Written by: Zoe Weisner
Few teenagers have to face learning how to walk for a second time. For Class of 2010 alumnus Ranjit Steiner, this became a reality after doctors found a tumor in his right leg and amputated it during his sophomore year. Although the change forced him to make adjustments in order to play sports again, it also led him to his new dream: the 2012 Paralympics. “I did not really connect the dots between the tumor, the cancer and not being able to play sports anymore until a couple months after they found it,” Steiner said. “At that point, they told me that I would never play football or run track again and it became very real.”
Prior to finding the tumor, Steiner participated in various sports. “At Gunn, I was most interested in football and track of course, but I experimented,” Steiner said. “I tried wrestling freshman year and it just wasn’t for me and I was hoping to play soccer in my sophomore year, but tore my [anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)] prior to the season.” His doctor discovered the tumor in his leg after he tore his anteiror cruciate ACL.
His choice to amputate was influenced by the Paralympics and the increasing pain in his leg. “I always knew about the Paralympics,” he said. “When I did my research and found that I could compete in track again after amputating, my decision became very easy.”
After surgery, his first priority was becoming comfortable without his leg. “I did a lot of gait training, [which is] basically walking on a treadmill and having my therapist analyze my stride,” he said. “I also worked extensively on gaining flexibility and strength through my hips and [glutes] to compensate for not having function in some muscles in my leg.” Steiner has gained a significant amount of strength and only attends therapy to prevent injuries.
Prosthetist Matthew Garibaldi thought Steiner was a special case, and that his only potential weakness is his hip area. “The major advantage Ranjit has over most of our patients is that he has been given the God-given gift of natural athletic ability,” Garibaldi said. “His main struggle was developing his hip abductor group to provide a level pelvis when in single limb support with the prosthesis.”
Steiner postponed competing in the Paralympics until he could easily run using a prosthetic leg. “Once I realized that the process was going smoothly and that I was well on my way to being able to run, the 2012 Paralympics become a realistic goal,” Steiner said. So far, Steiner has competed in track meets in Oregon where he qualified for the trials, a series of meets where the representatives of each country are chosen for the Paralympics. His ultimate goal is to get 15 seconds in the 100m and 30 seconds in the 200m. He has participated in the long jump category but has yet to compete in meets.
Steiner must compete at an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) sanctioned event to qualify for the trials. “If I run the times I am running now, I will qualify for the trials,” he said. “Then of course, there are the trials on June 29 through July 1.”
Steiner remained positive throughout his recovery by refusing to succumb to his disability. “First and foremost, you have to accept your condition for what it is and realize that it is who you are,” he said. “Even if it is hard to deal with, it is a reality and you just have to embrace it and feel comfortable with yourself.”
Steiner progressed relatively smoothly through his ordeal compared to other amuptees. Many amputees suffer from anxiety and develop severe insecurities. According to Girabaldi, patients dwell on unanswered questions such as “Will I ever be able to live the life” or “Will I have a girlfriend/boyfriend?”during the post-surgical time. “These are the types of thoughts most people have until they start the prosthetic process and realize that this isn’t the end of their life, but rather, the beginning of something entirely new,” he said.