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Stumped 2017


Distributed by Good Docs

Directed by Robin Berghaus
DVD , color, 72 min.

High School - General Adult
Disabilities, Handicap, Humor, Interpersonal Relations, Medical Sciences, Physical Therapy

Date Entered: 11/02/2018

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

In 2011, Boston University graduate Will Lautzenheiser began teaching film studies at Montana State University in Bozeman. Within months, his life was unexpectedly and inalterably changed. After a rare, life-threatening bacterial infection commonly-known as toxic shock syndrome led to massive organ failure, he underwent a quadruple amputation. What then followed were years of physical therapy and rehabilitation as Will slowly and painfully adjusted to his new reality. Forced to rely on a team of medical personnel and care-givers, he dealt with the catastrophic loss of limbs and independence by turning to stand-up comedy. At the same time, newly developed and tested transplant procedures led Will back to the operating theater, where donor arms and hands were attached. As the film ends, Will is considering an even riskier bilateral transplant procedure on his legs.

Filmaker Berghaus, a Boston University alumnus herself, follows Will through this period. His disability as well as his relationships with his twin brother, his life and comedy partners, and his extensive medical team at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital are respectfully but realistically chronicled. The documentary is more than an individual case study, however. By finding humor in tragedy and through the open discussion of amputation, organ donors, and transplants, Will’s story raises awareness of the multitude of issues and emotions surrounding disabilities. This well-crafted film is recommended for disabilities studies programs as well as general audiences.