CARTHAGE, Mo. — Haven Shepherd's beingness could person ended soon aft it started.
She was calved successful Vietnam, the effect of an matter betwixt her joined begetter and different woman. For reasons that whitethorn ne'er beryllium afloat wide — from imaginable societal shunning to fiscal hardship — her biologic parent and begetter decided to termination themselves and Haven. They strapped termination bombs to themselves and acceptable them off. Both parents were killed instantly.
But Haven survived.
She was recovered astir 40 feet from their burning location with terrible harm to her legs.
Villagers took her to the nearest infirmary successful Da Nang, wherever doctors saved her beingness but couldn't prevention her legs. Other patients donated to her infirmary money truthful she could proceed receiving attraction for astir 40 days.
Meanwhile, crossed the satellite successful Carthage, Missouri, Rob and Shelly Shepherd felt called to adhd different kid to their household of eight.
Shelly's person had started a instauration successful Vietnam and they were opening a handicap shelter. The person heard astir Haven and told the Shepherds astir her.
Initially, they were skeptical.
"I was like, we person truthful overmuch going on. We'd request a kid with feet, they've got to support up," Shelly said. "And past erstwhile I met her, you know, she's conscionable truthful joyful...and I realized, it's conscionable feet, we tin bash this, we tin bring her into the family."
At 20 months old, Haven flew with the Shepherds to the United States.
They took her to Children's Mercy Hospital successful Kansas City to person a surgeon look astatine her wounds.
"[The surgeon] was conscionable like, 'I'm conscionable amazed.' He said, 'Her amputations are beautiful. We couldn't person done immoderate amended present successful our hospital.' And truthful that was a immense blessing," Shelly said.
Haven blended into the Shepherd household quickly. Her six older siblings were each athletes, and Haven wanted to play sports, too.
At first, she tried moving track, but it wasn't a bully fit.
"Turns retired I truly don't similar the vigor and I don't similar to sweat," Haven said. "I conscionable retrieve telling my mom, I was like, 'I'm done. I don't privation to bash this.' I discontinue astatine the premier property of 8 years old."
Haven had been swimming since she was 4 years old, but until she turned nine, she ne'er considered competing. At her archetypal meet, she realized she had endowment and genuinely enjoyed doing it.
Swimming besides had different payment — she could instrumentality disconnected her prosthetic legs for a fewer hours.
"Not a batch of radical recognize that wearing prosthetic legs each time is truly tiring," Haven said. "And erstwhile I get to instrumentality my legs disconnected successful the mediate of the time for similar 2 oregon 3 hours, that was similar bliss to me."
She started with lessons astatine the section YMCA. Then she transitioned to Berzerker Swimming, a competitory USA Swimming club.
At property 13, she acceptable the extremity of making it to the Paralympics.
"She ne'er truly wavered from her decision," Shelly said. "And it's a grueling schedule. I ne'er truly had to say, 'yes, you person to spell to practice.' She ne'er truly questioned it."
Haven continued to emergence wrong the ranks of competitory swimming. When she was 16, she won a metallic medal astatine the 2019 Parapan American Games successful Lima, Peru.
In June of 2021, she competed successful the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials successful Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her show earned her a spot connected Team USA.
"It was conscionable specified a agelong process and [it] didn't truly deed maine until I got home," Haven said. "I knew however excited I was, but it didn't truly deed maine due to the fact that you're conscionable truthful so stressed for that full clip and past it happened. So you person the relief, and past you're exhausted."
After years of grooming — including an other twelvemonth due to the fact that of the pandemic — Haven said she's acceptable to implicit the extremity she acceptable erstwhile she was 13.
"I don't truly person immoderate expectations connected myself," she said. "I conscionable privation to spell successful being maine and having fun."
For her mom, it's a reflection of each of the hard enactment it took to get to this point.
"When I deliberation astir wherever she came from, the small amputee, conscionable orphaned miss that we picked up, to however overmuch beingness she has lived successful 18 years — that's specified a miracle," Shelly said.
Haven continues to stock her affirmative tone and not dwell connected the past.
"I don't look astatine the things that I've lost," Haven said. "I mean, I've mislaid truthful overmuch successful my life. I've mislaid my legs, but I've ne'er fto that clasp maine back."
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games statesman Aug. 24. Haven volition aquatics successful the 200-meter idiosyncratic medley connected Aug. 28 and the 100-meter breaststroke connected Sept. 1. NBC volition person primetime sum arsenic good arsenic streaming options for the events. For much details, sojourn the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics website.