About Me

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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.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Knee Replacement Similarities

One year ago tomorrow my Mom embarked on a brave journey. Debilitated by pain, she opted for a double knee replacement in hopes of rediscovering her active lifestyle. Although the past 12 months have been anything but easy, we are all thankful that she is better off today than she was before the surgery.

Much like my first year after my amputation, the past year has been a learning experience for my Mom. Once the surgical pain waned, she was confronted with a harsh reality. Her knees, although now functional, felt foreign. I can certainly relate to that experience!

It took a long time for my residual limb to feel like a natural part of my body. Although I wasn't in pain, I didn't feel normal either. Slowly I began to adjust, and my amputated leg felt normal. Although I'm now comfortable within my own skin, I have come to realize that I will never feel like I did before my amputation. It isn't better or worse, it's just different. For me, embracing and accepting the differences instead of making comparisons between my pre and post amputation life has been my key to adjustment.

On numerous occasions throughout the year I have listened to my Mom lament the different feel of her replacement knees. They are working and she isn't in pain, but they continue to feel unnatural. Feeling disconnected from part of your body can be frustrating and sometimes depressing.

As a family, we were prepared for the physical recovery. We had a timeline provided by the surgeon and, although we wanted to believe that she would progress faster than predicted, it was fairly accurate. What we didn't realize, perhaps we were naive and ignoring the obvious, was that the knee replacements would not immediately feel natural. The knees will function and allow her to walk without pain, but that they will never replace her biological joints. 

Before this experience I never thought about the similarities between a joint replacement and an amputation. Both are permanent changes within the body, and both force the patient to adjust to a new normal. With time, I'm sure that the replacement knees will feel more natural, just as my residual limb has become my new normal.

Despite the physical difference, there is no doubt that the knee replacements were a success. Last year my Mom couldn't walk her dogs up the street. This past week she spent the afternoon walking and shopping. Her life is fuller and more active since the surgery.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


Robby and I just came home after a wonderful mini-vacation at my Mom's house. Almost as soon as I saw her, I realized that I've been feeling homesick and didn't know it. Robby was just as excited to see his Nana, and relished in her undivided attention and doting. After all, where else can he have waffles in bed and noodles for dessert!

As I was driving home yesterday, it dawned on me how very lucky I am to be able to pack up on a whim and travel. If I worked a traditional office job, my impromptu vacation would have been limited to the weekend or would not have been possible. Because my work requires only a secure internet connection, easily attainable thanks to my Hotspot Shield VPN, I am able to travel without missing project deadlines or emails. I love the flexibility that my jobs afford me, and it is a benefit I will never take for granted!

Spending the past few days with my Mom was both relaxing and fun. We went shopping, which is always an adventure when I'm with my Mom. She makes me giggle over the smallest things, and I can't help but feel uplifted and happy when we are together. We even fit in some much appreciated pool time (thanks to her friend, Mrs. Sager), where Robby was able to play, splash and expend some energy.

Perhaps the best part of visiting my Mom occurs in the mornings when I am treated to delicious treats. I thoroughly enjoyed the blueberry muffins and coffee cake that was freshly baked in the mornings. My diet went out the window as I allowed myself to indulge. I never imagined that I would find somebody else cooking meals to feel like a luxury. 

Of course all good things much come to an end, and yesterday Robby and I loaded up the car and headed home. My little guy cried for the first 30 minutes of our drive home, lamenting that he was going to miss his Nana and making me promise that we would return soon. He is just like me; he becomes comfortable and hates change.

Robby and Scott were virtually inseparable last night with Robby insisting that they play every XBox game while filling his Daddy in on all of our adventures while we were away. As much fun as he had visiting my Mom, there was no doubt that he was happy to be back at home. It is nice to be home, but I am certainly going to miss being spoiled by my Mom!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Turtle Tuesday

Yesterday was "Turtle Tuesday" at the Baltimore Aquarium. For a seven year old koopa lover, this event translated into pure Utopian bliss. He was so excited when I revealed our plans for the day that he ran into the bedroom to get dressed without being prompted the typical half dozen times. Of course, in his rush he ended up putting his pants on crooked and his shirt inside out and backwards. These fashion faux pas were inconsequential because we were off to see the turtles!

Robby accepted a map from the aquarium volunteer as soon as we entered the building. Without hesitating he informed me that he was not interested in looking at the fish. "Momom, I already saw fish in the biggest aquarium in the world which is the ocean. I don't need to look at them again." So I guess he isn't going to become a Marine Biologist when he grows up.

Bypassing all of the impressive and beautiful tanks, we made a beeline towards the new sea turtle exhibit. Robby wiggled his way towards the front of the tank and squealed with delight when he saw the giant sea turtle swim gracefully in front of him. Almost in unison, we both gasped when we realized that the turtle was missing his front fin. "Momom, Momom. Did you see? He's an amputee too." (He was definitely the only visitor in the area to view being an amputee as something normal.)
The crowds ebbed and flowed, but Robby maintained his position directly in front of the exhibit. During a lull the aquarium volunteer came to speak with Robby, and my little koopa lover inquired about the missing fin. The volunteer explained that Calypso (the turtle) didn't have his front fin anymore but that he was a happy and healthy turtle. He then asked Robby, "Do you know what you call a turtle who is missing a fin?" Without waiting for a response, he answered his own question by condescendingly declaring, "A survivor."

Without taking his eyes of the turtle, Robby retorted, "No, you call him an amputee. And why doesn't he have a prosthetic fin to help him swim?" The volunteer seemed a little taken aback by this question, and after umming and ahhing several times finally offered that, "We can't get a fin to fit him because he is 450 pounds." He smiled, seemingly satisfied that his answer would quell Robby's unorthodox questions.

He obviously underestimated Robby! My little koopa fan finally took his eyes off the turtle. He smiled, and then glared, at the volunteer and replied, "You are not taking him to the right Prosthetist. You should call Mr. Elliot. He can make a prosthetic that will work for this turtle who is an amputee because he is missing his fin." I think the volunteer realized that this was not an exchange he was going to win, and she quickly busied herself with other visitors at the exhibit.

Wanting to learn more about Calypso, Robby and I found a touch screen information center near the exhibit. Looking at the photograph, we touched the missing fin for information. The screen simply said, "Calypso is missing his fin. This is an indication that he is a survivor." After reading the screen, Robby asked me why they won't call the turtle an amputee. "After all, it isn't a bad word like sh*t, is it?"

Robby and I spent the afternoon at the Aquarium looking for turtles in all of the exhibits. We visited Calypso on three separate occasions, and each time Robby reminded me that he thought it was "dumb that they won't call the turtle an amputee." I have to admit that Robby had a point. Constantly calling the turtle a survivor and actively avoiding the use of the term amputee seemed to be an attempt to sugar coat reality. The turtle was missing a fin, but he was healthy and assumed happy. Calling him an amputee does not diminish his value; if anything the fin loss helps to make him unique.

Calypso could have been an example to teach children (and some of their parents) that a happy and adapted life is possible after a disability. Instead the differences are being ignored instead of celebrated. The aquarium staff should have been able to tell us Calypso's story, but none of them knew his background.

Walking through the gift shop, Robby and I tried to find Calypso souvenirs. All of the postcards, posters and t-shirts showed the turtle from his finned side creating the illusion of his being a completely able-bodied turtle. It seems to me that fabricating merchandise that would celebrate Calypso's journey would be far more beneficial, both monetarily and socially, than trying to mask the reality. I am glad that the turtle has found a home, but I am disappointed that a wonderful and unique teaching opportunity has been lost.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Shameful Photoshopping

Photoshop can be a wonderful tool. With a few clicks, the program can miraculously shave inches off my hips, remove tan lines, and brighten my eyes in family photographs. Obviously I do not have an issue with a little tweaking and self-enhancement, especially when it is so convenient to achieve. After all, we all deserve photos which we are proud to share.

Problems often arise when Photoshop is used to compromise the authenticity of an image. Two years ago the city of New York launched an obesity awareness campaign which featured an overweight amputee sitting on a stool, visually linking obesity with diabetes and limb loss. Controversy arose when it was revealed that the individual shown was not an amputee, and that his limb was digitally removed. The conversation instantly switched from obesity to the efficacy of Photoshopping a disability. Because of the decision to feign limb loss, any hope of making inroads towards the original cause were lost.

Yesterday another image was brought to my attention. The IPC (International Paralympic Committee) issued a promotional photo of an above elbow amputee swimmer. The poster was issued in advance of the upcoming swimming World Championships in Montreal. I was flabbergasted when I learned that what could have been an inspiring poster designed to promote a worthy event, was actually a Photoshopped image. How could the IPC condone Photoshopping a disability in order to promote their event which, ironically, celebrates differently-abled athletes?  Personally, I found this poster utterly reprehensible!

I am shocked that the IPC would stoop to digitally creating a disability when they have access to gifted (and authentically disabled) athletes. Creating and utilizing a digital disability to promote an event designed to celebrate the athletic prowess of individuals with handicaps borders on the absurd. Featuring a legitimate athlete who was set to compete in the event would have been far more effective and honest.

The athletes who are competing are worthy of being celebrated, yet the IPC deemed it necessary to push the true disabilities of their athletes into the corner and out of sight in an attempt to promote their event. Sometimes it feels like our society is still operating under a 1940's mentality when handicaps and physical differences were not discussed and were certainly never seen.  As an individual with an amputation and as a fan of the Paralympic games, I am disappointed that the IPC did not demonstrate the foresight and the compassion to utilize a legitimately disabled individual to promote their event.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Shopping Pains

We are now being inundated with what for many children (and more than a few adults) has become the three saddest words ever uttered. You can't turn on the television or log onto the computer without seeing Back to School ads. Being the daughter of a teacher, a former teacher, a mother of a school aged child and the wife of a teacher, I have mixed feelings about this time of year. For the first time since Robby started going to school, the commercials have not thrown me into an emotional tailspin.

Not wanting to delay the inevitable and hoping to fully maximize our saving ability, we dedicated Saturday to Robby's back to school shopping. The first store was packed to capacity with long lines snaking through the aisles at each check-out. We were pushed, nudged, cursed at and cut off on by an angry woman pushing a cart, all in our benign quest to find the correct size pants. I appreciated the savings, but we certainly paid a different type of price with our time and frustration levels.

In what turned out to be an error of judgment, I decided that we should go shopping at our local outlet mall instead of driving between all of the stores. I figured that having the stores within close vicinity would simplify our shopping and save us time. Apparently all of Northern Virginia had the same idea because the mall was packed!

We walked at a snails pace trying to avoid being whacked by the bursting bags and the ample hips of our fellow shoppers. For whatever reason, my prosthesis garnered more stares than normal. I'm accustomed to being noticed, but the outright gawking was both rude and tiresome. Robby, who is typically oblivious, even noticed the increased stares. After an hour of tolerating the attention, he responded by meeting the stares of the offenders until they noticed and were shamed into looking away. He seemed to take a lot of enjoyment out of this game, proudly announcing each time he "caught" another one looking.

Although it was more frustrating and time consuming than we anticipated, we are done shopping for his school clothes. Thankfully he doesn't particularly care about fashion and he agreed to just about everything he was shown. I have to admit that he handled the task with more grace than he has in the past. Instead of crying and fretting, Robby simply accepted the clothes and supplies without offering much in terms of conversation. Of course, tormenting the starers probably distracted him from complaining about spending the day shopping. 

Next year, I think I'll just do our back to school shopping online!