Meet Valerie Hirschfield
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Who are you?

I’m a “French-South African” lady, married with children. I was born in Toulon (France) in 1964 and still an infant when my father decides he would like to emigrate and the whole family went off to South Africa. I grew up in a suburb of Johannesburg and studied, worked and had 2 of my 3 children there. The youngest was born in France as we moved back to Toulon in 1993.

What is your story?

In 2004 I suffered 3rd degree burns to my leg, which led to many surgeries and during one of these I caught an infection. Finally, I didn’t really have a choice but to amputate as septicaemia set in and that was a life-threatening condition.


I’ve been an amputee for 15 years now. After the amputation I just wanted to get straight back to my family as my kids were young and needed to have their mom back in their lives. So, I decided that I would finish off the summer holidays with them and when their school year was about to start, I would then go to rehab and learn how to walk using a prosthetic leg.

By then I was so used to walking on crutches and without a prosthetic leg that the situation lasted 10 years. I finally got a prosthetic when in 2015 I came across a stand-up paddling race which takes place in Holland. The event is the “11 city SUP Tour”, a 220km race, going through 11 beautiful historical villages and over a five-day period. This was a real boost for me and since then I windsurf, snowboard, surf, play stand up tennis and of course walk in everyday life. Nowadays with prosthetics instead of crutches.

What does ”Xtend your life” mean to you?

I’m a person who likes to challenge myself and being out of my comfort zone triggers me. Of course, an amputation is a life changing situation in many ways, but I’m lucky enough to have a good prosthetic leg and foot. The motto “Xtend your Life”, doesn’t mean I will have extra years ahead of me, but will enable me to live life to its fullest in a comfortable and easier way.

I like that motto and I could easily make it mine. I try to live my life in a healthy way, even if I tend to push my body to its limits. I just want to carry on with what I do for as long as I possibly can as that is very important both mentally and physically. Some say we should never look back, but I don’t agree.

Looking ahead and moving on is great but one must look back to see just how much they have done and where they have come from.

Follow Valerie at Facebook https://www.facebook.com/valerie.hirschfield and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/val_hirschfield/

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