AL HAMNIK: The little girl with no arms has found new meaning

2013-06-22T18:15:00Z 2013-06-22T23:14:23Z AL HAMNIK: The little girl with no arms has found new meaningAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 22, 2013 6:15 pm  • 

When the children at Rosa Egnatz's school ask their teacher how she lost both arms, below the elbows, she offers a calming explanation.

They are too young to know about the horrors of life.

“I just say when I was younger, something happened to me and I had to go to the doctor and they had to amputate my arms, but I really don't go into the details,” Rosa said.

“It's a delicate subject.”

The 2000 Morton grad paused for a moment.

“You don't really want to tell kids at that age, 'Well, I was raped and kidnapped when I was younger,'” she said.

I first wrote about Rosa Egnatz in May of 2000 after seeing this determined athlete with no arms playing varsity soccer and leading off the 3,200-meter relay in girls track because she couldn't receive the baton.

Her story was a heartbreaking one.

Rosa was 10 years old when a crazy man carried her into the thick brush near her village of Perla in Guatemala and severed both arms with a machete. She escaped and walked, in shock, to a house where the people took her to the hospital.

She spent six months in the hospital as doctors fought to stop the infection that had spread through her body. Rosa had no father. He had died a year before the attack, leaving behind a wife, three daughters and a son.

A daughter with no arms, who suddenly didn't matter.

Upon her release from the hospital, Rosa was placed in an orphanage by her mother, who didn't want to raise a “handicapped” child.

The crazy man had stolen her innocence, taken her arms, but he could not destroy her spirit. The little girl no one wanted finally found someone who cared in John and Linda Egnatz of Hessville.

Rosa became their foster child, and they adopted her in 1992.

On Friday, Rosa and I spoke by phone. She seemed very happy and excited about the future.

“I got married. I got my two children. I also started working for the Lawrence Township schools as an ESLL (English Second Language Learner) instructor,” Rosa said. “I help the Hispanic community, the children that come from other countries that are having trouble with the English language. My heart goes out to them.

“I have a family and a job, so life is good.”

Rosa and husband Angel are the loving parents of Jasmine, 6 years old, and 4-year-old Angel Jr.

“I'm not wearing my prosthetics at all for anything,” Rosa is quick to add. “I feel more comfortable without them. I feel I can do more without the prosthetics.

“When I had my kids, I felt safer not using them when they were babies and I was changing diapers. My husband helped me a lot with bathing them.”

In 2004, Rosa returned to Guatemala in search of her siblings. Thoughts of the crazy man followed her everywhere.

“When I went back, they said they had released him from jail a year after (the attack). And then someone found him and 'assassinated' him,” Rosa said.

Justice is different around the world, but memories of that horrific attack in the brush branded her for life.

“It's something I'll always remember,” she said.

I told Rosa she is the most courageous athlete I have interviewed in 45 years of reporting, but she downplayed the compliment.

“I'm not courageous," she said. "I just feel I have to get ahead, I have to work hard and live a normal life for my family."

In other words, be a great mom, a loving mom.

This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

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