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Meet Adam Troutman, an Inspirational Athlete with Disabilities

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Athlete, Adam Troutman, sitting in a wheelchair flexing his right arm.
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From impending world wars to intense political unrest to the novel and deadly coronavirus, 2020 has been a trying and uncertain year for us all. However, for 29-year-old Adam Troutman of Charleston, South Carolina, times have never been more challenging.

On December 27, 2019, the physical trainer was involved in a motor vehicle accident, putting him in critical condition. The severe injuries that Troutman sustained necessitated the amputation of his left leg below the knee the night of the accident, as well as his right leg a few days later. Additionally, he was left with a broken femur and a ruptured bladder.

Enduring Surgery

Since then, Troutman has undergone a series of major surgeries that have addressed his significant health problems. While he did not have a choice regarding the amputation of his left leg, he was given the opportunity to save his right leg.

However, wanting to initiate his recovery as early as possible, Troutman expressed that the decision to go through with the second amputation was relatively easy.

“I didn’t want to have to have surgeries two, three, four, or thirty years down the road, which they told me was a pretty high probability,” Troutman explained, “It didn’t take very much convincing at all.”

After being in the ICU for two weeks, Troutman was admitted to the general hospital where he would undergo the rest of his surgical procedures.

“From the 27 of December to [the] 22 of January, I had anywhere from 16 to 17 surgeries, mainly on my left femur. I basically just had to get a bunch of stuff cleaned up. It was a mess, to be honest. I had never even broken a bone, or been in the hospital, really, before this.”

Troutman’s journey in the hospital lasted about three months, and it was filled with surgeries and included stays in four different types of facilities. “I was in the hospital, laying on my back, sleeping in the same position, not moving really, [except] a little physical therapy here and there.”

Recovery

This stage of his recovery, he said, was the hardest he has encountered thus far. “Eating [hospital] food, taking a lot of medication I’d never taken before, It was not fun, to say the least.”

Troutman considers his transition from hospital to home to be his biggest milestone up to this point. “I think I’ve done the most healing here at the house, and that’s not just physically but also mentally and emotionally.”

Troutman expressed intense relief at being able to regain some independence through choosing his own meals and occasionally working out, saying, “I haven’t even gotten up on my feet, so my story isn’t even written yet.”

Troutman regards the challenging road ahead of him with excitement, as he is truly grateful to have survived the worst of it.

Of course, the world of 2020 has turned out to be new for everyone. All of us are re-learning how to interact with the outside world after months of isolation. Troutman said that this shared experience helped his recovery and mindset while he was stuck in the hospital.

“It’s been kind of a crazy time for everybody. [This] is probably a little selfish for me to say, but I’ve been in quarantine for 3 months in the hospital, and for other people, they couldn’t do anything either. It made me feel like people were in the sort of the same boat as me and helped with my mood.” 

Charleston, a town on the southern coast, is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and potent historical heritage. Many of its inhabitants would have spent this past spring outside, whether by going to the beach, boating, or simply enjoying the sun if it weren’t for the social distancing restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Troutman confessed that he felt as though he and everyone else in the world were “in this together, even though I don’t really feel like everyone else. It’s been a hell of a 2020 year, for me especially, but for everybody.”

Regardless of the substantial challenge put before him, Troutman has an incredibly optimistic outlook on life. “Family has been there from day one and they’ve helped me out tremendously,” he stated.

Through little things such as giving him a break from hospital food and keeping him in a positive mood, Troutman’s family and friends have been essential to the recovery efforts that he has been through thus far. “It’s hard to be down in the dumps when everybody’s got you. In a situation like this, you can’t be down for too long. It will just suck you in and eat you up.” 

Troutman’s incredible support network makes this massive obstacle before him seem achievable. After apologizing for the clichés to come, Troutman gave some advice for those struggling with their own problems.

Athlete, Adam Troutman, wraps his arm around his dad while sitting outside, and both wearing blue.
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Staying Positive

“Don’t give up,” he said. “Stay positive, and it will always get better.” He stressed that we as humans cannot let ourselves be defined by our problems, the same way he does not let his accident define him. “Use your problems to grow: struggle and then succeed.”

Troutman has high hopes for his future, but understands that his life will be reasonably different from the way it used to be. “I won’t be able to do everything that I did before. I’ll have to plan more than everyone else. When someone says they want to go to the beach or on a boat, it won’t be as easy for me.”

Troutman recognized that there may come days when his legs will not be up for an outing. Furthermore, even if he does have the ability to go out, there are many things he will have to account for.

For example, trips to the beach will have to be planned from here on out so that he can protect his legs from the salt, sand, and erosion. Troutman admitted that although many things in his life moving forward will be different, he has no intention to abandon his spontaneity altogether.

For his future, Troutman hopes to get his legs and conquer physical therapy. While he knows the rest of his recovery is going to take time and dedication, he looks forward to being able to go back to work, travel, and do whatever it takes to live his life to the fullest.

“I definitely can’t wait to get back on the golf course,” Troutman said. While Troutman has endured so much hardship in the past six months, he looks forward to the challenges to come. “This is just the intro,” he said, smiling.

“I’m not one to just sit here and dwell on what happened. Plans change and you’ve got to adapt and grow. I’m thankful to be here and I actually like the challenge. Obviously, I don’t want this for my life, but I’m looking forward to the physical therapy and getting back to, kind of, where I was; feeling confident and feeling good about myself.”

In a world that is being bombarded with change, death, and disease, perseverance and resilience can seem impossible at times. However, Troutman’s story, even if it has just begun, is a testament to what we, as humans, can achieve against all odds.

His advice that we cannot let ourselves be defined by our problems is incredibly meaningful in the world we find ourselves in today. We have become increasingly isolated from our senses of security being taken out from underneath us. However, even in times as difficult as these, Troutman has proven that we must be able to use hardship to grow and prevail.

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Spotlight

Meet Thais Drassinower: A Latinx Woman Film Creator in Hollywood Pushing for Diversity

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A black and white photo of Thais Drassinower wearing black hat and tank top.

This past year, the prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) selected Thais Drassinower into the Newcomers program. Thais is based in L.A. as a female filmmaker. The year 2020 had the biggest turnout of women in the program and Thais was one of those representing female filmmakers!

This program offers career support and helps to new filmmakers in the industry. Apart from being welcomed into the program, Thais has a lot of history with filmmaking and in the film industry. We interviewed her to learn more about her history with film and any new projects she might be working on. 

1. Your hometown is Lima, Peru, what was it like coming to America and starting up in the film industry? What inspired you to pursue filmmaking as a career, and please tell me a bit about that journey. 

I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. I started writing stories as soon as I learned how to put two words together.

My grandma still keeps those early ones in her bedroom chest. I’ve also always loved film and would spend my free time as a teenager watching foreign film cycles at the local cultural center.

But as a young woman from a traditional family growing up in Lima – Peru, I never thought being a filmmaker was an option for me.

My diverse interests in story, psychology, and anthropology led me to advertising as a first step and it was then, working as a copywriter in Chicago, that I realized the power that audiovisual communication has on society and understood that there are archetypes in the collective consciousness that stories can portray in infinite ways.

That’s when I decided to become a filmmaker and assume the responsibility of sharing narratives that can shift our world into a more comprehensive, empathetic, and healthy place.

I started taking night classes at a local school after work and then decided to make the jump and apply for an MFA in Film which got me to NYC where I got my degree at Columbia University. That’s how it all started. 

2. Before transitioning to the film industry, you were a copywriter. Can you tell me what it was like making that transition to filmmaking? Did you encounter any major differences or have any difficulty with the transition to films? 

I was a copywriter for an advertising agency in Chicago which meant that, together with my partner, I came up with an idea for a commercial, wrote the script for it and then supervised the whole production and post-production process to make sure the idea was coming to life in the way we envisioned it.

The whole supervision part of the process was similar to being a film producer on a project. Being on set and watching the director work with the actors made me fall in love with the directing process. I think it has been a very organic transition and my years as a copywriter helped me build very important skills that I now use as a writer/director.

Film director and crew
Source

3. The entertainment industry can be cutthroat at times. Have you endured any hardships along the way? What did you do to overcome them? 

I’m still at the beginning of my career and it is definitely a challenging field. As a Latinx woman trying to break in, you have to work extremely hard and convince people that you deserve a seat at the table.

It’s an exciting time for minorities in Hollywood, the conversation is open and more studios are looking to champion diverse and underrepresented voices, but there is still a long way to go to achieve proper representation and I’m proud to be a part of this new generation pushing for change. 

4. You’ve directed three projects, “The Catch,” “Baby,” and “Memories of the Sea.” All of which are special in their own ways. Please tell me a bit about how you drew inspiration for these projects and how they are connected to you? 

Memories of The Sea was my first film which explores the sense of loss for a child. My dear friend and fellow filmmaker Sudarshan Suresh had written a beautiful script which we then worked on together to adapt for me to direct it.

I decided to set it in Brazil because that’s where I spent my first years of childhood and where I experienced a sense of loss myself.

I wanted to revisit the space and dive deep into the experience of seeing the world through a child’s eyes. This is a film about finding your own answers when adults don’t explain things to you. I think we often forget how intuitive and perceptive children are and this film attempts to remind us. 

Baby, my second film, explores what it means to grow up by messing up. It’s a film about a young woman who goes home for a weekend and has ​an unnerving encounter with her estranged father at a nightclub which reminds her that there are unhealed wounds.

Through a series of disturbing events that night, she will be forced to understand that the only person who can take care of her now is herself. I drew inspiration for this film from the memories of being that age and feeling lost at many points. Feeling like a grown up, but also like a child.

Feeling like I had all the answers, but then suddenly like I knew nothing. It’s a fascinating period in a person’s life and with this story and through this character I explore subjects such as sexuality and consent. 

Finally, The Catch, my latest film, tells the story of two trapeze artists whose trust is threatened right before the biggest performance of their careers. The script was written by another Peruvian making waves in the US, my dear friend Camila Zavala who also produced the film.

What attracted me to direct this movie was the opportunity to explore the concept of trust between a couple with such high stakes and the idea of dancing between public and private spaces in the magical world of a circus.

The film invites us to reflect on the power of a bond and what it takes to break it. 

5. Many young people are looking into the arts as careers, but of course, they may face obstacles along the way. What would you say to someone who would want to pursue a career such as filmmaking? What advice would you offer? 

I say GO FOR IT. This is a challenging career, but all good things in life require you to work hard for them. The enjoyment comes from the hours you put in day to day. I find that the most important things are consistency and your community.

Do the work, go out and shoot, sit down and write, even if you don’t end up showing that “thing” to anyone, practice makes a master. And surround yourself with a group of peers who will champion you and who you will champion. Help each other out.

Film is a collective art and you can’t do it alone, having a group of colleagues that you trust is crucial for your career. Find them. Either at school, at writing groups, at online forums. Find them and nurture those relationships. They are the most wonderful gift that a film career can give you. 

I started writing a blog for young female filmmakers who are working or hope to work on their first feature film. There you can find advice on how to embark in the journey both from my personal experience, and also from interviews that I make to first time female directors.

Check it out and hope you find it helpful, I’m always available through there for any questions you might have.  

Best of luck to you all! 

6. What are your plans for the future in filmmaking? Do you have genres or films you are particularly interested in? 

I’m currently working on my first feature film which I hope we can start pre-production for once we achieve a new normal after COVID-19. I am interested in telling stories through a female perspective in the genres of psychological thriller, psychological horror, and drama.

As I mentioned before, it is also very important for me to portray diversity on the screen through my narratives and I look forward to keep sharing stories that build empathy and hopefully invite the audience to reflect and discuss.

From growing up in Peru and moving to L.A, to transitioning from copywriting to filmmaking. Thais has achieved many great things that other young filmmakers aspire to achieve.

We hope that by reading this article, many young filmmakers or others wanting to join the industry can get some inspiration from Thais and perhaps one day join the Newcomers program like her.

Thank you Thais for your time and we wish you luck with your first feature film and your BAFTA Newcomers program!

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Spotlight

Alicia White Leading Project Petals to Repair Communities

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Alicia White, CEO of Project Petals

Nonprofit organizations are driven by a social cause. They help families in need, repair communities, teach children new things, and give hope to those who need it most.

Alicia White, the founder and president of Project Petals, had all of this in mind when starting her nonprofit. She is an advocate for all those living in low-income and under-resourced communities. Not only is she an entrepreneur, but she has also worked with the United Nations and done grant work with domestic justice civil rights issues within her community.

BLENDtw had the opportunity to interview White regarding her history with Project Petals and moving forward with her program. 

1.) You started Project Petals with the vision to help low-income and under-resourced communities. Can you tell us a bit about what the process of starting up a new business was like? What were your struggles along the way? 

The process of starting my organization has been rewarding, and I learned so much through the process. My organization started out as a volunteer-led project in Queens, New York. It was important for me to form an organization to improve the environment, support communities and future leaders.

It was challenging starting my first environmental project, and I wanted to make it less difficult for anyone coming after me. Also, to help youth learn the leadership skills needed to make an impact in their communities.

Starting a new organization for me had its challenge, but I learned so much along the way. I had to essentially learn what it was to set up an organization in what felt like overnight. Through extensive research, I had to file paperwork,  create a website, the logo, the structure of the organization, and just typical start-up activities fell on my shoulders.

Like most black women founders, my biggest struggle was finding and securing funding. For example, in 2019, Black-led organizations received less than 4% of grants and funding. That percentage dwindles when you are a woman.

2.) COVID-19 has been challenging for many small businesses and has caused people within many communities to struggle to make ends meet. How have you seen this affect them and what has Project Petals been doing in response to this? 

COVID-19 has hit the communications that my organization works, extremely hard. My organization had to change from working on the ground with large amounts of volunteers to working remotely, with fewer volunteers on the ground.

Through all of this, we were still able to support our community leaders and neighborhoods with the tools and resources that they need to improve their environments. Like every other organization, we have to abide by COVID-19 safety restrictions and guidelines to keep everyone safe while still actively providing the services that are needed to make an impact.  

3.) Going forward with Project Petals, what do you envision with your company? Where do you see it going in terms of growth? 

I see Project Petals eventually moving to a national scale. The need for environmental support and community development is needed now more than ever. With the climate crises on the brink of causing further catastrophe, it is vital that Project Petals is able to serve as many communities and leaders as we can. 

4.) You have a program called, “Youth Builders Program.” Can you elaborate more on what it is and what sort of programs it offers? And how this program can be of help to those participating in it?

Our Project Petals Youth Builders Program helps young people gain the leadership skills they need to improve their communities and futures. Our program connects youth in grades 4-12 to engineering, architecture, urban planning, environmental science, tech, and design professionals who can offer mentorship, experience, internships, and inspiration through monthly workshops.

We work to catalyze the next generation of environmentalists, community leaders, and professionals in these fields. Our program inspires them to develop a passion for these fields, thus working to create a more sustainable, diverse, and equitable world. One hundred percent of all of the youth show great leadership potential. We believe by fostering this leadership and giving them access to a network of professionals; we will start to build more resilient communities. 

5.) Before Project Petals, what sort of jobs were you doing? What led you to want to become an entrepreneur and what advice do you have for anyone also planning to pursue entrepreneurship? 

Growing up, I always had ideas that I wanted to bring to reality, but as a young person, I didn’t know how to, and I didn’t think it was possible for me to do so. As an adult, social entrepreneurship gave me the opportunity to take my ideas and actually use them to make a positive impact in other people’s lives and the environment.

If I had to give any advice, it would be to have confidence in your ideas and in your skillset as you may face many obstacles, nay-sayers, and challenges along the way. Failure is par for the course and is a good lesson plan to succeed. 

We hope that by understanding Project Petals, White, and how entrepreneurs can shape the future of the community around them, we can then better understand how to make our community and the world around us a better place. Thank you to Project Petals and White for this opportunity and we hope this program thrives in the coming years! 

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Spotlight

Using Instagram Art to Promote Anti-Racism: Meet French Graphic Artist Aurélia Durand

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Portrait of author Aurélia Durand wearing a yellow shirt and laying next to some of her pieces of art.
Source: Aurélia Durand

Instagram artist, Aurélia Durand, has been using the platform to promote her anti-racism art. She has a website on which she sells posters, stickers, and cards that she has designed herself. Her art is focused on celebrating diversity and equal representation. Durand’s dream is to help form a united community and an inclusive future for everyone. BLENDtw had the opportunity to ask Durand a series of questions about her current work on Instagram, the book she illustrated, and her goals for the future. 

1. Who or what inspired you to start creating art? What keeps you motivated?

When I begin working on a new artistic creation, I listen to music to put myself in a zone where I feel good and am inspired to create a meaningful message. I find that music settles the mood and atmosphere around me. I create to stay positive, and staying positive is essential for my well being. I need to be creative; I am addicted to creativity; imagination, drawing, and seeing the idea evolve is exciting. The most fulfilling feeling is to see people interacting with my work.

2. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? What advice would you give to young black women with dreams similar to your own?

Create for yourself; don’t try to make the same as everyone else. Find your voice; follow your instinct.

3. What impact do you hope your art will have on our world today?

I hope my art empowers people and makes them smile. 

A piece of Aurélia Durand's art work featuring four people behind a pink background with the title
Source: Aurélia Durand

4. In what way does art communicate with and reach people better than other means do? 

It’s upon us; it happens because of many factors. I think that visuals are more impactful than words. It is universal, we see it, and we quickly react to it. 

6. You just recently illustrated a New York Times bestseller, “This Book is Anti-Racist.” What inspired this project? What do you hope readers take away from it?

I hope readers want to take action for antiracism in there every day life after they read the book.

My publisher, Quarto, contacted me at the end of 2018 to participate in the book’s conception as the leading illustrator. I have never met the author; unfortunately, due to the current global pandemic and social distancing regulations. 

The book, “This Book is Anti-Racist” was released in January 2020 and became a best seller in June after the Black Lives Matter movement spread globally. We sold more than 150,000 copies! The book has been popular in schools, but people of all ages are reading the book. It includes about 20 exercises for readers to do while thinking about how they can take action to build a more inclusive society. 

7. Do you have any plans or projects you are working on? How can people help support your cause?

I am working on many new projects, but I can’t talk about them as they are meant to be a surprise. In October, I will be participating in several talks with Adobe, Ladies and Wine, and the AOI association. The projects are very exciting and I have confidence that they will have great success when they are completed. 

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