Barbie Thomas lost both her arms at the age of 2. She was playing outside her Texas apartment complex and climbed onto a transformer, grabbling on to the wires. The electric current traveled through her little body, from her hands out her feet, burning her arms to the bone.
"They were like charcoal," she writes in her biography on her website, Fitness Unarmed "They were completely dead and had to be amputated at the shoulders."
No one expected Thomas to live. But today, at 37, she has accomplished what was once regarded as the impossible: Thomas is a competitive body builder and model.
"I thank God I am alive," said Thomas, who now lives in Phoenix with her two sons, aged 13 and 17. She uses her shoulders as arms, which her children call her "nubs."
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Thomas said her positive attitude is rooted in her upbringing.
"I was not allowed to be negative and say I can't do something," she told ABCNews.com, holding the phone between her ear and her right-hand shoulder, which is more substantial than her left side.
"I was always taught to focus on what I can do, not what I can't do," she said. "It probably has a lot to do with my personality -- I can't imagine being a negative Nancy all the time."
Fitness competitors, in addition to having beautifully sculpted bodies, must do a two-minute performance routine incorporating dance, cheerleading or gymnastic flexibility.
"They are in the same realm as body builders, but instead of seeing the deep-cut muscles, they want to see a nice feminine shape," Thomas said. Experts say something in between a body builder and a bikini girl.
Her dance routines include splits and high kicks and even the ninja kip-up. Thomas placed sixth in June at Jr. Nationals and fifth in August at the North American Championships.
The National Physique Committee (NPC), which is the amateur division of the International Federation of Body Builders, was so impressed with her performance in their fitness division last year, they gave Thomas their first-ever Inspiration Award.
"She chose the most difficult division of all," said Miles Nuessle, Arizona chairman of the NPC.
"We were thinking, 'How can she do that routine?' but she blew our minds," he said. "She was absolutely beautiful. She was on the floor jumping up and doing splits. I don't know what half the moves were called. She was rolling all over the place and shaking it -- sexy, athletic, fun and emotional. The crowd went nuts.
"You can't use the word handicapped with her or she may punch you in the face," he said. "Barbie is not handicapped."
After the childhood accident, doctors said Thomas might live like a vegetable for the rest of her life. But her mother prayed that if that were the case, "God would just take me," Thomas writes. "She also made a promise to God that day -- if he let me live, she would make sure that I became 'somebody.'"
"The doctors were boggled by my recovery," she said. "They decided I must have survived because of the rubber soles on my tennis shoes. True, they may have played their part, but I believe I survived because God saw the bigger picture and had plans for me."
Thomas went through extensive physical and occupational therapy. Adapting to a world without arms was a challenge and even years later, when she was independent, she'd have to improvise to do ordinary tasks.