(Posted March 8, 2018)
By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
Chris Ruden was bullied before the term “bullying” became part of everyday language. Only he didn’t call it that.
“Kids used to pick on me and made fun of my hand,” said the 27-year-old weightlifter during a presentation at the March 3 Health Fair at the West Jefferson Community Center. “But I didn’t tell Mom.”
At least not right away.
Ruden was born with only two fingers on his left hand.
One day he came home from school and said to his mother, “I want you to fix it. You’re a nurse. You can do things.”
His mother cried and hugged him.
“That shook me,” he said.
But it was that image, he said, that made him realize he could do anything. It was his change in attitude.
He demonstrated his abilities before the Health Fair audience by pulling on a pair of briefs over his workout pants, using his left hand.
Ruden wasn’t always so open about his disability.
“I hid my hand for 17 years, always wearing long-sleeved shirts,” he said.
That wasn’t always so easy in hot Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he lived.
Ruden’s father also played a big role in helping him take a big step. When Ruden was in high school, his father fashioned a glove for his left arm so he could hold a drumstick.
“I played on the drum line in marching band and in all those competitions,” he said.
These days, Ruden not only lifts weights with the aid of a bionic-type hand, but he also has become a motivational speaker, imparting the message that people should not let a disability get them down.
“I wanted to be the strongest lifter with a disability” he said. “I worked my butt off to get where I am today.”
Not even Type I diabetes could stop him. He is insulin-dependent and has a pump implanted to supply his body with life-preserving insulin.
On his way to lifting, Ruden said all he could think of was the image of his mother hugging him, crying, and saying “I’m sorry.”
“Even with a disability, you can live and work like everyone else,” he said. “I chose fitness.”
To help with his lifting activities, Ruden obtained a bionic-type hand through Hangar Orthopedics. He laughs and admits he’s far from the $6 Million Dollar Man. His hand only cost $158,000.
The artificial hand slides onto his left arm and has buttons that when pushed activate movement in the fingers and thumb.
In 2017, Ruden was invited to The Arnold Classic, an annual sports and fitness festival held in Columbus, to showcase the abilities of those with disabilities. This year, he participated in power lifting at the event, which took place March 1-4 at the Columbus Convention Center.