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, April 09, 2010

My "Cure" to Relieve Phantom Pain

A few new amputee friends have recently contacted me seeking possible remedies for phantom pain. There is a misconception that phantom pain refers to actually feeling a limb that is no longer there. While I have experienced these kinds of phantom sensations, they have never been painful. These sensations have been limited to feeling the bottom of my missing foot itch, or a toe twisting.

I have experienced a different kind of phantom pain, especially initially after my amputation, in the form of stinging. My leg often felt like it was being stung by thousands of wasps. There was little that I could do to stop the stinging, and I became a prisoner of the pain. I felt helpless, and I was miserable.

I tried all of the prescribed approaches, including neurontin and pain medications. The neurontin dulled the stinging, but it left me sluggish and depressed. At the time I didn't know that use of neurontin has a strong correlation to depression. This would have been good information to know!

I tried compression with moderate success. Massaging the limb helped, but, unfortunately, the pain persisted when the massaging stopped. I was becoming desperate to stop the stinging and I began to regret my decision to amputate.

I took to the internet and spoke with other amputees. I decided to become aggressive in my treatment. I am hesitant to admit the extent that I have gone to in order to alleviate this relentless pain, but my approach was 100% successful.

I discovered numerous articles touting the success of medicinal marijuana. Simply put, Cannabis dulls nerve endings. I researched the effects of this drug and learned this herb is less toxic than the cocktail of percocet, methodone and neurontin which I was prescribed. I called a trusted friend who immediately helped.

I was terrified when I had the water pipe in front of me, packed with what I knew to be an illegal drug. I also knew that the stinging pain was taking over my life, and the traditional medical approaches were not yielding relief. I took a hit.

Literally, within seconds, I could feel the nerve endings, which had been so angry a moment ago, begin to quiet. One minute after a little puff and my phantom stinging pain was completely gone. For the first time since my amputation, I was without pain!

There is a misconception that one has to become "high" in order for marijuana to work. This, I learned, is not true. I didn't lose contact with reality or become silly. I simply became Peggy without pain. I stopped the pain medications and the neurontin. When the phantom pain become severe, I would take a hit. For me, it was the miracle I had been seeking.

Thankfully phantom pain subsides with time. The nerve endings slowly become less angry, and the electrical impulses which cause the stinging cease. I am nearly seven years post amputation, and phantom pain is no longer an issue in my life.

I find it hard to understand how addictive pain medications are more socially acceptable. I suppose I am still defensive about my use of this drug. I don't want to be perceived as a "pot head" although, I assure you, my friends would laugh at this reference!

While I am not urging any of my readers to follow suit, I did want to let you know what worked for me. I don't have marijuana in the house because I no longer have pain that needs treatment. I am thankful that I was able to call a trusted friend who was willing to help me treat my pain. I resent that the solution to my eliminating the phantom pain completely is considered a criminal act.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Kitty Love...

Robby adores animals. It is a love we have tried to foster since infancy. His favorite animals are cats and goats.

Out of a sense of desperation to overcome his "pooping phobia," Scott and I made a bargain with our little guy. Sitting down with him, and looking him straight in the eyes, we struck a deal. Robby is a natural negotiator, but we stayed strong and rallied against getting him two baby goats. We did agree if he "lets the poopy come out of his bum" that we would get him a baby kitten.

We have been struggling with the obstinate colon of a three year old for four months. We have spent hundreds of dollars on creams, ointments, powders and assorted doctors visits. Finally, the combination of daily Miralax and the lure of kitten ownership has allowed us to conquer the fear of poop!

Robby could hardly wait to get his kitten. He talked about letting the kitten sleep in his room. We made a kitten bed and went shopping for kitten food and supplies. We spent hours looking at pictures of kittens available for adoption. With the colon cleaned out and everything "flowing" as it should, it was time for Scott and I to pay up.

I took Robby to the Humane Society to look at kittens because I adopted my cat Sophie from this shelter nearly 13 years ago. Wow, thirteen years. I'm getting old. I digress, I suppose that is the topic for another blog.

The Humane Society broke my heart. We were overwhelmed by the stench of urine and feces when we entered the establishment. The walls were dirty and animals were stacked in the hallway. We had to dodge pools of urine, vomit and fecal matter as we walked among the various "cat rooms."

Robby seemed oblivious to his surroundings as he was focused on finding "his kitty." I tried to steer him away from cats that needed to come in pairs, and those which were labeled as "child unfriendly." Finally, his decision was made. He had selected his kitty.

I filled out the necessary paperwork while Robby and his Nana played with the cat. We were expecting to take the cat home with us. Apparently the procedures have changed at the Humane Society since Sophie's adoption.

After the paperwork was reviewed, they asked to meet with my husband. I told them that Scott was in Virginia, but assured the receptionist that he was supportive of the adoption. While Robby was bonding and playing with the cat, I was told that it was the policy that all members of the family had to be present for the adoption.

I offered to call Scott so that they could speak with him. Surely this could be worked out. There were so many cats who needed homes and we have a wonderful home to offer. Robby has fallen in love with a cat. I was summarily dismissed. We were not going to be able to take the cat home.

I wasn't disappointed when I left the Humane Society. I was angry to be denied a cat adoption simply because my husband wasn't physically present. I should have lied on the form, stating that I was a single mother.

In any case, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. My mom remembered that her Uncle Charlie had been bottle feeding a group of kittens who were abandoned by their mother. We gave him a call, and he said that the kittens were ready to be adopted. We drove to his house.

Robby fell in love immediately with an orange male cat. Despite trying to divert his affections to other kittens who were visually more appealing to me, he persisted in his decision. He got his kitten.We have named the cat Charlie, after the Uncle who gave him to Robby. Robby loves his kitten. Charlie sleeps in his bed, and might be the most docile and gentle feline ever. Charlie allows Robby to pick him up and carry him throughout the house. They play ball and chase the string. Yes, Robby is as intrigued by the toys as is Charlie!

The Humane Society called after we brought Charlie home. Our request for a cat adoption was denied because we lived out of state. Apparently, the combination of not producing a husband for immediate inspection along with our distance made us unsuitable for cat ownership. "That's okay," I said. "We have Charlie now." I hung up the phone.

Charlie has quickly assimilated into his new home. He is still nocturnal, but that is slowly starting to change. The first few nights left me exhausted as the kitten wanted to explore and play. Robby was quick to correct my grumblings as I was chugging yet another cup of coffee to stay awake the following day. "Charlie is not a pain in the bum Momom. Charlie is my friend." And a very good friend at that.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Robby Island

"We won't turn back until we're through.... that's what explorers do. Who's afraid? Who's afraid? Not me, are you?" Don't know that song? You probably haven't been watching Little Bear! This song has become Robby's anthem, and he has taken the words to heart.

Robby loves exploring. Much to his displeasure, Mommy must accompany him on his excursions. He is still too young to travel solo, so, several times a day we don our "explorer hats," grab our binoculars and bug box and head into the woods.

For the past few weeks, Robby has been drawn to the stream. Last summer I thought he was too young to play in the running water. I was worried that he was still an unsteady walker and I didn't want him to slip on the muddy rocks.

This year is different. As he is quick to point out, Robby is a "big boy." He is now allowed to play in the stream, and he could not be happier. Of course, Robby must wear his green Froggy rain boots before jumping into the water. After all, the correct accessories are imperative for all explorers!

Robby was thrilled to be allowed to wade in his stream. He found two frogs, one of which he is convinced must have been sleeping since it was floating downstream on its back. He tried fishing with his bug net but was not successful. He did, however, make a fantastic discovery.

Robby found a deserted island. Okay, it is actually a grouping of stones that congregated in the center of the stream, but that doesn't seem to phase him. As with all great explorers, he named his discovery. It was aptly named "Robby Island."

After watching him from the bank of the stream, Robby invited me to visit his island. He was eager for me to see his discovery. Unfortunately I had to decline because I wasn't wearing a water resistant leg.

For that moment, I hated being an amputee. I wished that I could be like every other Mommy and just be carefree and spontaneous. I wanted to just hop across the water and visit his island. Unfortunately I had to explain to my little Explorer that Mommy wasn't wearing her water leg, and that I wouldn't be able to visit. He responded with an animated "Oh Bummer" and trudged across the stream to meet me on the bank.

I was surprisingly frustrated that I wasn't able to visit Robby Island. Just when I think I have the knack of this whole amputee lifestyle, something small comes up to remind me of my disability. I hate it for myself, and I hate it for Robby as well.

Regardless of my frustrations, the fact remains that I am not going to be as spontaneous as other parents. I will always have to make sure that I have the correct prosthetic and accommodations. This reality is not going to change.

However, like all good explorers, preparation is paramount. In front of the door, Robby's Froggy boots are drying and his binoculars and bug house are hanging on the hook where his winter coat was hung. I have placed my water leg, already donning a water shoe, next to his boots. The next time we go exploring, I plan on visiting Robby Island. Maybe we'll even pack a picnic.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

My Aching Back!

I am fairly confident that this blog post will not be lengthy. I didn't realize until I sat down to type that I am having a difficult time feeling my hands and moving my fingers. I did not realize that the human body could be this sore!

Last week Scott and I rented a pick up truck to gather our landscaping supplies. We unloaded tons of stone and mulch into piles in the center of the driveway. By the end of the day we were exhausted but pleased that we had accomplished our goal.

Unfortunately our victory from last week has quickly morphed into an eye sore. I felt like the mulch pile was taunting me every time I saw it. It was as if the mulch knew that it had defeated me and that it was destined to wash away instead of being laid in our flower beds. I began to hate that mulch pile!

Today was forecast to be a beautiful day. The temperature was going to be in the low 80's, and the skies were a brilliant, happy looking blue. I decided that, instead of riding the bike this morning, I would mulch a flower bed.

We live in the woods, but it became glaringly obvious that we are painfully ill-equipped. I looked though the garage for some sort of tool to help me move the mulch. I found a dirt digging shovel and a small flat shovel. I suppose that my ignorance concerning the correct names for these tools serves as an indication of my landscaping experiences. I weighed my options, which were limited, and opted to use the snow shovel because it is both wide and light weight.

So I began my battle against my double shredded adversary. I took a large scoop of mulch into the snow shovel and walked up the hill to place it in the flower bed. It certainly didn't cover much surface area. I knew I needed a better plan.

Keeping with the "snow equipment" theme, I began to load the mulch onto Robby's snow sled. I found that I could fit four snow shovel scoops of mulch onto the sled. My trips up and down the hill were cut by 75%. I began to see a small dent in the pile.

I worked for 90 minutes, but I finally spread the mulch on the large flower bed. Spreading mulch is not easy. I suppose that is why we haven't done it in nearly four years. I knew that, in order to defeat the pile, I needed to continue working.

Before I knew it, I had been working for nearly 3 hours. I was in the zone, scooping into the sled, pulling the sled up the hill and dumping the mulch. I almost didn't notice my neighbor Bill standing in front of the mulch mound when I returned to refill the sled.

Bill was standing next to a pitch fork and a wheelbarrow. I thanked him the offer to borrow the supplies, but I assured him that I was fine. I explained that the sled was working, and that the snow shovel is scooping up large amounts. He muttered "Don't work harder. Work smarter. Good luck." He left the pitch fork and the wheelbarrow.

Intent on proving that the sled and snow shovel were adequate, I tried the pitch fork and wheelbarrow method. It worked. It was also a lot easier. I guess there is something to be said for using the correct tools for the job.

I continued working throughout the afternoon, slowly beating the mulch pile into submission. After six hours, I swept away the remnants of my opponent and was deemed the victor. I attempted to do my happy dance, but I ultimately ended up hurting my back.

The flower beds in my front yard are completely covered and, if I do say so myself, they look beautiful. I am proud of myself for completing such a labor intensive task. For a moment, when I looked at the empty spot on my driveway where the mulch had been, I felt like a super hero.

I can feel my muscles tightening, and my back is starting to hurt. I cannot fully clench my fist and my stump is beginning to feel sore. I had a difficult time taking Advil because it took me awhile to will my hands to move towards my mouth. Tomorrow I may need assistance from both Wonder Woman and Superman in order to get out of bed!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Shame on Me...

I have done something that has been eating away at me for the past few days. I never envisioned that I would actually do this until I was in the situation. To be honest, I didn't feel guilty at the time. I suppose my competitive instincts were fully engaged.

This past weekend I took Robby to an Easter Egg hunt at his animal park. There were hundreds of experienced egg hunting children, wearing their running shoes and with their baskets in hand; these kids knew what they were doing. I suspect that there were some ringers in the crowd as well!

I only went to one egg hunt when I was a child. I recall hundreds of children, running down a hill towards plastic eggs. I remember seeing the back of all of these kids because I wasn't running fast enough. I found a grand total of one egg, and some greedy little girl stole that egg out of my basket. I left empty handed.

I was seeing my childhood egg-hunting trauma repeating itself with my little boy. Robby, I was certain, was going to get trounced. I was certain he wouldn't find any eggs, and he was going to be devastated.

Yes, I cheated at a child's Easter Egg hunt.

Well, perhaps cheating is a tad strong. I do admit to "manipulating" the situation. I started to limp, making sure that my "difficulties" were more pronounced around the park staff. My leg wasn't hurting; in fact, I felt good. I played up my disability in an attempt to receive an advantage for my son. (In my defense, the hunt was in a field filled with uneven turf. It was going to be a tad more difficult for me to walk around.)

It worked. The staff, who know both of us by name, took notice and allowed Robby and I to enter the search field 90 seconds ahead of the other children. I felt a little solace when I saw that we were not the only pair offered this accommodation. A little boy and his elderly grandfather, who was walking with a cane, were also permitted into the field early.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do feel guilty using my disability to gain an advantage for Robby. My amputation was not affecting my ability to search for eggs with Robby. When I spoke with my family and friends about the Easter egg hunt, I failed to mention our advantage. I was ashamed.

I was correct in my assumption that Robby was going to be swept away in the ocean of egg-seeking children. Those kids move fast and are brutal when it comes to grabbing plastic eggs. Robby did not find any eggs after our grace period expired.

So, there it is. Yes, I used my amputation in order to gain both sympathy and, ultimately, an advantage for an egg hunt. I should not have done it, and I regret my actions. I was trying to keep Robby from being disappointed. I'm a Mommy, and I want him to be happy. Just look at that smile. He was thrilled to have a basket full of eggs!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Easter Bunny's Big Mistake

Happy Easter! After much anticipation and hours of preparation, the Easter Bunny hopped around the world last night. Yes, to the delight of Robby, apparently the Bunny hopped to our house too!

I took Robby to an Easter egg hunt Saturday at the Animal Park. With the inquisitive toddler safely out of the way, Scott went full force into Easter Bunny mode. He "hopped" right into Toys R Us, completely unsupervised.

Sending Scott into a toy store by himself is always a dangerous proposition for our family budget. He has difficulty restraining himself when it comes to Robby, especially when it comes to selecting toys. He proudly showed me three large, overflowing bags stuffed with toys when I returned from the egg hunt.

Scott plans to sneak outside this morning and hide the toys and eggs around our yard. I organized a small basket of food treats and a colorful pinwheel for a morning surprise, and carefully placed it inside Robby's room. I envisioned Robby's delight when he woke up to find that the Easter Bunny had, indeed, come to his house!

What was the silly Rabbit thinking, placing a basket of treats inside the room of an excited toddler? Obviously the Easter Bunny had a lapse of judgment. Apparently the Bunny failed to consider that the kitten would be attracted to the pinwheel.

The cat started playing with the pinwheel at 3:50 this morning. I know this because Robby came running into my bedroom at 4:00 AM, basket in hand, and thrilled that the Easter Bunny brought him a basket of treats. In approximately 5 seconds the entire basket, which was carefully assembled for optimum visual appeal, was dismantled and strewn around the floor. So much for presentation!

I knew that there was no chance of convincing Robby to go back to sleep, so I cursed the Easter Bunny's stupidity, waved the white surrender flag, and poured a much needed cup of coffee. I switched on cartoons and waited for the caffeine to start working.

Robby is now happily munching on a potato chips and milk breakfast as we wait for Daddy to wake up. (He needs to distribute the rest of the surprises outside.) I reason that children across the country are eating chocolate and jelly beans for breakfast, so potato chips are okay for today. If the Easter Bunny doesn't start "hopping" soon, I'm going to have to go downstairs and wake him up.

** Robby finally got to go search for his surprises. He got a brand new digital camera and took a picture of Mommy all by himself.
I set Robby up with his very own web page this morning. If you want to see the world through the eyes of a my little boy, feel free to check it out.
A budding photographer?