KOKOMO, Ind. – When Paige Jones began her journey to earn a college degree, she wanted to help others like herself who have prosthetic limbs.
An internship in occupational therapy showed her how she could make a difference on a wider scale.
“I knew I could be a leader and an inspiration to so many others, even those without prostheses,” the Kokomo resident said. “I could show them that, while I might not be on the same page with them physically, I’ve been on the same journey in other aspects. I feel I could be a leader to people of all kinds of abilities, not just those like me.”
A December 2019 Indiana University Kokomo graduate, she’s earned admission to IUPUI’s competitive occupational therapy program. Her goal is to work with children, using daily occupations and skills to build their independence.
She sets an example of not letting physical challenges get her down, as someone who doesn’t remember a time before having prostheses.
She’s used artificial limbs since around her first birthday, after having both lower legs amputated at 11 months old. She was born with fibular hemimelia, a condition in which part or all of the fibular bone, the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg, is missing. It causes the tibia, or larger bone, to bow inward.
“I’ve had them all my life,” she said. “I don’t know any different, and I’ve thrived with them. I learned to walk, swim, run, do everything with or without them. I’ve always had a level playing field with everyone else, which I really appreciate and I am thankful for.”
As an occupational therapist, she will work with people with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities, through therapeutic use of everyday activities, with the goal of helping them develop, recover, improve, or maintain skills needed for daily living and working.
She learned more about the field from her own prosthetist, who had been an occupational therapist. An internship with Bona Vista’s Early Head Start program solidified that idea for her.
“For the way I want to help people, occupational therapy is the route for me,” she said. “I’ll be working hands-on with people to bring them to a new level of independence, which is what I wanted from the start.”
Jones called the internship “an amazing experience,” following an occupational therapist to classrooms, clinical sites, and home visits, and participating in care.
“I had a good overall look at the field,” she said. “The best part was that I mainly worked with children. As I built bonds with them, they grew to understand that I was there to help them, and they would be excited to work with me.”
She built an impressive résumé at IU Kokomo, participating in the Cougar Choir and being selected for the Sport and Exercise Excellence Lab (SEEL), researching online versus in-person exercise, and barriers children with disabilities face participating in school physical education, among other topics.
She’s worked part time as a home health aide, and is proud to have qualified for the dean’s list every semester.
Jones’s philosophy is to always go above and beyond what is required of her — in the classroom, and on the job. She believes that attitude was part of why she was selected for the OT program at IUPUI.
She credits her parents, in particular her mother, for always believing in her.
“I would definitely not be here if it wasn’t for their support, and always viewing me as someone who could do it,” she said. “I was never ‘Paige Jones, the girl who has prosthetics.’ I was ‘Paige Jones, the person who did it all, who also happened to have prosthetics.’”
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.