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, November 20, 2009

Walking... Or Can You Do More.

Although I hate to admit it, exercising is good for everyone. Staying fit helps the body recover from injury and to thwart disease. Being overweight can negatively impact all of the body processes. For the amputee, maintaining a healthy weight is imperative.

I have been both an obese amputee and an amputee with a healthy weight. Through experience, I can attest that, as an obese amputee, every task is more difficult. My stump was forced to bear more weight resulting in tissue break down and increased pain. Every task was laborious.

As I began to drop the weight, my energy level began to increase. My leg became more comfortable, so I was more apt to walk and participate in life. As I became more active, I became a happier and healthier person. Strange how that cycle works.

At the seminar in Houston, a discrepancy concerning amputees became glaringly evident. For the "normal limbed" population, time and motivation are the two necessary components to begin a weight loss journey. I am certainly not negating the effort required, merely the noting "specialized" equipment requirements of an amputee. If an amputee wishes to exercise and become fit, a new prosthetic is often required. Depending upon the individual's insurance, the request may or may not be approved.

I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with some talented and cutting edge prosthetists. They were bragging about the specialty limbs they had built for various patients and were showing photos of their handiwork. In many ways, their boasting was reminiscent of a grandparent bragging about a grandchild.

These prosthetists have the right to brag. What they are able to build truly changes the lives of their patients. The amputees are able to engage in activities that were loved before the amputation. As I was sitting there, listening and oohing and ahhing, I became uncomfortable. I realized that I was jealous.

It seems that the opportunities afforded to the amputee are directly related to the willingness of their insurance carrier. Sport participation is not something the amputee can simply begin without any prep work. For example, to begin running, the amputee doesn't need just a pair of sneakers and thick socks. The amputee also requires a specialized limb designed to withstand the impact and shock absorption of the activity.

I have wanted to add running to my exercise routine for over one year. To date, this activity is not feasible. My insurance adjuster has flatly refused my request for a running leg, deeming the activity "unnecessary."

Because I have not received any specialized prosthetics, I have been limited to just a few exercises. My ability to participate in sports has been limited, affecting not only my fitness level but also negatively impacting my ability to socialize and forge friendships. My handicap has been inflated by the insurance carrier who, through denials, continue to create barriers.

As is typically the case for me, my jealousy quickly morphed into anger. I am not angry that another amputee is able to realize his/her physical goals. I am angry that I and thousands of other amputees continue to have their handicaps enforced because of the financial bottom line of their insurance company.

The amputee is at the mercy of their insurance; good insurance affords increased opportunities. Mediocre or poor insurance leaves the amputee with limited prosthetic choice. The lack of the specialized leg keeps the amputee from realizing their pre-amputation dreams and potentials and often a healthy lifestyle.

All amputees are not equal. With improving technology, the opportunities for cutting edge prosthetics are increasing at an astounding rate. Unfortunately, those advances are only ascertainable by a few. Insurance companies, blind to the individual, decide who among us gets to fully participate in life and who has to settle for "just walking."

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I grew up in South Central Pennsylvania. I would describe the majority of the people to be conservative not only politically but also in terms of dress and relationships. The culture tends to be laden with Puritanical ideals.

The style of dress I am accustomed to seeing tends to be based more on function. Although there are always exceptions, you would not see flashy or outlandish wardrobes. If they are seen, the wearer tends to be an oddity. For the most part, fashion styles tend to be influenced more by the Gap and American Eagle than Hollywood.

I love to travel. Unfortunately the opportunities to experience new cultures has been limited due to financial and family constraints. When Ossur Prosthetics asked me to present my experiences to a group in Houston, Texas, I was thrilled.

Truthfully, I accepted the invitation before securing care for Robby. My eagerness superseded, albeit only for a moment, my Mommy responsibilities. Thankfully Robby has a devoted Nana who was willing to step in.

It was a long day traveling. My flights were delayed and cancelled but I didn't mind the hours of waiting in the airport terminals. Alone time has become a rarity and a luxury in my life. Sitting among the grumpy and irritable travelers, I was able to relax. I didn't have to change diapers or entertain a bored toddler. I was able to just sit and write. The delays in themselves afforded me a mini-vacation.

Finally, after 13 hours of waiting and traveling, I arrived in Houston. I was tired as I stepped out of the airplane and entered the terminal. After surveying the scene, I immediately began to smile.

I saw a middle aged woman with an orange-ish tan and prosthetic breasts. She was wearing a strapless black sundress with a long white fur coat draped over her shoulders. She was sporting knee high, pointy patent leather boots. This lady was being escorted by an elderly man, stooped over and walking with a cane. He had a large cowboy hat on his head and had animal skin boots.

I felt a bit like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I stepped off the plane into a completely new world. Texas! Looking around, I immediately began to realize that I'm not in Pennsylvania anymore!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Houston Bound...

I am headed to Houston for a few days because I have been asked by the prosthetic company to discuss my experiences with my Proprio ankle. I love meeting new people, especially amputees, and discussing my experiences.

I was thrilled when I was invited to the symposium. The idea of escaping my day to day life and traveling to a new city is alluring. Going away, even for only a day or two, refreshes my outlook on life. I am reminded that I have more to offer the world than changing diapers and cooking and cleaning.

I am more than a wife and mother. Although I cherish those roles, I feel empowered by stretching other cerebral muscles. It is refreshing to be reminded that I have a plethora of skills and insights to offer the world that don't involve care taking. I enjoy, if only for a night or two, going out to eat and not having to entertain a toddler. I won't have to cut anybody else's food, and I won't have anybody pounding at the bathroom door, screaming "MomMom." So yes, I am excited.

Robby will be staying with my Mom. He and his Nana are comfortable together and they have their own routine. Sometimes that involves ice cream for breakfast or oatmeal for dinner, but he is always having a good time and happy. I know that he will cry when I leave, but that the tears will end as soon as the car is out of his sight. It is heartbreaking to leave him, but knowing that he is on a "Nana Vacation" and is having fun makes it easier.

It is always difficult for me to leave my family, if only for a few days. This time the departure is particularly painful because of my nephew's accident. Although he is home, my heart is drawing me to him. I don't want to travel so far away, probably out of fear that something could go wrong.

I know that Jake is recuperating comfortably at home. I want to do something to help but, and I don't like to admit it, my assistance is not really needed. There is nothing I can do. I spoke with my sister, and she urged me to continue with my plans.

Putting my concerns about traveling away from my family aside, I am preparing for an adventure. I have never been to Houston. Although I will be in a hotel meeting room for most of the trip, the lure of visiting a new destination is exciting. Besides, I'll have a four hour block of time all to myself on the airplane, allowing me the opportunity to read something more sophisticated than The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Message Boards

I find myself flooded with a myriad of emotions ranging from heartache and grief to anger and rage. It has been a difficult few days for our family. Unfortunately, the situation was made worse by the comments of a few ignorant individuals.

A newspaper article was written about the car accident involving Jacob. It didn't surprise me that it was featured in the newspapers. In a relatively small town where news is slow, a child being struck by a car makes headlines. If the incident had occurred in a city, it may have been mentioned briefly in a few sentences and then forgotten. Living in a small town has benefits. Unfortunately, as I have witnessed during the past few days, being big news in a small town can have a negative impact.

The article that was written was fair. It was primarily fact based. I was not thrilled that the article featured two photos. The first picture was of my sister, entering the helicopter as she was grasping onto Jakey's stuffed dog with the pain and anguish on her face clearly depicted. It was a heartbreaking photo. The second photo showed Jacob being pushed on a stretcher towards the helicopter. Personally, I found showing a child in that state to be exploitative and unnecessary.

The internet version of the newspaper allows for readers to leave comments. Obviously, I read the comments, and I was shocked. The comments were not constructive; they were simply mean. They were blaming my sister for the accident, referring to her as "crazy" and "neglectful." They questioned her parenting skills as well as her love for her children.

I immediately phoned my brother-in-law Wade. After discussing the situation with him, we agreed that the internet articles needed to be kept from my sister. She was consumed with guilt and pain for the injury sustained by her child. Seeing the hate-mongers casting more blame would simply amplify the anguish.

I wrote a comment after the article, offering the family's perspective of the accident. I defended my sister's parenting skills, and echoed the fact that the police found no neglect on her part. I pointed out that not one "commentator" expressed concern for little Jake or for his family. They were merely consumed with casting blame.

An hour later, I answered the telephone to discover that our plan had failed. My sister had, indeed, read the on-line article and subsequent comments. She was near hysterics.

I was irate as I drove to the hospital. I found her in tears, nearly inconsolable. She saw her child struck by a car in front of her eyes and now she was being called a neglectful, crazy and unloving parent. Her pain was deepened by the negative opinions of those not familiar with the situation. I am her sister; therefore, my pain was heightened by seeing her in this state.

After consoling her and visiting with Jacob, I returned to my Mom's house and logged on to the message board. Many people had left positive comments encouraging Sheri and Jacob and wishing him a speedy recovery and prayers. We are thankful for those words. There were, however, a slew of individuals who took their negativity to an unhealthy and, to be frank, just plain mean level.

Being an amputee, I have been the recipient of a myriad of rude and thoughtless comments by strangers. I've even been approached and informed that I "wouldn't go to heaven" because I was an amputee. I've been called a freak, a robot, intellectually deficient and ugly. All of these "comments" were slung by ignorant individuals who do not know me or my family. I should not be surprised by the opinions left under the shield of anonymity on a message board. The comments were so outrageous I was left speechless.

One commenter expressed pity for Jacob because Jacob had me as an Aunt. That statement was like a dagger in my heart. Anybody who knows me would testify to my love for my niece and nephews. This post was especially hurtful.

And then, this post just got nasty. This is an exact quote of his post:

"You sound like yet another lowlife sex freak woman who probably doesnt work and lays on the computer all day cybering with filthy men. Take a minute and think about yourself Miss Peggy- shouldnt your mind be on your relative in ICU instead of hooking up with any Tom, Dick, and Harry from the net?"

My nephew was struck by a car and has been in intense pain. He has a broken pelvis, ankle and vertebra. His lungs are severely bruised, and he has cuts all over his head and face. And somebody read the article and, rather than being concerned for a severely injured three year old and his family, attacks me?

The comment offered by this man was hurtful and unnecessary. It brought me to tears, probably due to the exhaustion I was feeling. I felt deflated.

I am trying to figure out why somebody would write such a heartless, mean comment to a stranger whose family had just experienced a tragic event. I am left with no answers. Rather than focusing on the few mean spirited postings, I am going to choose to focus on the outpouring of love and hope offered by so many.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our Good News...

I just wanted to write a quick note to provide an update on my nephew Jake. The fact that he survived the accident and suffered non-life threatening injuries, is truly miraculous. We can find no other explanation.

Jakey has been released from the hospital. He has a broken ankle, and his pelvis is broken in several locations. He also sustained a broken vertebrae at the base of his spine. He has severely bruised lungs and lacerations on his head and face. He is hurt, but he is certainly not broken. He will recover. Children are resilient. He has found his smile despite the pain and his injuries.

We knew that Jake's cognitive functions were intact the day after his accident. Because he was knocked out we were not certain about any brain implications. Through his sedated state, he looked at my Dad (called "Candy Papaw" by his grandchildren because he always has lollipops for them) and smiled. He then asked his Candy Papaw, in a weak but clear voice, if he could have a lollipop.

My Dad flew out of his hospital room and ran to the gift shop. He started asking every available clerk for lollipops, explaining that it was imperative. He bought a handful. Although Jake couldn't eat the candy yet, the fact that he requested it was the sweetest sound we could have heard!

Jake has been released from the hospital and is in stable condition. Aside from pain management, there is no need for him to remain in the hospital because my sister and her husband will administer his medication at home.

He will be in a wheelchair for awhile. He cannot exert himself because of the injury to his lungs. He cannot bear weight on his extremities because of the broken vertebrae and pelvis and he is in pain. Thankfully, he will heal.

Before we know it, he and Robby will be running around the yard, playing with their digger trucks. In the meantime, I have been talking to Robby, trying to explain to a three year old that his cousin and friend is hurt. I explained that Jakey has to sit in a wheelchair.

Fortunately Robby has been exposed to wheelchairs since his birth. Between my revision surgeries and his volunteering at Walter Reed visiting injured service men and women, he is comfortable with medical equipment. I am thankful for his early exposures.

Robby knows that Jakey will not be able to run with him right now. After pausing for several moments, Robby asked me if Jake could watch cartoons and eat cookies. So, today I am going to take Robby to see his friend. He is bringing his new Max and Ruby Christmas DVD, and he asked me to help him make cookies. I don't think I've ever been happier turning on the mixer.