms with her disability, Tahlor, from Lawton, Oaklahoma, took the brave decision to appear in a fashion photo shoot as an amputee advocate. Tahlor does have a prosthetic leg which she uses everyday, but she said she wanted to show her true self to others.
Hairdresser, Tahlor, said: ‘I woke up in ICU and my leg had been put back together. I was fully prepared to wake up as an amputee but the doctors did try to save my leg.
‘My knee had been completely shattered and could have been saved if I wanted, but no one could guarantee me I’d be able to walk properly again. ‘I realized I’d have a better quality of life if I had it amputated, so that was my choice. ‘It was the biggest decision of my life because I was such an active person. Adapting to life afterwards was hard and the five months I spent in a wheelchair were the hardest of my life. ‘At the time I didn’t think I looked anything like a model but I really wanted to do it. I was excited but it was terrifying. ‘It was absolutely an empowering experience and I feel like it sent out a really strong message.
‘I want to show people that you can still be whoever you want to be even if something bad happens to you. ‘I love my new look and that’s the message I want other people who are amputees to adopt too.
’ Tahlor, who is engaged to electrician, Jagger, 23, was driving to the beach on her motorcycle when she was involved in a 40mph head-on collision with an oncoming car. Her left knee smashed into the car’s bumper, shattering her kneecap, and she was thrown off her bike.
Tahlor said she could have lost her life in the terrifying collision, and is grateful she did not suffer more serious injuries as a result.
Her femur bone was broken in half and Tahlor’s lower leg was left hanging at an angle. She recalls how doctors told her it was her quick-thinking to tie her t-shirt around her upper leg to stop the bleeding that saved her life. Tahlor was airlifted to the University of South Alabama Hospital and rushed into theatre for an emergency operation to try to save her leg.
Tahlor said: ‘I turned a corner on my bike and there was a car in the middle of the road. I tried to swerve but I went straight into the car behind.
‘I flew through the air and when I landed I looked at my leg and saw the state it was in. ‘I tied my t-shirt around my life and the doctors said that’s why I’m alive. ‘I did panic when I first saw my leg and how much blood I was losing. I knew I had to do something and I was very scared.
‘When I woke up in hospital the first thing I did was look down and I saw my leg had been put back together. They explained they had saved it but said I’d need five to seven years of operations and may never walk properly again. ‘I didn’t want to go through that so they gave me the option to have it amputated.
It was the biggest decision of my life but I know now it was the right thing to do.’
Before the accident Tahlor said she was an active and independent person who played several sports and enjoyed keeping fit. So when she was allowed home from hospital, two weeks after the amputation, Tahlor said adapting to her new life was a huge challenge.
Tahlor went on to spend five months in a wheelchair before being provided with a prosthetic leg through her insurance policy in August 2016, giving her a ‘new lease of life’. Tahlor said: ‘Because of the crash I went from being so independent to having to rely on everyone else to do things for me.
‘But facing those challenges helped me to become who I am today. ‘Life became a lot easier when I got the prosthetic and I did get used to it quite quickly.
By the October I had become really confident on it and was walking on my own again.’ As well as her everyday prosthetic leg Tahlor also has a running blade, given to her by a charity which supports amputees, and allows her to run and even swim again.
And after she had made a full recovery from the accident and surgery which followed, Tahlor was approached by fitness clothing photographer, Casey Withers. He offered her the opportunity to appear in the photo shoot which Tahlor said was too good of an offer to turn down. She said: ‘It was an amazing opportunity and although I didn’t feel like a model I knew I had to go for it.
‘I love my new look and I want to create a positive message to other amputees to not to be afraid. ‘I’ve kept a really positive mindset and wanted to send a strong message out to other people. ‘I can still ride a bike and stand up for 12 hours a day at work. Being an amputee does not define you. ‘You can still achieve your dreams and do anything you want.’