Byline: Michelle Kaufman
From a distance, Kara Sheridan looks like any other competitive swimmer _ hair tucked into a rubber cap, Speedo race suit, arms in perpetual motion, splashing up and down a pool lane, lap after lap after lap. But then, you notice the wheelchair parked inches from the starting block.
You take a closer look and realize Sheridan is swimming almost exclusively with her upper body. Her frail legs, bolstered by titanium rods, are not kicking. Her arms, digging furiously through the water, are severely twisted.
Sheridan, a 24-year-old University of Miami graduate student and member of the U.S. Paralympic team that will travel to Athens this fall, has suffered from Osteogenesis Imperfecta since birth. The condition, commonly known as brittle bone disorder, causes short stature, scoliosis and broken bones. People afflicted with the condition can fracture a rib by sneezing or break a leg by rolling over in bed.
Sheridan has had more than 100 broken bones, the first ones detected by a nurse in the delivery room. She has undergone a dozen major surgeries, including a complete spinal fusion. She is 82 pounds and stopped growing at 4-foot-6.
While her bones may be dangerously brittle, …