Young girl lives with no arms, no fear
Ten-year-old Ira Kaplan does things in a way many simply cannot believe.
Those who run into her can’t take their eyes off of her, not out of rudeness or pity but because they’d never come across a girl quite like Ira.
Ira has no arms. She also has no fear.
Adopted from Siberia by parents who don’t believe in the path of least resistance, Ira has grown up to be strong and stubborn, and funny and normal.
“I saw a picture of Ira on a waiting child Web site on the Internet and it just made sense to me that she was my daughter,” said her mother Nancy Kaplan.
Nowadays Ira is a competitive swimmer. Her event is the grueling 500-yard freestyle. She swims 20 laps powered by incredible legs and unfaltering will.
“I got a trophy from the last meet I had,” she said.
With Ira, even the mundane has become the miraculous. Without hands, she has learned to pick up a brush and comb her hair. She has no problems picking up the toothbrush, squeezing some onto her toothbrush and brushing her teeth.
She’s learned how to do all of it through trial and error. No one can truly show Ira how to get through life in her shoes, so she has had to figure things out for herself.
“Well I kind of like, don’t really explain it. I just say like ‘watch me,”‘ she said.
“You’d never think of telling her she couldn’t do something, ” said Nancy. “So she’s the kind of kid you just get out of her way and let her take on the world, and guide her.”
Ira began swimming when she was 5. She refused to stay out of the water and kept jumping back in each time her parents fished her out. They finally decided she needed swim lessons.
“It’s just like ‘wow,’” said teammate Lauren Anglin. “She doesn’t let anything stop her. She’s a great athlete and I’m just happy to be with her.”
Ira wants to be a forensic scientist someday. She reads a lot and her writing is better than most. But you haven’t seen anything, really, until you’ve witnessed the little girl eating with chop sticks.
“Why’s it so amazing?” said Ira with a straight face.
When asked what she says when people ask about her arms, Ira said, “I say sharks bit them off. I actually did that this morning to a little boy. I feel bad.”
But Ira says she gives that answer for a reason.
“Yeah, because then they stop asking questions,” she said.
Ira has questions, too, like “why?” But she’s found answers in the water. And these days big dreams come easily for Ira these days.
“I want to make it to the Paralympics,” she said.
And why not. Her father Bob Kaplan said the family has quit being amazed by Ira and now simply assumes that she can do anything, even make it to the 2012 Paralymic Games.