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 16, 2010

Time for another haircut...

He received a lollipop from every person who had to hold him down during his ordeal.... he scored 4!

Summertime... Time for Stares!

The weather has been both unseasonably warm and unbelievably beautiful for the past few weeks. The temperatures have soured into the low 90's with the skies maintaining a brilliant happy blue hue. After the seemingly endless line of snowstorms we were dealt this past winter, the warm weather is especially appreciated. I have to remind myself that we are only in the beginning of April!

After enduring an "epic battle of the shirts" with Robby, he has finally accepted short sleeves as a summer wardrobe item. I must give credit to Scott for this victory. I came home from my CAT scan last week and found Robby with tear stained cheeks, but he was also wearing a short sleeve shirt. I am glad that I did not witness the battle, but I am thankful that Scott won!

My transition into my summer wardrobe is not nearly as traumatic as it was for Robby, although I was discouraged by the inexplicable shrinking that occurred to my pants during their winter hibernation. I changed my exercise routine, stopped eating the cookies we baked and I'm happy to report that everything fits again. Finally, I am summer ready!

I put my favorite pair of shorts the other day, gathered Robby and his list, and headed to the grocery store. Robby was being especially well-behaved at the store. In fact, he was friendly and engaging to the other shoppers. Robby was saying hello and waving to shoppers in close proximity and those that were an aisle away. My goodness, he was certainly in a good mood!

Initially I was pleased with this good behavior, and had flirted with the notion that perhaps he is outgrowing Robby Rotten. And then I took a closer look at the situation, and I realized what was happening. I was turning heads of other shoppers as I was walking around the store. While I'd like to believe it was because of my stunning blue eyes and hard fought for figure, I suspect the culprit is more sinister.

I was being stared at because my prosthetic was visible. Robby noticed the attention but was oblivious about the cause. He simply responded by acknowledging the looks and responding in turn. In his own little way, he was "catching" the starers and drawing attention to their behavior.

I was able to walk around the grocery store in the winter months without garnering any attention because I was wearing jeans. Now that I have transitioned to my summer wardrobe, my prosthetic is visible. One of the unfortunate results of showing my prosthetic is the gawking and hushed comments of my fellow shoppers.

When I first became aware of the stares, I became self-conscious. My instinct was to leave my cart, grab Robby and go home. I toyed with the notion of swiping the loudspeaker and shouting, "Attention Giant shoppers. There is a freak in the meat department. Go and see before she gets lost in frozen foods." However, I knew that approach would probably lead to my arrest, giving the gawkers the opportunity to see an amputee in handcuffs. I imagine that would certainly be the highlight of their day, and a sight they would recall for years to come!

Instead, I opted to keep my head high, push my cart and continue with my shopping. I know that I will become accustomed to the curiosity as the summer progresses. I choose to keep my leg uncovered and I am well aware that this decision leads me open to increased stares and inquiries. I had become accustomed to being "incognito" as an amputee during the long winter, so the stares were a swift dose of "amputee reality."

Whenever I turned an aisle or walked past another shopper, I heard Robby say hello. It became fun watching the shoppers try to ignore my little boy who was calling out their stares. Perhaps I'll encourage Robby to bring his camera to the grocery store the next time we go. He loves snapping pictures of people looking in his direction. Just imagining the shock and shame of these individuals if their acts were captured on a Fisher Price camera by a child! Perhaps that would hush some of the whispers, and shorten a few of the stares.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Butterfly Love

Like most little boys, Robby loves bugs. He enjoys nothing more than digging around in the dirt to find a fat worm or watching ants scramble on the driveway for hours. This morning he found the jackpot of bugs. He found a butterfly.

Watching Robby delight in running around the yard chasing an unsuspecting butterfly truly warmed my heart. With peels of giggles he scrambled around his Nana's yard, trying to catch the two winged fluttering creature. After flying around for several minutes, with Robby running along in tow, the butterfly settled on a peony bud.

With one swift motion, and to my surprise, I managed to catch the butterfly. We put his butterfly inside her new temporary home, a clean take-out deli container. Robby proudly strutted around his Nana's house, showing off his new friend.

Robby was giddy with excitement as he carried his butterfly. I encouraged him to let his pretty little friend go, but Robby was insistent that he take the butterfly home to see his Daddy. He was sure that his Daddy would be "super happy" to see the "pretty pretty butterfly." After a few rounds of "pleeez Momom, pleeez" I relented and agreed that the butterfly could travel with us.

My Mom and I decided that the butterfly had the best chance of surviving the 2 hour drive if we provided some food. Not knowing exactly what they eat, we opted to cut a peony bud to put into the jar. We carefully chose a fat bud, and cracked open the lid.

Out flew Robby's prized butterfly. The butterfly began to circle the three of us, flying just out of reach. Robby immediately became frantic as he began screaming "my butterfly... my pretty pretty butterfly...come back." He began to cry.

I felt horrible when I saw my little bug lovers heart break in front of my eyes. My Mom and I immediately went into bug catching mode. We knew that we had to catch that butterfly!

I tried running after the butterfly. It was at this point that I realized that I may be fast enough to catch a running toddler, but I am not quick enough to catch a nervous bug! The more the bug flew out of reach, the louder and more distraught Robby became.

My natural grace and athletic ability failed me again as I was unable to sneak up on the butterfly when she landed. I tried to be swift and stealth when the butterfly landed on the ground or on a bush, but I was unsuccessful. I don't know if butterflies have ears, but I suspect that my accompanying screaming toddler didn't help the "surprise factor."

My Mom went into the shed to try to find a butterfly trapping device. While a net would have been ideal, she emerged carrying the lid to a trash can. Yes, her plan was to toss the lid onto the butterfly, trapping her to the ground. Robby, thinking that he needed a tool, grabbed a stick.

I was hobbling around, ungraceful but mobile and upright, trying to trap the creature in my hands. My Mom was running next to me holding a trash can lid in a manner which resembled a shield, pleading with the butterfly to please slow down. Robby was running behind us, crying hysterically and waving a stick as he begged the butterfly to come back into the jar. My brother watched the entire scene unfold as he was leaning against the garage in his underwear smoking a cigarette.

After nearly 30 minutes of chaos, the nervous little butterfly flew high over the neighbors house. I tried to convince Robby that his butterfly friend needed to fly home to see her Mommy. I don't think he believed me. Robby is convinced that the butterfly went to Alabama, where he thinks all bugs go when they fly away.

I am hoping that he is over the traumatic loss of his butterfly friend soon. I am tired of hearing how his butterfly flew away, and that he is sad. Of course, he still reminds me that I lost his red balloon (it flew out of the car about 5 weeks ago) at every opportunity, so I suspect I'll be hearing about the butterfly all summer long!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Help Wanted...

I was going to keep this a private matter, but I have realized that I am terrible at keeping secrets. I have sent query letters to publishers of magazines, inviting the editors to view my blog and expressing my interest in writing a piece for their publication. To date, I have not heard a response.

I know that it may take weeks, or even months, to receive a response. I know that John Boy Walton received hundreds of denial letters in the mail when he was trying to publish his novel on The Waltons. I suppose I expected a similar response. Apparently times have changed, and we no longer live in the courteous world of that television family. It is possible that I will never receive the courtesy of a denial.

Although I am frustrated, I will not give up. I know that I have an unusual story and unique perspective on parenting and life. Resources for amputee parents are limited and the need is increasing. My readership is small in number but has been growing steadily every month. I know that there is a greater audience to reach. I want to reach out to other amputees to let them know that the world can be crazy when you've lost a limb but that it can also be wonderful.

An acquaintance recently referenced my "silly little blog." He didn't mean to be unkind, and, truth be told, he has never understood my venture. Still, that statement really hurt. I felt that my efforts and my aspirations were devalued.

For me, my blog is much more than posts on the Internet. If I have written "a silly little blog," then I what I have been doing for the past year has been a wasted effort. I don't believe this to be true. I am proud of what I've written.

I have received multiple offers promising resources, assistance and support towards obtaining more mainstream publishing possibilities. While I appreciate all of these well meaning offers, I have come to the realization that they are merely gestures of goodwill. I have attempted to solicit both information and assistance to no avail.

Asking for help does not come easily for me. I feel rejected and gun-shy when my inquiries are ignored. I am starting to feel discouraged.

I am going to continue blogging and writing. I am going to continue researching magazines and newspapers to pursue a column. I am not going to give up because I believe that I can help others by relating my experiences, and I believe in myself.

I am at a point in this journey where I must elicit help. If you know of a publication that might benefit from the thoughts and musings of the Amputee Mommy, please let me know. If you are familiar with a publisher that might be able to assist me with bringing my words to publication, please let me know. Thank you for reading my blog and for making my dreams a reality.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Three Infirmed Amigos

I have been up at my mom's house for the past few days for a visit. Robby and I have been helping her prepare for her new business venture as a Tomboy Tools consultant. She was having hosting her first "Tool Party," and asked me to help her get setup and make cookies to serve.

The party was scheduled for 3:30 which left us the entire morning and most of the afternoon to get prepared. However, my Mom had a "great idea" and decided to borrow my sister's pick-up truck to pick up a Hoosier cabinet she had built by some craftsmen an hour away. So, instead of sweeping, cleaning and preparing the presentation, we piled into the car to drive 45 minutes to meet my sister with the truck at the woodworkers shop.

Robby loved running around the fields in Amish country with his two cousins Jacob and Jared. The Hoosier, which turned out absolutely beautiful, was carefully loaded into the truck by the woodworkers. So far, the day had been easy. I enjoyed a nice ride into the country, Robby got to run with his friends, and we didn't have to lift a finger to get the furniture into the truck. My stress level decreased, and I began to relax.

It wasn't until we drove the cabinet home and confronted moving it into the house did we appreciate the massive size. I have one leg and a bad shoulder. My Mom has herniated disks in her back, and spinal stenosis. My sister has not regained all of her strength from the chemotherapy she completed several months ago. I began to doubt that we were the correct trio to conquer this task!

We all might be on the injured reserve list for various issues, but we do share a common trait. We are determined. Okay, others might view us as stubborn, but in any case, we don't give up easily!

My sister hopped up on the top of the truck and pushed the first piece into place. I grabbed the end, and my Mom was positioned in the center. On the count of three we lifted the cabinet and began to walk. Or, at least that was our plan.

Wow, that cabinet was heavy! There was nothing graceful about the way we maneuvered the walkway and the stairs, but slowly we made progress. We only had to stop a few times to reposition our grip and to yell at the three boys who were taking full advantage of the opportunity to run amuck.

I tried to walk backwards up the stairs but quickly realized that my leg was not cooperating. After three steps I was forced to halt the operation and shuffle roles. My sister walked backwards, I walked forward and my Mom was in the middle, trying to keep the furniture from toppling over.

At one point going up the stairs my sister temporarily lost her grip on the cabinet. I know this because at that same moment the furniture's weight was supported solely by my neck and shoulder. Yes, I am a little sore now, but the cabinet never fell.

There were several dicey moments when we could have lost control of the cabinet. My sister and I both knew how heartbroken my Mom would have been had her coveted Hoosier been scratched or broken. We pushed through the pain and, against all odds, managed to get the cabinet up the stairs, into the kitchen and positioned correctly. It looks beautiful!

Unfortunately, the boys took full advantage of not having constant supervision. Jacob decided that brushing his teeth would be a good idea. I don't think he used a toothbrush, but he certainly made use of the toothpaste. The bathroom floor and counter tops were soaked and minty fresh!

Robby opted to spend much of his time in the sandbox. My Mom, thinking that it would be "fun" filled her sandbox with green sand. Yes, bright green sand. Robby emerged from the sandbox looking like a bright green piece of asparagus. He was filthy, but smiling from ear to ear and covered in sand from head to toe. This is what he looked like after the first "clean up" attempt.

With the Hoosier in place and the boys accounted for, my Mom and I set about getting ready for her party. I changed Robby's clothes, tried to brush off the visible sand, and washed his face with a baby wipe. A bath was going to have to wait; we had work to do!

Working together, we got the house ready for the big Tomboy Tools kick-off. By the time the party started my Mom and I were exhausted. Robby's sand had mostly shed, leaving him the shade of a pale green apple.

The party was a success, and everybody seemed to enjoy the cookies and strawberry lemonade Robby and I made. With her first presentation completed, my mom is feeling more confident in her new role. I'd be happy to help her with future parties. I would just appreciate not planning another big move for the same day! My mom told me to quit whining. In my defense, it is an imposing and heavy piece of furniture. Some whining is justified!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Choosing a Prosthetist

In many ways, the relationship that the amputee develops with his or her prosthetist is more important than the one which was developed with the surgeon. It wasn't until after my amputation that I realized the minimal role the surgeon plays. My prosthetist has become my first line of defense against residual limb issues, and my surgeon is only contacted when all other remedies have been tried and have been deemed unsuccessful.

I was encouraged to research and to choose a prosthetist before my surgery, so I went on the Internet and located prosthetists in my area. I then asked several amputees in my area who they used, and if they were happy with the care that they were receiving. I was surprised how many amputees were not satisfied with their prosthetic care. With so many prosthetists in my area, I remain confused why an amputee would stay with prosthetists that they did not like, or whom they felt was providing inadequate care.

I have learned volumes since my amputation about prosthetics and prosthetists. I have discovered that all practices do not operate the same, and that there are vast variations among both the limbs that are manufactured and the care that is offered.

I sought an office where I was a person, not merely a patient. I remember calling my prosthetists office after my amputation to schedule my first appointment. Liz, the office receptionist, answered the phone. I immediately started crying and I couldn't talk. Without hesitating, she told me that it was going to be okay, and listened to me blurt out my name as I told her that I had an amputation. She immediately pulled Elliot out of a meeting and put him on the phone. I'm sure that she does not remember this act of gentle kindness, but I will never forget. This compassion and level of patient support is the underlying personality of this office.

It is important that an open line of communication exists between the practitioner and the amputee. In many ways, I view Elliot as my facilitator. I explain my dreams or my goals, and he provides me with the tools that I need to move forward. He never tells me that I shouldn't do something, or that I am unrealistic.

Although I didn't appreciate the information when initially explained to me, I now understand the importance of having my prosthetics manufactured and serviced "in house." When I need an adjustment or a repair on my limb, it is done immediately. I cannot imagine the inconvenience of having my leg shipped somewhere off site for a repair, leaving me without my limb for days or weeks on end. For me, that would be unacceptable!

Not only does the prosthetist need to remain open to the needs and desires of the amputee, I want him to remain current with new technology. I have been shocked and disheartened to discover how many prosthetists are against incorporating bionic technology into their limbs. Many prosthetists, especially those who have been in the field for a long time, have not received training on computerized limb components. Rather than learning new skills, they simply deny the opportunity to their patients.

I cringe when I hear an amputee tell me that their prosthetist won't let them try new technology, dismissing the bionic component as "unnecessary." In my experience, and in my opinion, it should be left to the amputee to judge whether or not a component works. After all, the amputee is the person wearing the device. I appreciate the prosthetist that says, "I don't know if this will work for you, but we can get one in and give it a try."

When I have an issue with the fit of my socket, typically I can be worked into the office schedule the same day. There is little more than can ruin an amputees day than an ill-fitting, uncomfortable socket. Elliot is able to understand my sometimes clumsy explanation of what I am feeling and will work on my leg until it is remedied.

I remember calling Elliot in a panic because my socket suddenly became unwearable. It was rubbing on the side of my stump, causing me to limb noticeably and it was painful to walk. I needed to get my leg adjusted immediately because a family trip to the "Wiggle World" amusement park was scheduled the next day. I couldn't bare disappointing Robby!

Elliot had me come into the office immediately and worked on my socket for several hours. He worked past the typical closing time because he valued my need to walk comfortably. He understood that an uncomfortable socket would ruin a family trip. He never complained about staying and worked until he found a remedy. Having a prosthetist that understands and values the needs of the individual is a true blessing!

I don't understand why an amputee would stay with a practitioner whom they felt was providing inadequate care. I hear stories of prosthetists dismissing the needs of the amputee or belittling the individual. One would never stay with a hair stylist who continually ruined my hair, so why stay with a prosthetist who is not providing with a comfortable and functional limb? It is okay to change a prosthetist if needs are not being met!

Choosing a prosthetist is a decision that should be carefully weighed. I looked for an individual who was compassionate, knowledgeable, innovative, accessible and equipped to manufacture and repair on site. Above all, having a working rapport with the professional is paramount. They should be part of the team, but the amputee should always be the leader. After all, we are the ones wearing the devices everyday, and ultimately we know what we need.