Lessons on 'different
traits'Eastburn finds limitations
are only in people's mind.
MAKING HIS WAY: ONE MAN'S JOURNEY TO THRIVE AND
By BILL MOOR
Last of seven parts
Kevin Klingerman's mouth flew open and his eyes dropped to his
feet after he first caught sight of his new neighbor in Tyner four
"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, what happened to him?' " Kevin says of
And that's when Brett drove his golf cart over to the property
"The one thing that kept running through my mind was, 'Don't
stare, don't stare,' " Kevin says. "And Brett picked up on that
Of course he did.
"I've seen that kind of reaction in people all my life," Brett
says. "So I'm the one who usually has to break the ice."
So that's what he did on that day, too -- telling jokes on
himself ... using his goofy voices that he has performed since grade
school ... being a regular guy.
"After about five minutes, I didn't even notice that he didn't
have arms or legs," Kevin adds. "Now, Brett is one of my best
"And my two girls -- 11 and 8 -- just love Brett. Because of
Brett, I'm sure that they will grow up being a lot more comfortable
with people who are a little different than they are."
What could make Brett happier than that?
He loves educating others about people with ... with ... with ...
(Brett doesn't like the words "handicaps" or "disabilities") with
That's one of Brett's goals in life as he gives motivational
speeches through his and his wife Chrisa's No Boundaries
He also continues to demonstrate that limitations are often in
"I have found that 90 percent of the time the solution to your
problem can be found in the same room as you," he says.
Sometimes, you just have to look pretty hard.
Brett, now 33, likes to be self-effacing, but he also wants
people to know that "I am proud of who I am and what I have
accomplished. But I also want to continue to accomplish a lot more
Brett admits that he has been evaluated by a psychologist on his
mental standing a couple of times.
"The last time when I was in my mid-20s, I told him that I
eventually wanted to do things like start my own business, drive a
motor home and get married," he says.
Brett smiled. The psychologist frowned.
"He told me I was setting too many unattainable goals."
Brett has accomplished all of those goals and so many more that
might have seemed impossible.
"But I don't master things by the 'one ... two ... three strikes
and you're out' philosophy," he says. "I usually have to try things
a lot more than three times before I get it right."
Even though he makes it look easy now, he says it took him
hundreds of attempts before he learned how to open a pop can by
using his mouth and stubs.
And can you imagine the work that went into learning how to shoot
pool, to throw a football and to rely on silverware?
Brett just never gives up.
"I also like to surround myself with positive people," he says.
"I feed off them and they feed off me."
Brett loves having Kevin Klingerman and his family on one side of
Brett's home in Tyner and longtime friend Dave Brooke on the
"We actually met in second grade," Dave says. "I went over to his
house and we spent the whole time laughing while Brett would smash
Reese's Pieces candy with his one leg (or stub)."
They still laugh together. "Yeah, I've seen Brett a little down
at times but not much. He can talk it out with me -- like I can with
him. He usually is hilarious and a really good friend, too."
So what are Brett's goals now?
"Sometimes challenges just pop up in my brain," he says. "But I
do know I want to continue to make our No Boundaries business a
He and Chrisa are already on the road in their motor home about
200 days of the year going to speaking engagements, "but that's what
makes ends meet."
Like most young people, he would eventually like a bigger house
for himself and Chrisa and Murray, his service dog.
"And while we're at it, how about a pool table and also a hot tub
in the backyard, too," he adds.
He thinks some more.
"You know, I've always wanted to fly so learning to fly a plane
would be nice."
He worries a little about his physical conditioning because he
can't run or even walk in any traditional sense. "I probably could
lose 10 or 15 pounds," he says. "I do a lot of what I call running
in place -- swinging my stubs, especially when we are in the car and
Chrisa is driving. Now, that will get some looks from other
"But the last thing I need since I rely so much on my torso is a
Brett also had an emergency appendectomy over the winter and is
still paying off the $13,000 bill. He has no health insurance,
mostly because of the prohibitive cost it would take to cover a
self-employed guy with no legs and no arms.
And he was denied Medicaid because he has been told he could
borrow off his life insurance money.
"Isn't that something?" he says. "I'm penalized for being
prepared for death."
Financial problems or not, he isn't poor in prestige.
In 2003, he was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans
by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Other winners over the years
include John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Anne Bancroft, Gayle Sayers
and Elvis Presley.
Do you want to bet that Brett could probably imitate the voices
of all of them?
He gives his typical Brett Eastburn smile.
"I guess I've worked on different voices since I was in grade
school," he says. "I think I drove my fifth-grade teacher, Tim
Davis, who is a great guy, a little nuts. There was a time when I
always thought I had to be funny."
Brett has toned that down a little -- very little.
"I would really like to take part in some stand-up comedy -- no
Life is a laugh for Brett a lot of the time anyway. It also can
be hard work.
"God made me this way for a purpose," he says. "I just hope I can
live up to his plan."