extraordinary people: half body, whole life
Monday Feb 26 21.00–22.00
This absorbing documentary retells the remarkable story of Rosemarie Siggins –an American woman who suffers from a rare genetic disorder which has led to the loss of her legs and the shortening of her spine. Having first visited her in 2005, Five’s Extraordinary People strand now catches up with Rose as she copes with the birth of her second child and deals with some pressing family business.
Rose, from Pueblo, Colorado, is a car nut – she’s been into cars, trucks and all things automotive since the age of three. She also has only half a body – but she refused to let her disability stop her from rebuilding and racing a 1968 Mustang. Born with a a rare genetic condition that meant her legs were deformed and without sensation, Rose had her legs amputated as a young child. However, she refuses to let this get in the way of living her life, even giving birth to a heathy son eight years ago.
Rose is determined to live as a full and normal a life as possible. She uses her arms and hands to get around, travelling on a skateboard at times and driving a specially adapted car which she manoeuvres using hand controls. She is grateful to her parents for making the difficult decision to have her legs amputated, rather than putting her in a wheelchair. Rose also chose not to wear the prosthetic legs her school wanted her to use, a decision which was supported by her parents. Fiercely independent, she can’t imagine life in a wheelchair, and enjoys the freedom of being able to get around by herself.
In 1999 Rose married Dave, who she had met two years earlier. When Rose learned that she was pregnant, she received little support from the medical community since nobody with her genetic condition had ever given birth before. Dr Wolfson was the only doctor not to recommend an abortion, but he did warn Rose that her extraordinary and ground-breaking pregnancy was putting her life on the line. A caesarian was performed at the top of her uterus, a more dangerous method of delivery, and a healthy boy named Luke was born.
The joy of Luke’s birth was followed by tragedy when Rose’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rose’s mother had held the family together, and Rose felt that her support system had disappeared. She and Dave moved back to the family home to take care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia; and her adult brother Jimmy, who has a mental age of eight and is prone to violent outbursts.
Rose, however, is a woman who won’t take no for an answer. Having already had a baby against medical advice, she went on to become pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. But soon after, she fell into a depression when she was confined to bed. Now Rose encounters fresh concerns over her mobility, with the aches and pains caused by the immense strain on her arms leading her doctor to take a series of X-rays. With these images, we can now see Rose’s incredible physiology from the inside for the first time.
Since her mother’s death, Rose has been getting used to being the centre of the family, and she now needs to take care of some pressing emotional business. The cameras follow Rose as she takes her ailing father on a once-in-a-lifetime road trip to meet his long-lost brother and a branch of the family Rose has never met. And at home, she takes the first steps to rebuilding her relationship with her own brother, Jimmy.