The other day I received a phone call from a social worker who works at our local hospital. She explained that she is currently working with a young lady who has sustained a traumatic amputation. I was then asked if I would be willing to contact the lady to offer support. Of course, I immediately agreed.
The social worker then continued to offer limited details on the patient's situation. The woman is 22 years old and has lost both legs above the knee and three fingers on her left hand due to an accident. My heart sank when I listened to the details of this young lady's situation. She is so young, and she has suffered a devastating loss. I knew immediately that there were no words I could offer to console her or to ease her pain.
I started thinking about my life when I was 22 and how I would have dealt with a traumatic double leg amputation. I do know that I would not have handled it gracefully! I am not sure how I would have reacted if some middle aged, below knee amputee came trotting into my room to assure me that everything would be okay. I'd like to think that I would have been polite, but I'm not absolutely convinced that would have been the case. In all probability, I envision myself throwing a water pitcher at the happy-go-lucky little cheer wagon.
I remember how difficult it was for me to reach out for support both before and after my amputation. I vowed that, after my amputation, I would offer myself as the kind of peer support friend that I felt I was lacking through my own journey. I never hesitate to call and talk with a future or a new amputee. I know how difficult it is to reach out for help. This was the first time I didn't call immediately.
I busied myself around the house in a typical procrastination attempt. I was nervous making the initial contact, unsure about what to say or how to proceed. After a few minutes I realized that my discomfort was nothing compared to the raw emotions and physical pain that this lady was experiencing. I was being selfish, and I needed to reach out.
I called the patient, Lucy. She was expecting my call and seemed relieved to hear from me. She began to cry as she attempted to explain her situation. I offered to come to visit her and to answer any questions that she or her family might have. She asked me to come the next afternoon.
I worked it out with Scott to meet me at the hospital after work so that we could switch cars and he could take Robby home. Obviously, this was not an appropriate situation for an active toddler. Robby heard me talking about the impending visit and told me that he wanted to help. We decided to make chocolate chip cookies for me to take to the visit, and he drew a card for her.
Armed with a basket of chocolate chip cookies, an artistic masterpiece and a packet of tissues, I took a deep breathe and walked into Lucy's room. I was met by a small army of family members who seemed to be more nervous than I. I introduced myself, gave them the cookies and gave Lucy a hug. Sometimes, that is all anyone can do.
I had a wonderful visit with Lucy and her family. I tried to offer as much support and information as I could, and I did my best to answer their questions. Although Lucy's life will be different, I stressed that it is by no means over. My life has been filled with wonderful adventures and opportunities since my limb loss.
My life is different than what I envisioned before I became an amputee, but it is neither better nor worse. Given time, I know that Lucy will emerge into a happy and capable amputee woman. Right now, she is feeling lost and is still in significant pain. I cannot imagine being in her situation.
Her family informed me that her boyfriend of over a year broke up with her after the accident. He explained that he couldn't look at her "deformities," he wished her luck, and has not been in contact since. I have never met him, but I do know that he is a putz. Although she doesn't know it now, she is better to be rid of useless baggage early in her recovery. Given time, she will realize that he is both a coward and a fool.
Being 22, she was concerned and terrified at the prospect of living a life alone. I tried to reassure her that she will find somebody who can see beyond the missing limbs. Somebody truly special and worth of her will love the wonderful woman behind the prosthetics. Yes, I do believe she will find love and I can't wait to dance at her wedding.
For now, I encouraged her to concentrate on her own recovery. She is going to need all of her energy to recover and to rebuild her life. When she is stronger, she can concentrate on somebody else. For now, she needs to focus upon herself and let others focus on her as well!
Lucy has a long and arduous journey ahead of her. After her injuries physically heal, she will need to battle the emotional demons that accompany amputation. She has a strong support system filled with people who love her. She can count me as another cheerleader, and I am always willing to lend an ear or offer support!
I'm also fairly creative when it comes to conjuring revenge scenarios. It's been a long time since I've dumped weed killer on a lawn or let air out of a car's tires. I'm sure I could gather a group of scorned women to brainstorm creative retaliation against "the Putz." Even if action is never taken, it is still fun to ponder the possibilities!