BRECKSVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – A Parma Heights women continues to exceed expectations decades after her family was told she may not survive the night.
“I wasn’t supposed to live past the first 24 hours and here I am almost 29 years crushing everybody’s expectations,” said Chrissy Aitken.
Aitken, 33, is preparing for a shot to become a world champion para carriage driver in the equestrian sport. The equivalent to the Paralympics she said will be held in the Netherlands later this summer. According to Aitken, she is the only para driver in Ohio.
Those who know and love Aitken said she is already a proven winner, working daily to overcome a series of disabilities.
“In 1994 our house caught on fire in the middle of the night,” said Aitken. “In that house, we were all sleeping, and my dad and uncle managed to break my window out and toss me to a neighbor but unfortunately, my two sisters and my grandma never made it out of the house.”
Aitken has third and fourth-degree burns and is a quadruple amputee. Her hands and feet were amputated shortly after the fire due to infection.
For years Aitken struggled with her physical and mental recovery. She found comfort at Maple Crest Farm in Brecksville when she won a contest at a burn camp for a visit that ultimately changed her life.
“I can’t wait to be her cheerleader, her coach, her confidant, someone she can rely on when she needs me,” said Stacey Giere, Manager and Trainer at Maple Crest Farm. “We have a professional friendship which has turned into an amazing thing and it’s irreplaceable.”
Aitken said the sport is challenging but fun, and provides a judgment-free escape alongside her partner, her horse Prince.
“They just truly love you, the way you treat them and in the real world outside of here I struggle with my appearance and being judged by everybody else so horses and this farm and competitions is more of a sanctuary, my escape from reality,” said Aitken.
Aitken called Prince her once-in-a-lifetime horse, her unicorn.
“He is my prince charming,” she said. “That’s the name he came with, his birth name, his registered name, but it’s just fitting because every little girl dreams of one day finding prince charming and mine just happens to be a horse.”
As the chance for an invitation to compete with the best around the world nears after nearly a lifetime of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and expectations shattered, Aitken said she is ready to show the world all she can do.
“I am no longer restricted by my disabilities because when I’m in the driver seat with my horse I am just like everybody else,” she said. “I can compete with typical people and still beat them so I’m not restricted or held back it’s more of a sense of freedom.”
Aitken said her competition and travel come with a large price tag and she is requesting additional support to make this dream come true.
She is hosting a series of upcoming fundraisers including one May 27 at Rookies Sports Bar and Grill in Parma from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Donations can also be made at Maple Crest Farm.