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, May 29, 2009

An Amusing Amusement Park story...

I find it hard to believe that my little baby boy is going to be three years old tomorrow. In some ways it seems like it was just yesterday that we were bringing him home from the hospital, swaddled in his froggy blanket. It also feels like I have known him my whole life. I guess that is how it is with a Mommy's heart.

On Robby's first birthday, Scott and I began the tradition of spending the day with him doing a special activity. That first year we went to the National Zoo. Last year we went to his favorite petting zoo. This year, because he is a "big boy" we are going to go to an amusement park.

Amusement parks present a myriad of issues to an amputee. First, there is always a lot of walking. For some reason architects seem to build the parks on the sides of hills!

I have to dress thoughtfully when going to an amusement park. I need to remove my leg for all rides in which my legs dangle. Because I'll be pulling my leg on and off all day, I need to wear shorts. I always encounter more stares when I wear shorts, and for some reason amusement parks seem to liberate people because the stares are always more intense and deliberate.

In addition to his roles as Daddy and ride partner, Scott must assume the job of "leg runner." I must take the limb off in front of everybody and watch as Scott carries it to the operator's seat. I often find myself embarrassed. When the ride is over, I have to stay put until Scott can retrieve my leg. At times watching him walk around carrying a leg can be quite a spectacle.

I learned the hard way the necessity of removing a prosthetic before riding. In the spring of my first year as an amputee I accompanied my student to an amusement park for her class trip. We went to ride the swings, and I made sure she was buckled in correctly before taking a seat behind her.

The ride started. About half way through the ride, I felt my leg begin to slip. Before I could even process what was going on it happened. My prosthetic slipped off my stump and went swooping away from me. It flew over the ride fence and knocked over the easel of a portraiture artist about 30 feet away from me.

Mortified I had to sit and wait for the wide-eyed teenager to retrieve my leg. Ever since this experience I am sure to remove my prosthetic even if it does cause some embarrassment.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Insurance woes...

I lost my leg due to an accident I sustained at work. Hence, I have a Workman's Compensation claim that covers my medical and prosthetic costs. Or, at least, they are supposed to cover my costs.

I have an adjuster assigned to my case whom I will refer to as "Elsie." This is not her real name, but I feel compelled to provide her with some anonymity. (Although, to be quite honest, I am not sure that she deserves this courtesy.) Elsie apparently has the authority to approve or to deny claims. This power has gone to her head.

Elsie has systematically denied payment for numerous prosthetic devices. I have been calling to secure prosthetic liners since February, to no avail. Apparently the liners have been approved, but payment has yet to be processed.

The true irony in my relationship with Elsie is that I have yet to meet her. In actuality, she has never spoken with me. I have made numerous attempts to make contact, but my calls have yet to be returned. I wish I could have voice mail pick up my calls all day! I am frustrated that somebody whom I have yet to meet has such power and control over my body and lifestyle.

Another surprising fact about Elsie is that she is an amputee. I am astounded that somebody with the same disability would work to handicap me further by denying proper prosthetic devices. I hope that her insurance company meets her need with the same compassion and competence she displays.

I become dismayed when I think about my future. I envision myself being 92 years old, happily living in a nursing home. In the meantime, some pencil pushing insurance adjuster is going to be questioning my doctors about my projected longevity. "Do you really think she'll be living beyond 6 months? How can you be sure? Perhaps we should seek another opinion, because she could die before using the leg...."

They are going to try to deny a leg or liner on the basis of my age because they will bank on my dying before the appeal can be processed. I feel overwhelmed when I contemplate my future because I know that I will encounter endless roadblocks and obstacles. Maybe insurance companies count on beating patients into submission.

In many ways, I am more handicapped by the red tape put forth by Elsie than by the amputation itself. Given the proper devices, I lead an active and healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, Elsie puts a monetary value on my quality of life and frequently denies claims for standard medical equipment. If you have challenges with your insurance company, you are not alone. It is really frustrating, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Sandals

I have written before about how much I detest shoe shopping. I tend to wear the same shoes daily. I don't have cause to change my shoes frequently because sneakers tend to match any "Mommy uniform" I am wearing. This being understood, I do change my shoes for the season. Summer is approaching which means it is time to bring out the sandals.

I used to be particular when shopping for sandals. I required a strap around the back of the foot to keep the shoe on the prosthetic. Instantly, my choices were minimized to include a variety of "granny sandals."

Last year I had an epiphany: VELCRO!

I bought industrial strength Velcro from Target. I would recommend paying the dollar extra for industrial strength in this situation. You want to make sure that you have a strong hold between your prosthetic and the shoe. It is not only embarrassing, but also dangerous to walk out of your shoe.

After cleaning the bottom of the foot shell, apply the soft side of the Velcro. I keep the Velcro on my foot shell permanently. It doesn't interfere with socks and other shoes, so I have found no reason to remove it.

However, I would be remiss if I didn't offer one word of caution. Walking directly on the Velcro i.e. barefoot can increase the possibility of slipping. When walking without a shoe on a prosthetic foot, walk with caution. I have tile floors in my kitchen which, when clean, tend to be quite slick against the Velcro. To be completely honest, I don't clean the floors that often, so slipping is rarely an issue.

I put the hook side of the Velcro (the rough side) on the inside of the sandal I want to wear. I use two pieces, one up towards the toe and one close to heal. Place the shoe onto the foot shell and press. After you adjust your heel height, you're ready to go!

You may hear some "ripping" sounds with the first few steps. This is the Velcro adjusting and gaining a secure attachment. It can be annoying, but it goes away after you walk for a few minutes. So go ahead, paint those toenails and wear cute sandals. Just don't forget the Velcro!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

5 things I wish I had known before my amputation...

Before my amputation I engaged in hours of research. I became as familiar with the medical jargon as possible. I spoke with other amputees, and I met with my prosthetist.

Despite all of my efforts to educate myself, I encountered surprising facts and situations about being an amputee that I did not anticipate. Here are my top 5 surprising facts about being a new amputee.

1. Nobody told me about the intense stinging sensation in my stump when it was below heart level. Stinging is actually an understatement because it can be likened to being bitten by a hoard of wasps simultaneously. I wasn't prepared for the feeling the first time I dangled my stump and I was overwhelmed. It was helpful when I was able to anticipate the stinging. Fortunately, the doctors were correct and it did fade with time.

2. I cannot shave my stump. This seems to be common knowledge, but I somehow missed this little tidbit in my research. I don't think it would be as big of an issue for men, but I had a difficult time adjusting to a hairy stump.

3. Depression! I didn't realize how much the amputation was going to affect me psychologically. I thought I was mentally prepared for the adjustment. What I have discovered is that one can never be 100% prepared for such a drastic change. It took a very long time for me to realize that I am not my leg. It sounds strange, but it was revitalizing to discover that I am the same person without my leg. I will blog more about this issue in the future.

4. Unfortunately, when friends and family don't know what to say or do to make a situation better, they avoid. Before my surgery, we were deluged with offers of meals and help from friends. After my amputation, Scott and I found that we were alone. This is not because they did not care. Rather, they did not know what to say or do. Instead of risking saying the wrong thing, they simply didn't call or visit. This was incredibly isolating during an already difficult time. Scott and I both lamented the perceived abandonment. Given time we have been accepted back into the fold by our friends but, to be honest, an unspoken pain still lingers. I learned to rely on a handful of loyal friends whom I could call at anytime.

5. Volume fluctuations are a recurring issue. I didn't realize how much the stump will fluctuate in size, not even over time but during a given day. My socket will become tight for a variety of reasons, including diet and the weather. Substantial fluctuations in weight equates to changes in sockets. I have gone through at least 5 sockets since I began my weight loss journey, over 100 pounds ago.

Since I have started my blog I have been contacted by several people who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of facing an impending amputation. Although I am by no means an expert, I am happy to speak to my experiences with the surgery, the recovery and my life as an amputee. Please, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just want to talk with somebody who truly understands. After all, we are a very small community and it is important to reach out to each other!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Playing in the Park...

I was playing in the park the other day with Robby, and one of my fears became a reality. Since before he was conceived, I worried how my child would react when ridiculed because of Mommy's leg. Kids are cruel, and I knew that regardless of all of my efforts, teasing was inevitable.

Robby was playing with a group of older kids; they seemed to be around 5 years old. Because Robby is only two, I always stay close when we are in the park. I was standing a few feet away, watching him interact and play. I have discovered that many parents don't stay close to their children at the park which I'm sure will the subject in a future blog.

I heard the boys talking, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. Then, they all started chanting, in unison, "your Mommy's a freakoid... your Mommy's a freakoid." I was horrified and stunned. I wasn't sure if I could address the children or let them work it out. The teacher in me told me to observe and see how it plays out, but the Mommy in me wanted to go and rescue my child.

Robby is almost 3. I'm sure he doesn't know what a "freakoid" is yet, but he does know that it isn't a nice thing, and that the kids were saying it about his Mommy. He started saying, "No no no. My Mommy... no no no." The kids proceeded with the chant, ignoring my son's comments.

Undeterred, Robby continued to tell them to stop. When his verbal requests were ignored by these little "urchins," he instinctually moved onto the next step. He started picking up handfuls of mulch and proceeded to throw it into the faces of the boys. I was amazed at how quickly two little hands could throw mulch, and the quantity that those little hands could hold.

Within seconds, the boys scattered. I watched the boys run to their parents, and I immediately started to receive "the glare." Obviously, the boys failed report the impetus for the mulch throwing. After smiling at the glaring parents, I gave Robby a hug. I then told him that he shouldn't throw mulch because it could hurt. I told him that I loved him and bought him ice cream.