Double amputee Spencer West discusses Mount Kilimanjaro climb, identity
(CBS News) Spencer West completed an amazing feat: He climbed the world's largest stand-alone mountain in the world, the Mount Kilimanjaro Volcano in Tanzania. Even more amazing? He has no legs.
But West says he wants to be defined by more than the fact that he is a double amputee.
"I don't have any legs. That's the obvious thing..." he said Thursday on "CBS This Morning." "The second piece is that doesn't just define who I am. What defines who I am is my name, what I do for my job, what am I interested in. All of those things define who I am. Not just I don't have any legs. So we can talk about that. But then I would rather be known for the work that I do and who I am as a person other than just Spencer West without legs."
West said he credits his parents for the person he has become. "They raised me...to not ever see myself as different, but to also focus on what I could do instead of focusing on what I can't do because I was told I would never be a functioning member of society. We refused to believe that. We sort of set out to redefine what's possible for me."
West said he realized he was different when he went out in public. He said, "My friends and family treated me like everybody else. I never thought I was different until I went out in public. Then when I went in public, people want to know, 'Where are your legs,' 'What happened?' I was like, 'I'm missing something here, I guess I am different.'"
But being different didn't stop West from taking on challenges such as the climb. He said the catalyst for the effort was to help the people in Africa who inspired him to tell his story.
He said, "This incredible community (in Kenya) that helped me find my passion - in the power of my story - I went back...and I started to see the effects of one of the largest droughts Africa has seen in over 60 years. Suddenly, this community that helped me find my passion now needed my help. That was ...(the) catalyst behind the climb and why we wanted to do it."
West's effort on the mountain helped raise $750,000 for the non-profit Free the Children to help drought-ridden areas in Africa find sustainable, clean water sources.
For more with West, watch the video in the player above.
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