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The Woman Who Holds 13 World Records for Running... And with a Prosthetic Leg and "I Was Fired Twice and Decided I Was Unemployable for Life"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
July 14, 2022 3:05 am

The Woman Who Holds 13 World Records for Running... And with a Prosthetic Leg and "I Was Fired Twice and Decided I Was Unemployable for Life"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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July 14, 2022 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Amy Palmiero-Winters, founder of the One Step Ahead Foundation, shares how an unexpected accident changed her career path. Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross, tells the story of the setbacks that unexpectedly presented him...  his greatest opportunity. 

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Time Codes:

00:00 - The Woman Who Holds 13 World Records for Running... And with a Prosthetic Leg

35:00 - "I Was Fired Twice and Decided I Was Unemployable for Life"

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Hope for the Caregiver
Peter Rosenberger
Hope for the Caregiver
Peter Rosenberger
Hope for the Caregiver
Peter Rosenberger
Hope for the Caregiver
Peter Rosenberger
Hope for the Caregiver
Peter Rosenberger

This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people.

To search for the Our American Stories podcast, go to the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Up next, we'll be hearing from Amy Palmiero Winters, who is the founder of the One Step Ahead Foundation. Amy holds 13 world records for running and she also happens to have one prosthetic leg. Here's Amy with her story. I was one of three children. I had two older brothers. We had one brother in between myself and my middle brother. He had a heart defect when he was born and so at the age of six months old he passed away. So my mother was not expecting to have any more children.

They had just lost their son and come to find out she was pregnant. I ended up showing up three months early. I weighed two pounds and I remember my dad telling me that from day one that I was a fighter and I was just kicking the incubator to get out.

And I think that that really sets the format for who I am and basically my lifelong quest of achieving the unthinkable. You know, we had a good childhood. We had a hard childhood. We didn't have, you know, the best of circumstances. I grew up watching my father abuse and beat up my mother, us as children.

You can either become that or you can choose to be something different. And for myself, I always chose to go the different path and be the different person. And when we were growing up, we didn't really have anything. We didn't have the financial aspects. So for me, running was something that was free.

It didn't matter where you were, if you had money or you didn't have money, anybody could run. Sports got me through everything. My sports got me through the times when I watched my dad beat my mom up.

And I remember using sports as a tool. If I had a bad day, I went out for a run. If I didn't feel good about myself, I went out for a run.

And running and sports just changed everything for me. I was probably 18 and a friend of mine said, I bet you can't run a marathon. And I said, yeah, I can run a marathon. And I was like, well, wait, how long is a marathon? And he said, 26.2 miles. And I said, it's no problem. I said, so when are we doing that?

And he's like, next weekend. So then that was basically the start of my kind of life. I was like, a long distance journey. We went out, I ran my first marathon in a 323 or 324 or something. So the first world record that we actually broke, it was nothing that I was setting out to do.

And I always say we, and I can't help it just because nothing good in life is ever done by yourself. So I wasn't running with anybody, but I have a whole team who's behind me. And we set the record for the first time marathon runner for that course. And it qualified me for the Boston marathon. So we ended up going off. We ran the Cleveland marathon, the Boston marathon, which qualified me again then for the following year's Boston marathon.

And then before going back to the marathon is when I was hit. In growing up, we had everybody's junk. We had dirt bikes, mini bikes, go karts. We always had everybody's junk.

And what we would do is we would rebuild it. And so growing up for me, riding motorcycles and riding dirt bikes was natural. It was just second nature. So when I was growing up, it was natural. It was natural. It was natural.

It was just second nature. So when I moved on and I started working, getting a motorcycle was just kind of a logical, progressional path in my life. And in 1994, I was out riding with a group of friends. We were heading down a road.

And as we came to the top of the hill and we crested the hill, it was a blind intersection. The whole thought process behind coming to that intersection is so detailed to me because that was the road that I learned how to drive on. So my father, when I was learning how to drive, would take me down the road. He would bring me to that intersection. He would make me stop my car. He would make me roll down my windows. And he would make me listen for any cars coming up over the hill. So on that day in 1994, I was essentially that person coming up over the hill.

And I remember being thankful that my motorcycle was exceptionally loud, that if someone was sitting at that intersection, they were going to hear me, even if they didn't see me. And there was a blue car sitting at the top of the hill and the intersection. And it's funny how people will say time comes to a slow or time slows down. Time, actually, it comes to a halt. It almost comes to a standstill.

And then it just moves at a snail's pace. Because when I crested the top of the hill, I remember looking at the car. I remember looking at the person in the driver's seat. I remember seeing that her window was down. And in the time that I crested the hill and started to come through the intersection, I had actually made eye contact with her three separate times. You know, I knew that she had seen me and I knew that it was okay to continue on. I actually had the right-of-way and she was at a stop sign. And so as I crested the hill and went through the intersection, she darted across the street. And when she darted across the street, her car slammed into the side of my motorcycle.

And the car actually smashed my entire left foot in between the motorcycle and the primary. And you've been listening to Amy Palmieri Winters share with us her story. She was born into a tough family situation with an abusive father. Her own brother had passed away before she was even born. But as her dad said, she came into this world at two pounds, a warrior from the beginning, kicking the incubator. Running became her refuge. Running was where she was free. And then the accident that would change her life.

Or maybe not. When we come back, more of this remarkable story of overcoming here on Our American Stories. And click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.

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Check out what we can do for your business at And we return to our American stories and to Amy Palmiero Winters, sharing her story. When we last left off, her running career had just been put at stake. She'd been hit by a car while riding her motorcycle.

Let's return to Amy. I remember just kind of coming to a stop. I remember picking up my leg and just standing there with the motorcycle in the intersection. And a friend of mine came up and he had jumped off his motorcycle and literally lifted me off my motorcycle and laid me in the grass. And I just laid there and I remember just more so being worried about the fact that I just started a new job. I couldn't miss work the next morning and also kind of worried about not crying in front of anybody else. And I just got a brand new pair of boots and I really didn't want anything happening to my boots at that time. And the ambulance came and they took me to the hospital and to the local area, I was an athlete and I was, you know, I was a track hero.

I was this somebody that everybody knew or somebody that everybody's family knew. And I remember just going to the hospital and waiting, waiting more so to understand what was going on. And I didn't realize at the time, but because of the damage to my foot, what had happened was my body just immediately went into shock. The doctor would come in and shake his head. And this lasted, the doctor would come in and out.

And I remember them trying to give me different pain medications, but it just seemed like nothing was working. And I remember the doctor coming in the one time and he had asked my mother, he's like, you know, how is her pain tolerance? And my mother literally grabbed him by the lapels of his shirt and said, basically, you know, what's going on with my foot? And I said, what's going on with my daughter? And he said, we're actually waiting for another hospital to take her because right now the only thing that we can do is amputate her leg. And so for my mother and my father, that was out of the question. And as they waited, it got to the point where they had to perform the surgery because my leg was crushed so bad that it was losing all kinds of circulation.

And the longer you go without blood flow to your limb, the more damage it does. And the doctor came in with the papers and he handed them to my mother to sign the papers to amputate my leg. And just as she went to sign on the papers, one of the nurses came running in and said that a helicopter was coming from Pittsburgh. And at that moment, I was basically crushed to the top of the building. And that's where I ended up being flown to Pittsburgh, where I spent the next two months basically fighting to save my leg. I was very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to fight for keeping my leg. And after, it was like after three years and I had 40 plus surgeries and I went in and the one doctor, you know, he was looking at the different skin grafts and scars on my body. And he said to me, he's like, I'm really sorry that you had to go through all this.

I'm really sorry it wasn't taken off that day. And he had let me know that they had put something in place so that will never happen again. And I had told him, I said, if I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn't change anything. Because of everything I went through and because of what happened, it helped create what I am today.

I'm glad that it was able to help people in the future not have to go through unnecessary procedures to get to the same finish line. But for me, it allowed me to close one door and open another door. When I lost my leg that day, I was focused on the military. I was focused on being a police officer.

You know, I was focused on those things. So when you experience something like that, it not only takes your leg, but it takes a lot of your goals and your dreams. So for myself, I had to rediscover who I was. Because you couldn't go to the military with a prosthetic leg. And you couldn't be a police officer with a prosthetic leg. It was yeah, redefining myself.

And then on top of that, it was, you're never going to be a professional athlete. Prior to going in to have my amputation, I talked to my boss. I said, it's at the point where I have to have my leg amputated. I can't keep it anymore.

It's so damaged that they're going to take it off. So I really had no other choice. But I had asked my boss anyways, I said, well, I have a job when I come back.

And he said, absolutely. And so I went in to have my leg amputated. I promised myself that I would be back to work by my birthday, which was August 18. And my leg was cut off July 27. I had an appointment to go pick up my leg. And when I went to pick up my leg, they called me and they said that, well, your insurance said that your leg is not medically necessary, so they're not going to pay for it. So the place that I was going, luckily, the prosthetic was so cheap, and they told me that you could pay for it with a credit card. So I actually kept my appointment, drove the two hours to Pittsburgh, and paid for my prosthetic leg with a credit card. I remember getting up. I remember walking.

I was given no formal training with my prosthetic. It was basically just here's your leg and basically just see you later. But my focus was August 18, being back to work by August 18. And I remember walking into my job. And I was proud of myself. I was a really hard worker. I was proud of the job that I did. I was a furnace operator at a local company that was prominent in our hometown. And I remember walking in and every time I would walk in, my employer would walk out the other side.

And I couldn't kind of couldn't understand what was going on. And then as you progress in wearing a prosthetic, you go from temp to permanent. And during that time, I got to the point where it was time for me to be fit with my permanent prosthetic. And so there was a local prosthetic facility that was nearby that was going to be the ones to create my new prosthetic leg. And I remember going in and getting things set up to get my new prosthetic leg. And I remember going back to my job and getting my new prosthetic leg. And I remember going back to my job and speaking to my boss finally. And I said, well, I'm ready to come back to work.

And he said, well, I'm sorry, you don't have a job anymore. And in doing so, what had happened was is it had timed me out for my insurance. So I had lost my job, lost my insurance, and had no way of paying for my new prosthetic leg again. So here I was, you know, kind of right back into the same same situation.

You know, the basically the road of hard knocks kind of either sets you one way or the other. And it definitely made me a stronger person. So after I had got my second prosthetic, I was under the belief that I would be able to run. And that's what I did was I tried to run. Unfortunately, if you don't have the right setup and the right components, your residual limb unfortunately takes the brunt of everything. And so for myself, because I didn't have the clearance for basically like a higher category prosthetic foot that would absorb the shock, all the shock and the pounding went up into my residual limb. And so when I tried to run, I ended up getting a bone infection. And because of that bone infection, I ended up back in the hospital and I lost more of my leg.

But just like I said, you can take it two different ways. You can let it define you and defeat you, or you can let it make you stronger. And so for myself, I utilized it to make me stronger. And once I had more of my leg amputated, it allowed me to get a better prosthetic foot. And with that better prosthetic foot, it allowed me to then start running again.

And you're listening to Amy Palmiero Winters share her story. What happened after that ambulance came and all of the years after fighting, as she said for her leg, three years and 40 surgeries. I'm sorry it wasn't taken that day, a doctor said, and they in the future set a protocol so that would never happen again. But true to her character, she said she would have done it the same way because it strengthened her character and also helped others not have to go through what she went through. Throw in losing her job. But still there was that hope. Still there was that attitude.

And still there was that little girl inside her kicking that incubator she held on to. When we come back, more of this remarkable story of overcoming Amy Palmiero Winters here on Our American Stories. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we return to Our American Stories and to Amy Palmiero Winters' story. When we last left off, she'd just gotten a new prosthetic leg and found out she would be able to start her running career all over again. But little did she know how far that career would actually take her.

Let's return to Amy and her story. It was a couple years after I lost my leg before I could start running again. So at that time, training and stuff was more so just going out for a run at lunchtime and I would just run the local 5 and 10 k's. It was kind of a natural progression to kind of want to get back to running the marathon and so my first one back was the Cleveland Marathon just because it was local and it was during that marathon that we actually broke the world record for both male and female amputees. I ended up going on to run and race in the New York City triathlon and from doing the New York City triathlon, it actually qualified me for the Hawaii World Championships in the triathlon and when I was there and won the world championships, I remember, you know, everybody would kind of look at me and they would say to me, they're like, you're really going to run on that because I had just like a walking foot and I had asked one of the other athletes, I was like, there's got to be somebody that I can find to help me and I asked them, I'm like, where do you go?

Who, you know, who's the best? And so that's when I was introduced to a step ahead prosthetics in Long Island. All I can say about a step ahead is I put my kids in the car and we drove eight hours to New York, to Long Island, New York and I'll tell you what, I haven't looked back since. I walk through the door and for the first time in 10 years, I actually had someone ask me what I wanted to do. I actually had someone ask me what my goals were and I literally said, well, you know what, I want to run 100 miles and he goes, so then that's what you'll do and I was casted at 7 30 in the morning and by nine o'clock, I was running on the treadmill I was running on the treadmill in a running leg. So I was out running a race with a friend of mine and he actually told me of another athlete. His name was Jim and Jim was the first athlete with a prosthetic to ever run on the course of Western States and Western States is basically, it's one of the oldest and the most, basically the most sought after ultra marathon and Jim wanted to be the first athlete with a prosthetic to qualify and finish Western States and so he got on the Western States course and he made it to mile, I think 35 and missed a time cutoff or something and dropped out and he told his family, he said that was the hardest thing that I've ever done and he's like, I will be back and I'll finish it and that was in June and then in August, he was on a closed course and a cement truck got on the closed course and the boom truck on the cement truck came out and hit him and killed him and when my friend told me that story, I vowed that I would go back and do that and I would do it for him and his family and so in my pursuit to become the first athlete with a prosthetic to finish Western States, I had to run a specific race in a qualifying time and actually qualify for it. So in doing so, I qualified for Western States and that's when I was also focusing on qualifying for racing Badwater and for Badwater, I needed to do an additional 100 mile race and so I was actually in this 100 mile race, it was a looped course, it was a mile loop and you just ran the mile loop over and over again until you reached 100 miles and as I was running it, the race director had said to me, Amy, he's like, if you run 18 more miles, you'll qualify for the US team. So I finished the 100 mile race, I qualified for Badwater and then I want to say a month later, I went to the race that was across the years and that's where I was setting my sights on making the US team and we ended up finishing the race with 130.4 miles, we beat the first guy by 14 miles and we beat the first girl by 36 miles, I think it was and it was in fact the first time that an amputee had won a race outright and it was the first time in history that an athlete with a prosthetic had made a world team because that race actually qualified me for the US team.

You know, I have a lot of races that I've done and they're all as equally amazing and unique in their own way and so we just recently ran the Cocodona 250 mile race and it's probably one of the most meaningful and most amazing races that I've ever been a part of and it's because I carried the American flag the entire way and it had nothing to do with me, it had to do with honoring all of those men and women who stand up every day to keep us safe, who despite fear, despite pain, despite sleep deprivation, despite all of those things that most people crumble because of, they stand up every day and they keep us safe and so for me I think that has to by far be the most amazing race that I've ever been a part of because it was for something greater than me because without them we wouldn't be able to do the things that we do and being out there for six days carrying the American flag was by far the most amazing opportunity that opportunity that I've ever had and from that day on I've ran with the American flag everywhere I go. When I moved to New York City, I had met so many little children who had lost their limbs or were born missing their limbs, different various reasons. I met all these little kids who steered clear of sports because of their limb loss and it was my goal to get them involved in those sports to help them build self-confidence and understand who they really and what they could be and so for me the foundation ended up being a platform to provide children with adventures to help them establish and create self-confidence. I meet a lot of patients who have been told all these different stories like you're never gonna run again, you're never gonna be able to walk without a limp and it's untrue. As long as you don't give up you're gonna be okay. You don't have to accept on giving up on your goals and your dreams.

When faced with adversity you have two choices. You can either move on and be stronger and better in spite of or you can give up and it's funny because somebody was saying well you know what I do is nothing compared to what you do because you just ran 250 miles but I'm no different than anybody else. All you can ever do is is give your best effort knowing that when you cross that finish line or that you wake up tomorrow you know that you're happy with what you did. You always want to cross that finish line no matter what it is in life knowing that you gave it your best effort. I hope people see my story and understand that yeah bad things happen but you don't have to let them define who you are.

I'm a big believer in things happen for a reason and I feel that my accident happened for a reason because I wouldn't be where I am today without it. And a terrific job on the storytelling and production by Madison Derricotte and a special thanks to Amy Palmiero Winters for sharing her story and what a story it was. I love what she said at the end when you face adversity you have two choices move ahead or give up. And by the way you can learn more about Amy and her life at

Amy Palmiero Winters great overcoming story here on Our American Stories. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop but for small business insurance I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See they're small business owners too so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we continue with Our American Stories and with the story of an American classic. Stephen Ross is the largest real estate developer in America the owner of the Miami Dolphins and he shared his life story with our own Alex Cortez. Stephen Ross is a Detroiter born and bred until his parents dragged him against his will midway through his freshman year of high school to Miami Beach Florida. I hated it down there actually and I kind of rebelled against my parents and I got into a little trouble I mean I mean I was supposed to studying I'd you know go out playing the gambling a little bit and you know I mean I had a you know everything but study even though my parents really tried to be strict you know my father lectured all the time as opposed because he was working and then he'd lecture me I guess it didn't do any good you know but it ultimately I guess it sunk in I mean I don't know. I wanted to get out of there I went to my parents said well if you're going to leave you don't want to go to school here you have to go to military school so I spent about four days of military school and said I'll go back to school you know and I mean I talked to most of my friends I mean probably my background was probably different than most because I'd never excelled early in life and I was you know I got into college because they had to accept me because I had a standardized test that I scored well enough that the school had to take you and they flunked out two-thirds of the freshman class they tell you look on your left and look on your right the person sitting next year won't be here next year and and so you know you kind of it's a wake-up call but I also knew if I wanted something we didn't I wasn't gonna get anything from my parents I mean I wasn't left anything and they had nothing to give me you know so I knew where there was you know it was either sink or swim and then when I got to college that's when I really kind of started to being able to do well at the University of Florida then so I could transfer to Michigan and then law school and then I got my master's in tax law which I excelled in and it's probably the best year of school I ever had that I really found something I enjoyed I'd always get good marks if I liked it you know I didn't like the subject I didn't do very well the confidence I mean you know you have to first find your confidence that you can succeed and do something well and excel to continue on I mean as they say success breeds success I mean my teachers told my parents they were wasting time sending me to college which is really kind of funny right when I look back at it now so I mean I look at myself I was a late starter in life because I probably was probably the least likely to succeed in my high school class you know so you tell me how much teachers know and so the environment in which you're brought up I mean you want your parents as much as my parents emphasized that and I could see things it was really later that I really saw things a lot more clearly you know after getting his master's degree at NYU Stephen went back to his hometown to work at an accounting firm as a tax attorney I was doing very well practicing law and you know certain life is really kind of funny it's kind of impulsive I'm in my office one day it was in fact I remembered I can still picture it it was June I think it was June 7th or June 9th in 1968 the night before Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and I'd watched that at night and that next day you're wondering in life hey you never know when it's over and thinking about that you know and he was a relatively young guy and the partner walks in my office and asks me if I want to go to a seminar in New York I said you know what and I hadn't even ever thought about it I said I want to go I think I want to go to New York for good as a matter of fact I'm quitting I'm moving to New York never entered my mind it never went from my mind to you know I'm going to I'm going to think about leaving and I hadn't even thought about leaving and it just came up I mean life is so impulsive sometimes we don't even know ourselves you know what's really what's going on so he then brought in the senior partner and they you know Steve's quit he's leaving he was going to New York you know and the guy said what I mean Steve you're doing great here you're going to be a partner here and blah blah blah but I got bored and I could see how I was tailing off in my mind and I was just ready for something and that sparked it without me even thinking about it you know so a lot of things you know in life we think we're in control of we're not necessarily in control of it we really don't know it takes something takes a spark for something to happen I've told my mother you don't know anybody in New York I said hey you know I went there I loved it and in you know the story is if you can make it there you can make it anywhere blah blah blah and off I went you know and when I went to New York then the firm called and made several appointments for me to help me you know Lazard Freire, Goldman Sachs and what have you and I went and I interviewed and then I saw a paper this little article about Laird which was a a new firm startup young guys it was backed by the Duponts it was very waspy there was no Jews in the whole firm they were doing a lot of really creative things and you know the head of the firm was like 37 and 34 and 31 and everybody said you know how can you consider you got a job at Lazard that's the best deal house there is and I took the job at Laird you know I'm sitting around the table when I went there and they they said to me why'd you come here I said well I really narrowed it down between Lazard and Laird and everybody told me to go to Lazard so I figured I had to come to Laird you know you gotta and I was there for about a year and a half they didn't have any money and there was I was doing things a little different and they didn't quite understand what I was doing and they suggested maybe I wouldn't be good there and then two weeks after I left not nothing to do with my having left they had a coup and the firm kind of fell apart and a friend of mine got me a job at who was working at Bear Stearns got me an interview and I was working on creative deals but I had the guy I was the wrong guy I was working for and so I had put together this deal when I was at Laird putting together a company that they were taking public it was my idea to put several things that he was doing into one company and take it public I'd been at Bear Stearns about two or three weeks and that's when they had the coup and the guy called me and said hey I'd love to have Bear Stearns do this deal I have other firms there are smaller firms in Bear Stearns but would Bear Stearns be interested met with his partner guy says it's great they were located in California the partner said I'll be in California next week you know I'll meet you and go through the stuff I made an appointment doesn't show up guy calls me I go and tell him I got caught up in this other deal I was out there I'll be either there make me an appointment doesn't show up called me again I told the guy he said you know arrange a time and I'll call him so twice that happened he never called him so the guy calls me I said hey I would take it public you got these other firms I wouldn't wait I haven't been here long enough you know I've been here now what two months and I can't tell you what to do you know and but if it were me I'd go get the deal done not wait for this guy to come out he goes public it's on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on the right column so it's lead article and blah blah blah and it went from 6 to 19 in the opening and that day the partner all of a sudden walks into my office for the first time hey whatever happened to that company blah you know environmental systems was called I said he's waiting for your phone call you know and he didn't take that obviously and then then after that he would not be in meetings he'd I mean he's always putting me down and you know and all that and five and I was doing a deal and when he approved a deal that I had brought in and worked on and then someone asked him well who's going to work you know work on it for us when the senior guy said what Steve is he put it together and he knows it the guy said why 100 cops and Steve and I said I got no copies of you next morning I got a phone call you know I was fired did I quit or was I fired story's better to say that I got fired right but I knew that that night I knew I couldn't work here anymore before I had the meeting to get this deal approved I mean I said if it gets approved I'm thinking I and I was ready to quit I knew even I got approved I had to get out of there with this guy I mean here I'd left two jobs in a really a six-month period of time so with that kind of resume I who's gonna hire me and that's that I started my company and I had no money and I wanted to stay in New York my mother lent me ten thousand dollars to live on and then to bootstrap the company and never had an investor so for about the next 30 years every penny I ever earned I put back in the company and just grew the company and then all of a sudden you know it's worth a lot of money but you know I mean it's a it's a it's a nice story that's true and I really believe it you know when you're doing something and you're successful you should believe in yourself who else can you trust more than yourself and a great job by Robbie producing the piece and a special thanks to Alex for finding this story and it's a beauty the story of Steve Ross the owner of the Miami Dolphins here on Our American Story.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-17 00:28:29 / 2023-02-17 00:42:57 / 14

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