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, March 19, 2010

Editorial Comment

I interrupt this blog with a brief political announcement. I have been careful to avoid discussing several "hot button" issues in my blog thus far, including politics and religion. I understand and respect that everybody has their own views concerning these personal issues. I would never want to unknowingly insult or disrespect anybody by espousing my ideas. My blog was never conceived to be a platform for these issues.

I recognize that the proposed health care reform bill (HR 4872) has been a divisive political issue for citizens of this country. As a disclaimer, I want to let you know that I am a proud supporter of this bill. I recognize that many of my readers may feel differently, and I hope that I am not offending you by addressing this issue. (I hope you continue to read my blog.)

Access to prosthetic care is a paramount issue within the amputee community. I was shocked to discover how many amputees were not using prosthetics. At first, I didn't understand why an amputee would choose not to have a prosthetic. While there is a segment of amputee population who do not want a prosthetic, I have learned that many are living without a prosthetic out of necessity rather than out of any desire.

Most amputees are horribly uninsured. If the insurance covers prosthetics, many times the lifetime cap is reached within the first few years. Often only a portion, as little as 10% of the device(s) is covered. This leaves the new amputee with a bills in excess of $5,000 for a prosthetic. Mounting medical bills from the amputation many times make securing a prosthetic a financially impossible dream.

I don't believe that access to a prosthetic should ever be hindered because of finances. The blue collar worker has just as much of a desire to be mobile and independent as the wall street lawyer. I believe that the mobility and independence afforded by a prosthetic is a right and should not be a privilege .

According to advocates for amputee rights, providing proper prosthetic care for everybody will help to decrease the financial burden on the system.

"Cost savings can also be expected in unemployment insurance, state employment and training programs, rehabilitation and counseling programs and other social welfare systems. It is estimated that every dollar spent on rehabilitation, including prosthetic care, saves more than $11 in disability benefits.

"Nonfiscal benefits include a reduction in the secondary conditions caused by a sedentary lifestyle, less dependence on caregivers, and lowered risk of diabetes-related complications that can lead to additional amputation. In addition, this segment of the population can continue to be contributing members of society instead of becoming dependent on it." (sourced from the www.amputee-coalition.org)

In the proposed legislation, you will find that in subtitle C-Standards Guaranteeing Access to Essential Benefits, Section 122, line 25 "Durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and related supplies" provides a provision for prosthetic care for all.

I don't expect to change anybody's political views on this issue. However, information is a powerful tool. Please consider how this important legislation may impact the lives of thousands of amputees who may not have access to prosthetic care. Providing mobility to thousands of motivated amputees could be a legacy from which we can all be proud!

No more politically motivated blogs--at least for now. I've had my fill of legal jargon this week. Writing about my own adventures and living with Robby Rotten is more fun! Have a good weekend, and thank you for taking the time to learn about this issue.

Yes, I Admit That I Am A "Bore"

I've done two business trips in the past four weeks. For many, this travel is a normal course of the work week. For this stay-at-home Mommy, travel is still a novel opportunity.

While I love being home with Robby, I have enjoyed my time away. I relish the adult conversation and learning about prosthetics and gait training. I am impressed with the complete dedication demonstrated by many professionals within the amputee field. It makes me feel secure knowing that my needs are being considered from multiple vantage points when new prosthetics are being designed.

I was provided with the opportunity to educate prosthetists and physical therapists. It is imperative that they fully understand the amputee perspective if proper care is going to be provided. I am proud that I was asked to convey not only my experiences, but also the concerns of other amputees to caretakers within the field. As a teacher, I firmly believe that education is the first step towards improvement and change.

Despite being energized by my experiences at the Columbus training, I am completely drained. Intellectually and physically, it has been challenging. There is something to be said for returning to a familiar environment and for getting back to a routine.

I spent 9 hours a day answering questions and participating in various gait and physical therapy demonstrations. In the evenings I was invited to join the participants for dinner. To be honest, by the time the sessions shut down at 5:30 all I wanted to do was crawl into my jammies, order room service and watch The Biggest Loser. However, I recognized that socializing was not only the proper course, it was expected.

At the close of the educational sessions, I quickly changed out of knee length shorts and put on a dress. I put on my best "No, I'm not tired" face and joined the group. I made a few discoveries about myself through this process.

I realized that I do not particularly enjoy socializing, especially with people whom I do not know. My father is a world class "shmoozer." He can hold a conversation with a stranger and make that individual feel as if he is important, is valued and is a friend. For my Dad, this skill is natural. I did not inherit this ability.

Instead of feeling engaging and interesting, I feel uncomfortable and retreat into silence. I found myself sitting quietly during most of the meal, trying to interject comments appropriately but always feeling as if the attempts were unnatural. I assure you, although my chicken was delicious, it was not nearly as interesting as my stares at the plate might have led others to believe!

I called Scott and my Mom upon the return to my hotel room. They knew that I was going to dinner, and agreed that my attendance was appropriate. Knowing me well, they also knew that I was not looking forward to the revelry. When I complained about the late hour, they chuckled and I was promptly informed that, for most of the world, 10:00 is not late.

Yes, in addition to my discomfort when socializing with strangers, I have discovered that, at least according to Scott, I am a bit of a "bore." I don't enjoy being out late. To be honest, I have never been a night owl. I am typically in my pajamas by 8:00 and ready for sleep by 9:30.

In my defense, Robby keeps me busy during the day and by the time he is ready for bed, I am tired. Unfortunately, this excuse only partially explains my schedule. My friends from college would agree that I have never been known to stay up and party into the wee hours of the morning. I suppose I was boring back then, too!

I may be an introvert, but I am also a very good teacher. In social situations I retreat and feel like the awkward, pimply middle school student at a dance. Put me in front of the same group in an educational setting and I am comfortable, enthusiastic and, I'm told, interesting.

I am aware that most people don't go to sleep at 9:30 every night. While the presence of alcohol and food seems to relax most people, it makes me freeze up. When I am away at conferences, I do my best to keep up with the rest of the world. I am already looking forward to 9:00 tonight when I can finally get some sleep!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Worm

I have had my fill of dealing with insurance companies and attorneys this week. In addition to trying to swim through the sea of red tape with my insurance adjuster, I was forced to spend a good part of yesterday in a office, surrounded by lawyers as I was giving a deposition.

I had the misfortune of being the soul witness to a serious auto accident. I have already testified at the trial, where a guilty verdict was delivered. Now the case has moved into civil court as the individual who was injured is trying to recover medical expenses from the insurance company. Have I mentioned how much I despise insurance companies?

I was annoyed by the deposition before it began. When the attorney initially called to schedule, I requested an afternoon meeting. I explained that, since my husband is working, child care is only available when he is home from work. The attorney seemed accommodating. Imagine my shock when the subpoena was delivered, specifying that I "present myself" at 10:00 am. To add further insult, the office was located nearly 90 minutes away.

Scott's school is in the middle of standardized testing, making requesting leave time virtually impossible. Thankfully my Mom was available to come down and watch Robby. I owe her dinner and cookies because she had to leave her house at 5:30 AM to be here in time. Early by most standards, exceptionally early when you are retired and not used to being rushed in the morning.

Thanks to my GPS I arrived at the office intact and on time. I met with both lawyers, the defendant and the court reporter. We were hoarded into a small meeting room, and the doors were closed.

Immediately the lawyer for the insurance company, whom I will simply refer to as "the worm" for the remainder of this post, began to question my "competency" because of my "physical impairment." I reminded him that my vision and hearing were intact, and that I was confident in what I witnessed. The worm was not deterred from his aggressive line of interrogation. I felt like I was on trial!

I was becoming annoyed, and I felt a growing sense of rage. We clashed when he questioned whether or not I was physically capable of responding to a crash scene. I felt like my integrity was being attacked.

When I become angry I have a difficult time holding my tongue. Instead of engaging in his level of questioning, I opted for a different approach. I looked at this man and responded by issuing a challenge. I simply stated that "I could whip you in a race. Would you care to go outside and see?"

In retrospect I think that this lawyer sensed my increasing hostility. He asked me if I had a bias against insurance companies. I had a brief moment where I knew what I was going to say, and I knew that I probably shouldn't say it. Before I had a chance to stop myself, I blurted out, "I am under oath, so I was sworn to be truthful. I do not believe I am biased against insurance companies. I do believe I am biased against lawyers who work for insurance companies. I am confident that there is a special ring in hell for those money pinching little trolls."

Taken aback by my forthright answer, I could see him visually grasping for a response. After several "uh uh uh's" he asked me if I knew that he was the lawyer for the insurance company. I simply said, "Yes, I do."

One of my pet peeves is when somebody who believes that they are the "authority" in a situation tries to exert control through intimidation. Little gives me more pleasure than combating that attitude through providing contradictory facts. I was provided with this opportunity.

The worm questioned my visual abilities. He tried using jargon such as peripheral field, gaze and focal distance. Obviously he did not research my background. In my former life, before I became a Mommy, I was a teacher for blind children. I know eyes! I was able to counter his theory and proceeded to explain why he was wrong. It felt so good!

The deposition continued to go downhill for the worm. He moved his line of questioning to the traffic light. He questioned whether or not I "understood" how the traffic cycle was programmed. He began to speak to me as if I was intellectually challenged.

"Yes, I understand the traffic cycle." I then proceeded, through a diagram, to show him how he had the analyzed the cycle incorrectly. He was becoming defensive and asked if I had an engineering degree as well as a "blind teaching" degree. I hate condescending people!

"No. But I did study at Michigan State University for my Masters Degree. I studied Orientation and Mobility, which is basically teaching blind people how to maneuver through their environments. I had to take two graduate level courses on analyzing traffic signals. I graduated with a 4.0." Slam Dunk! Take that you little worm.

For whatever reason, many people believe that a stay at home Mom is not intelligent. Combine that bias with my disability and these people believe that my IQ is dismal. I love debating with these people. I always win because, in order to have those perceptions, their intelligence is not nearly as great as they believe. The look on the worm's face when he was shown up by a one-legged stay at home Mommy was priceless, and almost made missing out on a beautiful day worthwhile!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leprechaun Magic

I have always loved St. Patrick's Day. Truth be told, I throw myself into just about every holiday. Until I was in the 6th grade, I used to sign my name as "Peggy O'Friedman" on the top of my school papers every March 17th. I wore green from head to toe, and became a down right bully when it came to punching those whose green was not highly visible. My Mom used to always make green mashed potatoes and a pistachio cake for dinner.

Scott has requested that I stop dyeing food. I feel obligated to honor this request since he is such a good sport when it comes to a lot of my whims. He has dressed like an elf for our family Christmas photo and wears bunny ears without complaining every Easter. For a reason which I do not understand, he does not find festively colored food palatable. Instead of green mashed potatoes, I will make green pancakes for breakfast.

My holiday celebration won't end with breakfast. I have been planning a Leprechaun visit for weeks. In an attempt to ready Robby, a Leprechaun visited our house left week. He left a mess in the bedroom during the night, but also left a model plane suspended from the ceiling.

Robby and I have made leprechaun traps in order to catch one of the little troublemakers. We don't want to hurt the little guys, we just want to meet one and ask him to stop causing so much havoc. We opted for small paper boxes, courtesy of our local Five Guys burger stand, held up with a stick. The boxes have been colored green (the leprechaun's favorite color) and have been strategically placed around the house. We even baked the leprechaun's favorite cookie, gooey shamrock drops, to lure the little men into our trap!

Robby is absolutely convinced that we are going to be successful catching a leprechaun. I, however, am not so certain. I have a sneaking suspicion all that will be left in the trap is a pair of miniature Leprechaun wooden shoes, courtesy of my Dutch Aunt!

Although the chances of us catching a leprechaun are minuscule, I am certain that their visit will be well documented throughout the house! The water in the toilets will be green, and Robby's morning milk will probably suffer the same fate. I can hardly wait to see Robby's face when he turns on the kitchen sink to discover that the water is green! (I have been secretly experimenting at night to see if this leprechaun magic is feasible.)

I have spent the last two days cleaning and scrubbing the house, so I am doubtful that the leprechauns will cause too much of a mess. However, I won't be surprised to see a trail of pennies leading to various surprises throughout the house. I am sure that the little rascals will probably end up overturning a chair or two as well.

Robby and I are excited about the impending leprechaun visit. He has mentioned trying to "sneak up and surprise" a leprechaun in the middle of the night. I've tried to explain that, just like Santa Claus, Leprechauns only come when you are asleep. Thankfully, he is only three and believes me completely, and he still believes in magic!

I hope that you have fun trying to catch a Leprechaun today! Don't forget to wear green, or else you risk being punched by an overzealous holiday freak like myself. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Enough Already!

I started the day energized for a new week. I made a list and was ready to attack the cleaning, determined to make my house shine. I am ending the day fighting back tears and feeling useless and defeated. To say that I have not had a good day would be an understatement.

My recent travel adventures, combined with me being sidelined by a biopsy, have contributed to my lax housekeeping during the past few weeks. I knew that I would feel better if I could get the house clean and organized. Although my leg is still sore, the discomfort that walking presented was manageable. Today, I decided, I was going to scrub, toss, organize and sweep until my house shined!

I spent the morning cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom. I assure you, this was not an easy task. My counters were covered with bags, groceries that haven't been put away. and a seemingly endless stream of papers. It wasn't until I had been cleaning for three hours that I realized I was having more difficulty walking.

Shoot! My Proprio ankle stopped responding, and the foot was stuck pointing down. I was not able to reset the prosthetic, I knew that it was broken. I would need to send it for repair so I called my prosthetist to request a loaner for tomorrow.

I hobbled around the house searching for my back-up leg. I couldn't find it, and then I remembered that it was in the back of Scott's car. It certainly wasn't going to help me there! I put on the only leg that I had, which is my swim leg.

My swim foot is designed to turn into a flipper in the water. It is wonderful for swimming and playing in the water with Robby. I also use the prosthetic in the snow with Robby because it is completely waterproof. It is not, however, a good leg for walking around the house.

I was determined to clean, and although frustrated, I was not going to be deterred by a broken prosthetic. I slipped into my swim leg, took it out of "flipper mode" and continued cleaning. I am nothing if not determined when I set my mind to something!

The socket was tight and uncomfortable, forcing me to stop every few minutes to release pressure in the valve. I was walking with a noticeable limp because of a height difference, which has caused my back and hip to ache. Cleaning, which should have only taken another two hours, took nearly four. I am still not finished, although I can honestly walk no more so it will have to wait for another day.

My Prosthetist returned my call when I was cleaning. It is never good when somebody's first words to you are, "Do you have a lawyer?" Yep, Elsie is at it again!

Elsie, my pet name for my Workman's Compensation insurance adjuster, has denied my request for a new leg. I have learned that because I've lost over 100 pounds, I now require a new category foot. I have not received a new prosthetic in 3 years, which is beyond the life expectancy of a heavily used device. My request is not unreasonable.

I was provided with the opportunity to walk on the correct category while working in Chicago. The difference was remarkable! It was like going from walking on a brick to walking on a soft cloud.

Not only has Elsie slashed my hopes of receiving an appropriate prosthetic, she has not paid my prosthetist for the liners I received last month. She approved the liners, at which time he provided them to me. He has finally received a verbal refusal to pay the bill, stating that she "was refusing compensation for the medical devices."

My frustration with dealing with this insurance adjuster is at a breaking point. I have been stymied by her, forced to undergo unwarranted medical evaluations and tests. I have had "simple" prosthetic care denied, forcing me to wear liners which have both exceeded their life expectancy and have become a breeding ground for possible infection. Now she is denying a prosthetic, but has failed to provide a reason.

I am not a litigious person, but I phoned the attorney. He will call Elsie, and hopefully the situation will be rectified. I am lucky that I count him as a supporter. The fact remains, I should not have to call an attorney. I am not asking for anything unusual or extraordinary. I simply want to walk.

I did not ask to be injured. None of us wanted to become an amputee. The fact remains, we are dealing with the loss of a limb. In addition to maneuvering through life on a prosthetic device, I must also fight Elsie at every opportunity. I have said it before, but it continues to be true. I am much more disabled by the insurance company than I am by my limb loss.

My cleaning has caused Robby's behavior to be less than ideal. Not having my full attention, he proceeded to misbehave and be demanding all day. He sneaked the ice cream out of the freezer. I found him hiding under the covers in my bedroom, with his fist in the container and covered in the sticky melted goo. He decided to "decorate" the hallway with stickers and spray down the kitchen floor with the sink attachment. I know that a parent should never refer to their child as a brat. I am looking for a more socially acceptable synonym.

Tonight, I am tired and angry. Physically I am hurting because of cleaning all day on a swim leg. My back and hip hurt. My stump is angry and the nerves are firing. I am sure that sleep will allude me this evening.

Tonight, I am mad that my insurance adjuster seems to be a heartless bitch. I am mad that I am an amputee. I hate that I have to deal with all of this extraneous stuff when I simply want the tools necessary to walk. I am frustrated by the antics of Robby Rotten. Tonight, I feel defeated and alone.

On the positive side, if you exclude the bedrooms, the house is spotless! Now that I have my spare leg out of Scott's car, I will finish the bedrooms tomorrow. I am also feeling a sense of satisfaction in my believe that there is a special ring in hell waiting for Elsie.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Handy Woman!

I love our house. However, sometimes I hate being a homeowner. This weekend was one of those occasions.

We noticed a water mark on our ceiling downstairs, and a quick inspection showed a leaky pipe coming from the bathtub upstairs. The water was dripping slowly. It wasn't enough water to cause a flood or to ruin furniture, but it was enough to make the ceiling stain. Regardless of the amount, the water was dripping and it needed to be fixed.

I love my husband. He has many wonderful qualities. He is a kind and loving father and husband, but his willingness to complete home repairs is not one of his positive attributes.

I have never met Scott's dad, but I have heard that he was very good with home repairs. He built the deck on his own house, and maintained the family car. He completed numerous small repairs around the house. Scott did not inherit the "fix it" gene.

It probably isn't fair for me to indicate that Scott is not good at home repairs. He rarely attempts a repair, so it is nearly impossible for me to know if he has the skills and know how to complete a job.

When something is broken around the house, he responds with a curt, "I don't know what to do" and simply walks away. He has this uncanny ability to ignore water dripping, sinks not draining or showers backing up. He will notice that it is broken but shows no desire in making an attempt to rectify the situation.

I don't understand this laid back philosophy towards home maintenance. I was raised by a single Mom who was raising three children on a teachers salary. I learned early, through her example, that repairmen are costly and should only be called as a last resort. There is no shame in not being able to fix something, but there was an expectation that an attempt always be made. Scott had the benefit of being raised by a man who was, by all accounts, handy. Yet, he shows no desire in trying to make household repair.

Scott's solution to the dripping water was that I should simply stop using the bathtub. He then proceeded to set himself for an afternoon of watching auto racing and hockey. I was left to rectify the leak.

The advent of the Internet has made household repairs easier for the lay person. I Googled "leaking pipe in ceiling" and initially found a video demonstrating three simple fixes. I jotted down the list of what I needed and headed to Lowes.

When I entered Lowes I was greeted by an associate who asked if I needed assistance. I smiled and handed the man my list. He laughed and said that the epoxy putty and the tape were easy to locate, but he couldn't help me with the third. Apparently even Lowes doesn't have a "husband who would at least attempt a home repair instead of being comfortable letting his one legged wife struggle up and down ladders doing it herself."

I came home immediately went into handy-woman mode. I crawled up on top of the piano so that I could reach the leak. Robby was an excellent helper and handed me the materials when I asked for them. After several minutes of uncomfortable contortion, I managed to put the putty around the leak to seal it.

After making sure that the repair was going to hold, I worked my way off the piano. I don't like heights, and my discomfort has only increased since my amputation. Therefore, it took me several minutes to dismount. Robby and I were both proud of our accomplishment. I have mastered another plumbing skill, although I have to admit that I wish I didn't have to! Maybe I will marry a plumber in my next life. At least Scott is appreciative of both my efforts and the fact that I didn't wake him when he was napping on the couch!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I woke up this morning and, keeping with my routine, grabbed a cup of coffee and my laptop. I was surprised to find a comment under the "One Angry Leg" post. Typically there is not a lot of activity on my blog over the weekend.

I read it and was disgusted. Sombody left an x-rated comment under a seemingly benign post. Definitely NOT words I wanted to read first thing in the morning. I have never changed a comment before today. However, this morning I did delete the comment.