Tomorrow is the anniversary of my amputation. Seven years ago today I was desperately trying to stay busy, trying to keep the terror I was feeling from overwhelming me. It was, without doubt, the most frightening decision I was ever forced to make.
One does not make the decision to amputate a limb lightly. I first approached my doctor with the notion of amputating my foot on July 3, 2002 after another unsuccessful limb-salvaging surgery. In many ways it is ironic that exactly one year from when I had that first conversation in my doctors office, I was in the operating room for the procedure.
The twelve months leading up to the amputation was a tumultuous one. My initial approval from the insurance company adjuster was countered with an immediate denial from a higher level official. I was forced to visit two separate doctors and undergo not one but two psychiatric evaluations. Having passed all of my evaluations, the insurance company continued to deny the request and I was forced to go to court.
Sitting in front of a judge, pleading to amputate my limb was a surreal experience. I was angry that such a personal and difficult decision was taken out of my control because of a chart which showed that it was cheaper to medicate into a stupor for the rest of my life instead of allowing me to amputate and move past the accident. I am confident that there is a special ring in hell for those who yielded such power over my medical options. I suppose I am still angry.
The judge released his verdict six days before the date of my surgery. Thankfully he approved the amputation and issued a reprimand against the insurance company. I remember my insurance adjuster calling me to tell me that the surgery had been approved. She informed me that I would be in her prayers. I curtly responded that she need not bother, that I don't want anything from a God that would listen to the likes of her.
The days leading up to the amputation were dizzying and overwhelming. I walked through my routine in a haze. It felt like whenever I opened my mouth I would start to cry. I have never been so terrified. After all, this was one decision that could not be undone.
There is a difference between fear and doubt. I was afraid, but I never doubted my decision. I knew that keeping my limb meant years of painful and involved surgeries, constant pain and medication which was merely keeping it in check but was forcing me to live in a daze. I would never be able to walk without crutches, and I would have to abandon my aspirations of becoming a mother. I was sacrificing my limb in order to save my dreams and my life.
Every year I become overwhelmed with emotions when my anniversary date approaches. The first few years were grief filled. I mourned my leg and all of the time I lost due to surgeries and pain. I used to dread the anniversary.
Now I am entering my eighth year as an amputee. I will always remember wiggling my toes for the last time, desperate to memorize the feeling. I will never forget looking at my leg for the last time in the operating room and saying goodbye. Those memories used to make me cry, but I now find that I cherish those experiences. Those who sustained traumatic amputations were not afforded to opportunity to say goodbye. I am, in many ways, lucky.
This anniversary, like the ones before, I find my mind drifting back to the days before my surgery. I am more reflective, and the pain doesn't seem as intense. I have come a long way in the past seven years. I rarely contemplate what my life would be like if I had not amputated. I doubt that I would be the person that I have become. I would not have had the same experiences that have molded and changed me. I would not know my own strength. I like who I am; I am a strong and confident amputee woman. I am choosing to focus on the positive on this unique anniversary. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have some cake!
- 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.