By Sandra Birungi
When she first went to compete as a fitness competitor, armless bodybuilder Barbie Thomas was ridiculed with the stares of the crowd, the competitors and the judges themselves. Today, at 37 with two children, she is short of being shy of what she has accomplished.
Thomas lost her arms at the age of 2 when electricity burnt her arms to the bone as she was playing outside her Texas apartment complex and climbed onto a transformer and grabbed on to the wires which burnt her arms. “They were like charcoal,” she writes in her biography on her website, Fitness Unarmed. “They were completely dead and had to be amputated at the shoulders.”
“In the first few competitions I felt that when they were calling me to go up, in their hands and their manners, they looked at me like, ‘What the heck is she doing here?’ I put their doubts to rest when they saw my fitness routine. There are certain routines that you use your hands for that I can do — I can kip-up,” she said. “When you are laying on the ground it looks like you are falling backward and then you come up. Most people use their hands to push themselves up,” she said.
Today, she is an inspiration and gives credit to God for helping her through. “God would just take me,” Thomas writes. “She also made a promise to God that day — if he let me live, she would make sure that I became ‘somebody.’ The doctors were boggled by my recovery. They decided I must have survived because of the rubber soles on my tennis shoes. True, they may have played their part, but I believe I survived because God saw the bigger picture and had plans for me.”
Thomas has two children aged 13 and 17 and is living the dream.