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, July 03, 2009

My Anniversary, My Story

Every amputee has a story, and I am no exception. My story began in 1998. I was just starting out in life and I felt unstoppable. I had just earned my Masters Degree from Michigan State, and I was working for a major hospital in the Baltimore area. I was fulfilling my lifelong dream of providing rehabilitation services to blind adults.

I was eager to attend my first professional conference. While at the conference, a computer monitor fell onto the top of my foot. The bones were crushed. More detrimental but unknown at the time, the nerves were damaged.

When the severity of the accident was first known, I resolved to "save my foot at all costs." Over twenty surgeries later, I began to consider a life without my limb. I faced the most excruciating decision of my life.

It took one year to the date from my inquiring about an amputation to when the actual surgery occurred. In many ways, this was the most difficult year of my life. I struggled with the decision, knowing that it was correct but terrified of what my life would be like as an amputee. This decision was permanent.

I did a lot of research, met with other amputees and discussed the surgery with my family and friends. I wrote letters to myself, detailing my reasons for the surgery in an effort to remind myself in the future. Those letters were a godsend and I cherish them. I still read those letters when I am having a difficult time being an amputee. I read them to remind myself of the pain that ever present in my life. Reading those words take away the doubts and regrets that still linger after all these years.

The night before the amputation seemed torturous. I remember breaking down after I took a bath. I have never before nor after felt the sense of terror that I felt at that moment. I was paralyzed by fear. All I could do was cry and it wasn't a normal cry. It felt more primitive and was totally, completely uncontrollable. It was a horrible night.

On July 3, 2003 Scott drove me to the hospital for my amputation. It was the longest two hours of my life. I felt like I was existing in a surreal daze, unable to completely connect with my impending reality.

I remember breaking into tears when trying to give my name to the registration clerk. The loneliest moment in my life was being wheeled into the operating room on a gurney. I knew that there was no turning back. I knew that I was going to be changed forever. But I didn't know how my amputation would influence every aspect of my life.

Waking up in my room, I was holding my mom's hand. I looked into her eyes, and I realized for the first time that I had become an amputee. Instantly, I began to panic. I remember telling her "Oh my God. I don't have my foot."

The recovery was arduous. I developed infections that required further surgical intervention. As a teacher, I had planned the amputation around my summer break. I was forced to return to work in September with an infected stump and unable to use a prosthetic.

Depression is not strong enough of a word to describe my state during this time. Five months later I was finally fit with a prosthetic. Regaining the ability to walk renewed my sense of hope. My body, and my spirit, began to heal.

When I was initially injured I never could have imagined my life at this time. My journey has left me feeling empowered. I know that I will have the strength to persevere through obstacles that develop. This experience has taught me so much about myself and about human nature.

I have learned about love through the support of my family and Scott. We were only dating when I had the amputation. He had every reason to leave, to get a girlfriend who wasn't confronting such issues. He devotion during this time demonstrated the true definition of being a man.

Scott and I continue to be astounded and appalled by the audacity of many individuals we encounter in public. I was ignorant about devotees and "wannabes." I was disappointed and hurt by the abandonment of many in our social circle. I was encouraged by the support of strangers and acquaintances.

I don't know if I am a better person because of my amputation. I do know that I am a different person because of the amputation. I made the choice to move forward with my life in spite of my "disabled" status. This is not always easy.

Today is a difficult day. It is the six year anniversary of my amputation. I am allowing myself to mourn. I am going to stay busy so that the tears will be kept to a minimum.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Very Difficult Week...

I find myself fighting to remain upbeat this week, but has been a battle that I am not sure I am winning. Perhaps it is because this week marks the sixth year since my amputation. Normally I do not dwell on being an amputee during the course of my day. The last few days I have found myself hating being an amputee.

Every morning this week as I rolled on my liner and stepped into my leg, I have heard myself muttering, "I hate this thing." I didn't realize I was saying it out loud until Robby pointed to my leg this morning and said, "Mama hate leg." That made me sad.

I typically don't spend a lot of time dwelling on the limitations of being an amputee. This week I haven't been able to escape these thoughts. I am tired of having to depend on an artificial device to walk. I am tired of insurance companies and their politics. I am tired of the cricket leg I have been living with since the surgery. I am tired of being vigilant about sores and scratches on my residual limb. I am tired of people staring. I am tired of being different. I guess I am just plain tired of being an amputee.

I never envisioned the vast changes that would occur in my daily routine to accommodate my amputation. From the bathroom rails that have been installed to the well thought-out placement of Robby's swing set, I find myself feeling resentful. I never wanted to be an amputee. I know nobody really does.

So many of the decisions in my life have been influenced by my being an amputee. I quickly look at the landscape before I walk in grass or on trails. I am constantly scanning the ground when I walk so that I don't trip. I diligently wipe my prosthetic foot before entering stores after a rain to prevent slipping and falling. This week, I am angry about these adaptations.

I know that I need to allow myself these feelings, however unpleasant they may be. I keep reminding myself that it is normal to have the "amputation blues" close to the anniversary date. My close friends and family know that this is a difficult week and have shown increased patience and understanding. Their support is paramount.

Every person gets into a funk occassionally, and I am no exception. I think it is important to aknowledge the blues and then to move forward. I may hate putting on my leg this week, but I am still putting it on and walking through the day. Next week I know that these feelings will subside. But this is a difficult week.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My morbid curiosity..

After the amputation, my immediate recovery was consumed by surgical healing. After I was physically healed I focused my efforts on walking with a prosthetic. That being mastered, I moved slowly through my post-amputation identity crisis. It is during this phase that I developed a somewhat morbid curiosity.

At first I hesitated to share my question with anybody. I had convinced myself that they wouldn't understand my need to know the answer. In retrospect, I think maybe I was afraid to find out the answer. During this time I realized that I probably wasn't the only amputee to face this question. I set about finding an answer.

I needed to know what happened to my foot after the amputation. The thought of my foot, although useless when detached from my leg, being thrown in a trash can made me cringe. I spent many nights worried that my limb was being used as a prop for a fraternity party. I imagined my foot floating in an ocean, or thrown in a chipper and tossed into a bin with hundreds of other amputated parts. All of these scenerios made me sad.

Finally, after nearly three years, I gathered up my courage and asked my surgeon. I felt an immediate sense of comfort when he provided the answer. Although he could only speak specific to his hospital, I think it is safe to assume that the protocol is similar in most hospitals.

After my limb was removed, it was wrapped in a surgical sheet. It was then placed, not thrown, into a bin. After the surgery it was taken to a different section of the hospital where all of the amputated limbs and body parts were gathered. My foot was then blessed by a contingency of clergy from various denominations before being incinerated.

I am not sure why this knowledge gave me a sense of peace, but it has. I am thankful that my limb was treated with respect after it was detached from my body. I am writing this because I am sure I am not the only amputee to face this question. Maybe others will find a sense of comfort and peace knowing that their limb was treated with respect after surgery.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh where, Oh where did my self-esteem go?

At the end of last week, my self-esteem was skyrocketing. The sun was shining and I was able to trade the winter white hue of my skin for a healthy tan. I had, if not conquered, at least taken a chunk out of my fear of riding the bike outside. I felt strong and pretty. I was enthusiastic to begin our family summer vacation.

On Friday, we packed up and flew to Ohio. We were visiting my mother-in-law and were planning to attend the annual family reunion. The reunion has always been a lot of fun in years past. It is held on the farm which has been in the family for more than 100 years. Scott and I both knew that Robby was going to love the tractor and hay rides that have become a tradition.

After a full day of traveling with a toddler, we finally arrived at my mother-in-law's house. (I am sure you know where this blog is going.) I was tired. I needed to use the bathroom. I promptly clogged her toilet. I had to get my husband to go and ask his mother for the plunger. Humiliation strike number one.

The turnout was high for this year's reunion. After eating and the annual water balloon toss, the family piled onto a hay wagon for the much anticipated ride. Most of the kids were seated on the straw bales down the center of the wagon. The adults were perched along the sides.

I remember going on the hay rides, but I don't recall them being so bumpy. Maybe the tractor was pulling faster than in years past, or perhaps it was the route that was taken. Whatever the reason, we bounced along the road with the wind blowing through my hair and my legs dangling freely.

Without warning and in one swift motion, my prosthetic flew off my stump. It landed in the brush weeds along the side of the road. Instinctively I yelled out, "Oh sh@%! I just lost my leg." Instantly the family was aware of the incident. The wagon stopped.

Upon hearing me yell, Robby began to cry. He was obviously upset that his Mommy lost her leg. Through the giggles and laughter, I tried to comfort him. He calmed only after my leg was retrieved and securely attached.

In spite of providing a giggle for the other passengers, I was embarrassed. Regardless of the company, it is never a comfortable situation when I lose my leg. Humiliation strike number two.

After the picnic and some much needed rest, the family opted to eat out for dinner. We went to Frisch's, a family dining restaurant. Robby was tired. A lot of exercise along with no nap combined to create a restaurant monster. We ordered the one remedy guaranteed to quiet the restaurant monster: a milk shake. Robby sucked on his milk shake while we hurredly ate our meal. Anxious for a quick and uneventful exit, I took the check along with my husband's debit card to the register to pay the bill.

The cashier, who incidentally didn't look a day over 15, took the check and the debit card. (I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Scott's debit card features his photo in the corner.) The cashier looked at the photo on the card, and then looked at me. With a confused look, she reexamined the card and then stared at me. Slowly, she rang up the bill and swiped the card.

She leaned over the counter and handed me the card and receipt. Looking around for eavesdroppers, she motioned me to lean forward. In a hushed tone she said, "Your surgeon did a really good job. You hardly look like a man anymore." Humiliation strike number three.

Unable to think quickly of a witty response and feeling deflated, I returned to the car. I relayed the story to my husband, who laughed and immediately began calling me "Pete." I suppose the old adage that says, "Pride goeth before the fall" holds true. I arrived in Ohio feeling on top of the world. By the end of the trip I was clicking my heels, saying "there is no place like home." When that didn't work, I sought the comfort of a hot fudge sundae.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Marking my Territory.

I have to admit that I had a difficult time adjusting to Motherhood. My issues were compounded by difficulties with my stump that arose after delivery. I developed bone spurs during the pregnancy. Six weeks after Robby was born, I was in the hospital having a revision surgery. This was a difficult time for our new family.

Although he has grown into a delightful (most of the time) child, he was a difficult baby. He was awake every three hours. He was difficult to comfort and sometimes he just screamed for no particular reason.

I remember the first time I went to visit my Mom after Robby was born. Exhausted from the two hour drive with a screaming newborn, I handed off her newest grandson. I then broke down sobbing. As I was crying, I was trying to explain to my Mom that I gave birth to the demon child. I was convinced that the tiny little baby was, indeed, going to chase me around the house with knives someday.

Luckily, Robby's temperment evened out quickly. We discovered shortly after this incident that he had two infected toenails. My husband and I both found this strange, given that I am missing one foot and Scott is missing his big toe. To have a child with infected toes at one month old was bitterly ironic.

After the revision surgery to remove the bone spurs, my recovery was relatively quick. Although it was painful, I was able to wear my prosthetic and resumed walking within 8 weeks. I had a significant limp due to the pain from the surgery. I was, however, able to focus on my newborn and life as a Mommy.

Needless to say, I was not feeling social. When we had company, many times I opted to stay upstairs with Robby. In retrospect, I am sure I experienced a classic case of the "baby blues." Combined with my typical "post surgical depression," I was really a mess.

A friend of Scott's from work, came over to watch a football game one Saturday. I'll refer to her as "Polly." I avoided interacting too much and opted to stay upstairs to prepare the snacks.

At half-time, Polly came up to talk to me. Now, she is a size four on her heaviest day. Perfect hair and skin. I was wearing a shirt covered with baby spit-up. I am pretty sure that I hadn't washed my hair in several days. In fact, it is possible that I hadn't brushed it at all that day. I was overweight from the pregnancy and eating too much. I was exhausted. To say I felt ugly is an understatement.

She started talking, telling me how cute my baby was and how my house was nice. Then she started to talk about Scott. She started to smile that "he makes me want to giggle" smile that all women know. She said, "You must wake up every morning, so thankful to be next to somebody as wonderful as Scott." Distracted and too tired to mark my territory, I responded with an eloquent "Huh?"

It was a horrible feeling watching another woman flirt with my husband. I think I had such a passive reaction because of my pain and exhaustion. To be honest, I just didn't have the energy to take care of myself. Hence, I didn't feel attractive or have the energy to "fight for my man."

Time passed and I became adjusted to my new role as Mother. Slowly, the pain from my bone spur surgery began to dissipate. My limp lessened and my activity level sky-rocketed. I began to exercise, eat better, and perhaps more importantly, I began to laugh again. I finally feel secure in my role as Mom and more comfortable living my life as an amputee.

I ran into Polly the other day. I think it took her a few moments to figure out who I was. Although very polite, I could see the glint of disappointment in her eyes. She was no longer prettier than me. I have lost weight, adjusted to motherhood, walk gracefully with my prosthetic and take of myself and my family. So Polly, how do you like me now!