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 07, 2009

Waiting for Sleep...

People often ask me to explain the biggest adjustment I faced post-amputation. Many people assume that it would be walking on a prosthetic. They are often surprised by my answer.

Sleeping was, without a doubt, the most difficult adjustment post-amputation. I just could not get comfortable with my residual limb. My amputation and my stump felt foreign as I was lying in bed. I felt incomplete.

I remember lying on my side, trying to rest my stump against my sound leg. It felt strange. My legs no longer lined up and I couldn't get used to the new sensations. Regardless of the position I tried, I felt like a stranger in my new body. It was horrible.

It was during the midnight hours that I shed the most tears. I grieved for what I lost. I cried out of the anger and frustration that stemmed from being a stranger in my own body. I couldn't get comfortable. I couldn't escape the amputation, even in sleep. I used to just lie as still as possible until I finally fell asleep. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I saw the sunrise.

I found that I didn't have difficulty napping during the day. At first I attributed the ability to nap to my insomnia. Although this was probably a contributory factor, I suspect that my wearing the IPOP (Immediate Post-Operative Prosthetic) allowed me to finally rest.

My IPOP against the mattress and my body simulated the sensations of having a leg again. I was able to nap with little fidgeting and no tears. Unfortunately I was not able to wear the IPOP for extended periods of time, so I could not wear it at night.

I found sleep a little easier when I wore a shrinker sock. I suspect it was a combination of compression and keeping the skin on the stump covered. I often placed an elongated pillow under my stump when sleeping at night. The pillow provided some physical feedback on my sound limp as well as providing a comfortable resting position for my stump.

Eventually, I adjusted to sleeping without my leg. It was difficult, but I am now comfortable with my residual limb. I slowly became familiar with the feeling of my stump in bed, and those sensations became less foreign. There are times when I still use a shrinker sock and a pillow to fall asleep, but these instances are rare. I am not sure that time heals all wounds, but it certainly does facilitate adjusting.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Where do I go from here?

It is official. I am in a funk. I would like to contribute my emotional duldrum to the "post-vacation" blues. It could be my hormones. I suspect it is deeper than these simple explanations.

I feel like I am at a crossroads. Unfortunately, I am lost without a map and I don't know the names of the roads. Lately I've been feeling like I'm just existing, searching for something more.

I feel alone, although I know that I am not. I know that everybody faces these feelings at some point. The unfortunate reality is that we tend to keep these "negative emotions" in check and rarely share them with others. Concealing these feelings from others merely perpetuates the feeling of isolation. Intellectually, I know that this is true. Emotionally, it is still difficult.

I adore Robby and being his Mommy. I really can't imagine putting him in daycare full time and missing out on watching him grow and learn. I am not saying that being his Mommy is unfullfilling. I am afraid to publically admit this, but I feel incomplete.

Being a Mommy, I feel as if my talents are limited to changing dirty pants, wiping noses and doing the laundry. I know that being a loving parent is the best thing I can do for Robby. It isn't exactly cerebrally challenging. I feel as if I should be accomplishing more with my life.

I have always been a goal oriented individual. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from both my undergraduate and graduate programs. I knew when I was in the third grade that I wanted to teach blind people, and I never waivered from this plan.

After graduation, I immediately began my "dream job." My foot injury, the subsequent surgeries and the ultimately the amputation forced me to reshape my dreams and my goals. I was never lacking a target, until now.

My dreams are easy to define. In addition to raising Robby, I want to help other amputees deal with their adaptations and challenges. I would love to write a book someday, sharing my story and the struggles I faced both before and after my amputation. I want to help amputee parents by sharing my experiences.

I not only doubt that I have the ability to write a book, but I doubtful that others would be interested enough to read my book. After all, I haven't exactly done anything extraordinary with my life. I am really no different than a myriad of amputees who try to move forward with their lives to the best of their ability.

I suppose I feel lost because, for the first time in my life, I don't have a path between my dream and my goal. I have never dared to dream something so far beyond my realistic reach. Perhaps I am searching for a deeper purpose beyond "bad luck" for my amputation.

Like all emotional lows, I know that this too will pass. It is difficult to be too blue when taking care of the best little toddler in the world. I am more than a Mommy and a Wife. I need to change the parameters I use to define myself. In the meantime, I will continue searching.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

When Caretaking Becomes Enabling?

My life after my amputation has been full of adjustments. I had to learn how to live my life with a prosthetic and without my natural limb. I had to learn to walk again. I had to redefine the relationships in my life.

I was shocked at how much my amputation affected the relationships I held with my family and friends. Scott had never known me to be independent. He did not know me before my injury and had only known the Peggy dealing with constant pain and revolving surgeries. As I became more independent as an amputee I was losing many of the traits, albeit unflattering, that he had known about me.

The first sign that our relationship was going to change occurred during my first visit to the prosthetist. After Elliot, my prosthetist, looked at my newly created stump, he told me that I could rewrap the bandage. Scott immediately stood up, grabbed the ace bandage, and began wrapping. After all, this had been his role.

Elliot immediately stopped him. He was blunt when telling Scott that I needed to wrap the stump myself. Elliot was right of course, but I was not happy at the time. I thought that I still physically needed Scott. The truth was that I didn't like to look at or touch my stump. It was easier for me to just let Scott deal with the bandaging.

After this incident, Scott and I forced ourselves to maintain an open dialog about my needs. Sometimes I thought that I needed more help than he was offering. I became frustrated and angry. At times, he wanted to help me when I wanted to try a task unassisted. He became frustrated at my perceived "stubbornness." We struggled to strike the balance between assistance and enabling.

To be honest, there are some tasks I allow Scott to do for me, even though I am physically capable. For instance, changing my shoe on my prosthetic makes me sad. He knows that, when I get a new pair of shoes, this is his job. I tend to look at this under the guise of "being married" rather than enabling.

In retrospect, Scott and I consider ourselves lucky that Elliot "called out" our behavior pattern early in my recovery. We were immediately made aware of our tendencies. I imagine that growing pains exist within all couples when a limb loss occurs. The "able bodied" partner wants to protect and take care of their injured partner. It is difficult for both the amputee and their partner to evaluate a true "need" versus the desire to spare feelings, or to simply make life easier.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mother of the Year? Maybe not...

Robby was restless this afternoon. In an effort to keep him happy and to keep the house quiet so that Scott could watch the Nascar race, postponed from Sunday due to rain, I decided to go to the park. I didn't have a chance to wash my hair, so I pulled it up in a ponytail. I put on a minimally stained "play shirt" and headed out to play.

The last few times we have been to the park Robby was the only child there. I was relieved when I drove up and saw three small children riding their bikes. Robby could hardly wait to get out of his seat to go play with the "big kids."

Robby was off like a dart as soon as I unbuckled him. I dutifully followed, taking my assumed position sitting on the steps. Soon after we arrived, the children abandoned their bikes and came running to play with Robby. Their mother was following behind them, carrying a very large black bag.

The Mom took a seat next to me and immediately opened her bag. She pulled out a can of Lysol and proceeded to spray down the outdoor play equipment. I thought that was a little odd, but I tried to play it off as if it was a normal behavior.

This mother's organization instantly impressed me. She had a smaller bag for each of her children inside her duffel bag. The children's bags had an assortment of outdoor toys and their color coded BPA free water bottle. I went to the back of my car and took out the ball that Robby found at the park a few weeks ago, hoping that the ball's original owner wouldn't show up.

The kids were happily playing. An uncomfortable silence developed between this mom and me. I decided to introduce myself. She proceeded to tell me how she loves being a Mom. She approaches everyday as if it were a school day, and she is the teacher. She wants her children to learn from every experience. She believes in feeding her children only organic food. She does not allow them to eat any processed food and strictly limits their sugar and fat intake.

At this point, Robby came over and showed me an ant on his finger. She was starting to tell the kids about what foods ants eat, which must have sparked an idea for Robby. He looked at her, smiled and ate the ant. He then proceeded to say, "Yummy yummy ant."

I told Robby that he shouldn't eat ants, and I asked him if he wanted a snack. I probably should have considered that I didn't bring any snacks before I offered one to him, but that is besides the point. Robby wanted a snack, and if I didn't think of something, he was going to eat more bugs.

The mom went into her bag and pulled out individual cups of homemade, organic gummy bears. It never dawned on me that gummy bears were something that could be made! She offered Robby a bag. He looked at her and proceeded to sign "hurt" and then made a retching sound.

I probably should have explained that Tiffany, Robby's cousin, loves gummy bears and doesn't like to share. She told him that he will get hurt, choke and possibly die if he eats the candy. I decided that it was best to just ignore the incident.

As her kids were happily drinking their bottled water and eating their organic, homemade gummy bears, I set out looking for a snack for Robby. I found a sippy cup in the car, but no water. Thinking fast, I poured the rest of an old, warm Sprite into his cup. I rummaged around the back of the car. After lifting up the mats, I managed to find enough quasi-clean goldfish to fill a cup. Done. He had a snack and a drink.

After snacktime, the kids resumed playing. They quickly lost interest with playing ball. It was too hot to play tag. The older child suggested hide and seek.

Robby, recognizing the word "hide," became excited. He knew how to play this game. He started chanting the name of an old family game, passed down because of my father's Jewish heritage.

Before I knew it, all four children were chanting. The organic, organized Mom asked me what they were saying. I looked at her, smiled and said, "Hide from Nazis." I then shrugged and said that it is a family tradition.

I wasn't shocked that she suddenly remembered an appointment. Her kids wanted to continue to play the "hide from the Nazi" game, but they were shushed into the mini-van in record time. My grubby little Ant Eater was sad that everybody left. I am guessing that, after today, I should withdraw my application for "Mother of the Year" and I should start looking for a new park.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Up Up and Away...

It never ceases to amaze me how my life has transformed since my amputation. I wouldn't say that my life is better or worse, but it is certainly different. I am different.

I have always considered myself to be fun loving. I have always enjoyed spending time with my friends, meeting new people, laughing and acting silly. These attributes have remained unchanged since the amputation. I am sure that my friends would agree that I have never been extremely daring or physically adventurous.

Sky diving, rock climbing and other physical feats have never been my cup of tea. Although not inactive, I preferred more conventional activities such as hiking and karate which did not run the risk, perceived or real, of life threatening injury. As I've written before, I am not now, nor have I ever been, considered graceful or coordinated!

Although my grace and coordination have not improved, I have become more physically adventurous. I am not sure if this shift stems from a desire to prove to myself and to others that amputees are capable, or if it is a result of the realization that life is too short to remain on the sidelines. Perhaps it is a combination. I do know that, since I have become an amputee, I find that I want to do things with one leg that I never considered doing when I had two legs.

While on vacation I decided that it would be fun to parasail. In the past, I have never had the desire to be strapped to a parachute and pulled by a speeding boat. Much to my husband's chagrin, I announced that I wanted a parasailing adventure.

I was nervous that the operator would not let me parasail with only one leg. The possibility of my losing my leg at such a high altitude necessitated my engaging in the activity without my prosthetic. I was put at ease when the Captain told me that, not only would I be able to parasail as an amputee, that the whole family could go up together.

A family parasail adventure. I was excited. Robby was excited. Scott was accommodating, but certainly not thrilled.

Robby was excited when we told him that we were going to go up in the "big balloon." To his delight, the parasail unfolded into a large yellow happy face when inflated. He was going to go "up up high" in a large happy face. For a three year old, it didn't get any better.

Parasailing with one limb required few adaptations. Unlike to the other passengers, my amputation necessitated us to launch and land from a seated position. This was the only accommodation.

I was surprisingly calm before we were launched. After the initial nervous jitters, Robby enjoyed the ride. He started to point to landmarks he saw from the air, and he seemed to love being dipped into the ocean. Before I knew it, our ride was over. and we were landing on the boat.

In addition to creating the memory of a wonderful family adventure, parasailing increased my confidence as an amputee. Again I was able to prove to myself that I am able to succeed as an amputee. I am proud that I was able to parasail and I look forward to trying more activities.

I have decided that I would like to compete in a triathlon. A triathlon was not even on my radar of "things to do" before my amputation. Now I want to complete the race to prove something to myself. A triathlon is, to me, the ultimate test of physical endurance. I am not going to compete to win. For me, finishing will be the ultimate prize.