When 34-year-old JoAnne Fluke was born prematurely, doctors thought she would only live for 72 hours. But she defied the doctors’ prognoses and was home two weeks later.
Born with a rare birth defect in which the bottom half of her spine is missing, Fluke has tiny webbed legs that she can’t use or control and her body is shorter than a 10-month-old child. Overcoming what would be a tremendous obstacle to some, Fluke has a ferociously independent spirit with a full-time career and a passion for dance.
On Sunday, TLC will air Fluke’s inspiring story with the premiere of a one-hour special, “Dancer with Tiny Legs.” It will be aired at 9 p.m. on Sunflower Broadband channels 68 and 268.
Fluke is fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a professional dancer. In just four weeks, she will compete in her first “able-bodied” dance competition. But first, she must audition for a new dance partner.
“I’m very excited about the show, but I hope it sparks the nation’s passion and love to do what they love,” Fluke said. “I really want people to follow their dreams.”
The tiny dancer was born with caudal regression syndrome. As a result of her birth defect, her heart is rotated, her liver is where her stomach should be, and she has 1/10 of the intestines of most people. Although she was once confined to a wheelchair, Fluke’s optimistic outlook has allowed her to live a normal life.
Fluke is a 2000 Baker University graduate. She was named Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2005 and has been an advocate for people with disabilities. In 2004, she traveled to Africa to donate wheelchairs through a not-for-profit ministry. She also has worked as a summer camp counselor teaching children with spina bifida to dance and most recently helped found a nonprofit alternative dance troupe called Groovability in Kansas City, Mo., where she serves as the executive director.
While at Baker, Fluke was a member of Phi Mu sorority. She majored in religion with minors in sociology and music. Fluke lives in Ottawa and works at 68 Inside Sports in Overland Park.