Last Look

Photo by Asia Kepka

Strength of Will

In September 2011, Will Lautzenheiser (CAS’96, COM’07), a former COM lecturer in screenwriting, checked into the hospital for leg pain. It was not a moment too soon. He was suffering from a life-threatening infection, the cause of which is still unexplained, that began shutting down his organs and ravaging his limbs. To stop the infection from spreading, the doctors amputated his arms and legs.

Robin Berghaus (’06) was a BU video producer at the time. While filming a short video about Lautzenheiser for the University, she marveled at his strength and humor, and became invested in his story.

Robin Berghaus made this short video about Will Lautzenheiser for BU after a life-threatening infection cost him his arms and legs. Berghaus and Lautzenheiser have since collaborated to expand the video into an award-winning documentary.

Berghaus and Lautzenheiser (at top, in Lautzenheiser’s apartment in Brookline, Massachusetts) maintained their partnership to create the 10-minute documentary Stumped. The film follows Lautzenheiser for 21 months, from his early recovery to his first steps with prosthetics. The film premiered in 2014 and has received 8 awards and nearly 50 screenings. Berghaus is expanding Stumped into a feature film that will explore Lautzenheiser’s life after a bilateral arm transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “To feel the wind on my skin—I never thought I was going to feel that again,” he says. “I can’t describe what it’s like, except that it takes my breath away.”

The film will also feature Lautzenheiser’s new venture: “sit-down” comedy. When asked how he maintains a sense of humor in difficult circumstances, he says, “I told myself I was not going to be a passive, angry person. We can’t control our circumstances, our sicknesses, our accidents—but we do have control over our attitudes. When faced with any struggle, you have a choice in how you face it.”—Lara Ehrlich

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