I received an email this morning from a friend of mine who had his leg amputated, below knee, due to an accident. His amputation is still fresh, and he has not yet been fitted with a prosthetic. My heart breaks for him as I listen to him share his feelings and fears about living as an amputee.
Although the situations behind everybody's amputation vary, I suppose that the grief and fears that are experienced are universal. I will never forget the first time I tried to balance on my IPOP (Immediate Post-Operative Prosthetic) after my surgery. I melted to the ground as I started to cry, convinced that I would never be able to balance and walk on a prosthetic. Of course, I did learn to balance, but nobody would have been able to convince me of that at the time.
I remember feeling overwhelmed after my amputation--overwhelmed not only by the pain, but also by fear and confusion. I had lived my 29 years with two legs. I was faced with the unchanging reality that I was now to live the rest of my life with only one leg.
Very few things in life are as permanent as an amputation. Marriage can be undone by divorce; children eventually grow up and start their own families; tattoos can be removed. Nothing can undo an amputation. This prospect is daunting, especially in the early days of recovery.
I still face moments of feeling completely overwhelmed by my future. It has been six years, but I continue to have days when I put my prosthetic on and I feel sad because I lament having to put on an artificial device in order to walk. My mind wanders to my future and how I am going to be repeating this same task when I am in my 80's and 90's.
How will I feel about being an amputee when I am that old? How am I going to use a prosthetic when I am elderly? Am I always going to have moments when I grieve my leg even when I am in a nursing home playing Canasta and sipping on Milk of Magnesia?
I don't know how I am going to feel about the amputation in the future. I know that it is my reality and that I will somehow continue to cope. During the moments when I find my mind contemplating the "what ifs," I try to refocus and continue forward. I'll often take a deep breathe, try to ignore the fears, and keep about the business of the day.
I am sure that my pushing the feelings out of my mind would be admonished by psychiatrists as an avoidance technique. Trying to stay in the present versus fearing the future seems to be working for me. I wish I had better advice for my friend when he is facing these emotions, but I don't. I do know that he is not alone, and perhaps we can find solace in the knowledge that our fears are universal.
- I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.