Your traveling pictures are about to be put to shame. Yeah, sure. That picture of you pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa is cute, but Devon Gallagher's shots are infinitely better.
Gallagher is a 23-year-old environmental engineering graduate of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She was born with Pseudoarthrosis, a congenital bone disease which immediately impacted her life.
"Basically I had a "false-joint" in my tibia bone which meant I couldn't put any weight on my leg and my foot was useless," Gallagher said in an exclusive interview with Shared. "Doctors tried to save the leg, but by the time I was four things weren't looking like they'd improve so doctors gave my parents a choice: keep trying to save the leg or amputate the foot now and let [me] live [my] life with a prosthetic. They chose the latter and I've lived with a prosthetic ever since."
Recently, Gallagher took a trip across Europe and her pictures went viral for a very cool, very unique reason.
Gallagher took a European trip, but instead of taking a regular prosthetic leg, she decided to spice things up a little bit.
"I was due for a new prosthetic and had no idea what I wanted on it," she says. "Chalkboard came to mind, I asked my friends, they thought it was cool, so I went for it. My mom and grandmom were not too pleased about me spray painting my prosthetic but I did it any way...My prosthetic company is awesome (shout out Prosthetic Innovations) and they were all about the chalkboard idea. They just made me a new leg following the normal procedure and I spray painted the carbon-fiber socket part."
In every travel spot, Gallagher recorded her location on her leg and took some stunning pictures to boot.
"I've always wanted to backpack Europe once I graduated college," Gallagher told Shared. "One of my best friends from college was planning a trip that was hitting all the places I wanted to go to, so I asked if I could join. One day while discussing it, we were looking at flights and ended up finding some that were dirt cheap so we just went for it. She did most of the planning (Rachel you rock) so this trip wouldn't have happened without her!"
There are still people, however, who struggle to understand Gallagher's condition.
Though Gallagher had every right to feel different growing up, she credits her mom for keeping her positive and inspiring her to do whatever she wants.
"I guess I owe a lot of my positive energy to how I was raised," Devon told Shared. "My mom normalized being an amputee and refused to let me think that I deserved special treatment (besides good parking). Growing up, she would ask my grade school teachers if I could do a day of show and tell to show the kids my leg and teach them about what it's like to be an amputee. It sounds kind of weird, but I never realized how important this was until recently. It taught my peers and myself that its just a prosthetic leg and it doesn't stop me from being me. Since then I've just embraced it and accepted it as part of who I am."
"I guess my leg has taught me a lot. It's made me grateful for little things and its taught me to focus on the positives in life," Devon says. "A lot of people don't understand how I can be so happy given my situation but it's really not that hard. Life's easier (and more fun) when you have a good attitude and humor. It's also given me a pretty tough skin. I don't let a lot of stuff get to me."
Devon Gallagher will be starting work very soon at a pharmaceutical company doing Environment, Health, Safety, & Sustainability work through a rotational program.
"I had graduated college in December 2016 then had leg-related surgery in January 2017. Work doesn't start until mid-July so I had about 7 months of free time. Perfect opportunity to travel!"
But for Devon, she knows where her heart belongs.
"Overall it's been really positive," she told Shared. "Lots of people thanking me for brightening up their day. There's been quite a few creepy responses but I just ignore them. A few marriage proposals thrown in there too."