A Real Survivor: Kelly Bruno

Kelly Bruno, a second-year medical student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is also an amputee who has completed three Ironman triathlons. But she is perhaps better known to many as "Kelly B.," one of the castaways on "Survivor: Nicaragua."

A Real Survivor: Kelly Bruno click to enlarge Kelly Bruno, at right, is a second-year medical student at UNC.

Media contact: Tom Hughes, 919-966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu

Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010

Tom Hughes wrote this ...

One of my co-workers recently suggested to me that, in the stories I write for our office, I seem to be drawn to those that involve endurance sports.

Maybe she's got a point. The story about our double-lung transplant patient who went on to become an Ironman triathlete? I wrote it. (Actually, we did several stories about Scott Johnson, and I wrote all of them.) Our blog post about a man who lost the use of his legs due to spinal cord injury and went on to become a champion handcyclist? Yup, I wrote that one, too.

And now I've gone and done it again, this time in video form. Kelly Bruno is a second-year medical student in the UNC School of Medicine. She also has been an amputee since the age of six months, when the lower part of her right leg was removed because of a birth defect. But she was fitted with a prosthetic leg soon thereafter and has been doing extremely well in sports ever since, including baseball, soccer, track and long-distance running, and -- you guessed it -- Ironman triathlons.

And this fall Kelly came to be known to millions of TV watchers as "Kelly B." -- one of the castaways on "Survivor: Nicaragua."

Filming for the show took place in the summer, between Kelly's first and second years of med school. Sadly, her father -- a physician whose example helped inspire Kelly's interest in medicine -- was killed in the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, about the same time that Kelly was going through the application process for Survivor. Once on the show, she performed well in the physical challenges but found herself the target of unusually harsh treatment by one of the other castaways.  And some of her competitors speculated that Kelly B. might be a threat to win the grand prize of $1 million. So, she was voted off the show about half way through the season.

Now she's back in school, without missing a single day of class because of her stint on prime time TV, focusing on her future in medicine.

For all of these reasons, I think it's fair to say that Kelly is a real survivor -- no matter who ultimately wins the big cash prize on "Survivor: Nicaragua."

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