Every amputee has a story, and I am no exception. My story began in 1998. I was just starting out in life and I felt unstoppable. I had just earned my Masters Degree from Michigan State, and I was working for a major hospital in the Baltimore area. I was fulfilling my lifelong dream of providing rehabilitation services to blind adults.
I was eager to attend my first professional conference. While at the conference, a computer monitor fell onto the top of my foot. The bones were crushed. More detrimental but unknown at the time, the nerves were damaged.
When the severity of the accident was first known, I resolved to "save my foot at all costs." Over twenty surgeries later, I began to consider a life without my limb. I faced the most excruciating decision of my life.
It took one year to the date from my inquiring about an amputation to when the actual surgery occurred. In many ways, this was the most difficult year of my life. I struggled with the decision, knowing that it was correct but terrified of what my life would be like as an amputee. This decision was permanent.
I did a lot of research, met with other amputees and discussed the surgery with my family and friends. I wrote letters to myself, detailing my reasons for the surgery in an effort to remind myself in the future. Those letters were a godsend and I cherish them. I still read those letters when I am having a difficult time being an amputee. I read them to remind myself of the pain that ever present in my life. Reading those words take away the doubts and regrets that still linger after all these years.
The night before the amputation seemed torturous. I remember breaking down after I took a bath. I have never before nor after felt the sense of terror that I felt at that moment. I was paralyzed by fear. All I could do was cry and it wasn't a normal cry. It felt more primitive and was totally, completely uncontrollable. It was a horrible night.
On July 3, 2003 Scott drove me to the hospital for my amputation. It was the longest two hours of my life. I felt like I was existing in a surreal daze, unable to completely connect with my impending reality.
I remember breaking into tears when trying to give my name to the registration clerk. The loneliest moment in my life was being wheeled into the operating room on a gurney. I knew that there was no turning back. I knew that I was going to be changed forever. But I didn't know how my amputation would influence every aspect of my life.
Waking up in my room, I was holding my mom's hand. I looked into her eyes, and I realized for the first time that I had become an amputee. Instantly, I began to panic. I remember telling her "Oh my God. I don't have my foot."
The recovery was arduous. I developed infections that required further surgical intervention. As a teacher, I had planned the amputation around my summer break. I was forced to return to work in September with an infected stump and unable to use a prosthetic.
Depression is not strong enough of a word to describe my state during this time. Five months later I was finally fit with a prosthetic. Regaining the ability to walk renewed my sense of hope. My body, and my spirit, began to heal.
When I was initially injured I never could have imagined my life at this time. My journey has left me feeling empowered. I know that I will have the strength to persevere through obstacles that develop. This experience has taught me so much about myself and about human nature.
I have learned about love through the support of my family and Scott. We were only dating when I had the amputation. He had every reason to leave, to get a girlfriend who wasn't confronting such issues. He devotion during this time demonstrated the true definition of being a man.
Scott and I continue to be astounded and appalled by the audacity of many individuals we encounter in public. I was ignorant about devotees and "wannabes." I was disappointed and hurt by the abandonment of many in our social circle. I was encouraged by the support of strangers and acquaintances.
I don't know if I am a better person because of my amputation. I do know that I am a different person because of the amputation. I made the choice to move forward with my life in spite of my "disabled" status. This is not always easy.
Today is a difficult day. It is the six year anniversary of my amputation. I am allowing myself to mourn. I am going to stay busy so that the tears will be kept to a minimum.