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, June 25, 2010

Going to Grandma's

Our bags are packed and we're ready to go. No, we aren't leaving on a jet plane. Tomorrow morning we are waking up Robby before dawn and embarking on a childhood rite of passage. He is going on his first long distance road trip.

We have been preparing Robby for the trip for weeks. We have shown him where Grandma's house is on a map, and we have been talking about all the fun adventures that we are going to have in Ohio. We even promised him a trip to an amusement park, but he is most excited by the promise of ice cream and going to "The Wal-Mart." At this age, he is still relatively inexpensive to amuse!

If history is any indication, I suspect that my stump is going to become uncomfortable about 4 hours into the drive. Sitting down with my leg in my prosthetic, without moving, forces the front of my limb to pivot against my socket. After several hours the pressure point begins to burn and sting. It is not uncommon for me to spend the remainder of the trip with my prosthetic removed. I never would have imagined that my amputation would impact my ability to sit during a long car trip.

Unfortunately, merely removing the prosthetic does not fix the problem. Without equal weight bearing through my legs, my sound side begins to ache and my lower back becomes tender. Finding a comfortable position becomes a struggle until we arrive at our destination. Hoping to avoid my "squirming dance," I am packing blankets and pillows of different thicknesses to prop my stump in the car. I am hopeful that my preparation will yield a comfortable trip and that the limb/leg/back discomfort can be avoided!

Even if I can thwart the stump pain, I know that it is going to be a long day. The 8 hour drive offers little in terms of scenery or variety. I have been mentally preparing myself for a barrage of "I'm bored" and "Are we there yet?" I am ready for hours of whining and complaining, and I don't have a clue as to how Robby will behave!

Yes, going on a road trip with my sweet husband certainly equates to one of Dante's levels of purgatory. I am held captive, forced to listen to him complain about every inconvenience or discomfort. His lamenting usually begins after about two hours and continues until we arrive at our destination. Simply put, he is horrible on road trips. It is ironic that he can sit behind the steering wheel on his computer and gleefully "race" 500 miles, but I digress.

Robby has proven to be an agreeable little traveler. He is accustomed to sitting in the car for the 2.5 hours it takes to drive to my mom's house. We are in uncharted territory asking him to sit in the car for over 8 hours. Despite our pre-baby affirmations that we would never buy one, I must admit that we purchased a DVD player for the car. I am hoping that the novelty of watching CARS and Veggie Tales in the car will be enough to keep him occupied.

I've filled the cooler with snacks and drinks. I've charged up my IPod so that I can, at least temporarily, block out Scott's complaints as well as the sounds of singing vegetables and talking cars coming from the back seat. I will be relieved when I arrive at Grandma's house. I hope that she has a full bottle of Tylenol.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mixed Emotions

Yesterday was a day full of emotions. I was excited and proud about being part of the press release written by the Amputee Coalition of America, and I am hopeful that my horrific experience may be used as an example so that increased training for TSA screeners will be implemented. There is no greater compliment for my blog than knowing that my words may have contributed to a beneficial change.

My pride, however, was tempered with sadness and anxiety. Yesterday I had two blog friends undergo leg amputations. Their medical situations differ greatly, but the fears and anxieties that they expressed are universal. Knowing what they were going through, the terror that they were feeling, brought me back to the days leading up to surgery. They were both on my mind all day.

I try to avoid reflecting on the time before my amputation. I was beyond scared. I knew that I was making the correct decision, but I feared living without my leg. I was scared of waking up without my foot, scared of the pain and scared of being visually disabled to the world. I worried that I was entering the operating room in many ways broken, but that I would emerge incomplete.

I spoke with both of these blog friends several times on the phone as they prepared for the amputation. I tried to answer the questions that they asked as well as those questions that they were too nervous to ask. Hearing the anxiety and the fear in their voices broke my heart. I knew that they are going to be okay, but I also realized that, until they survive the amputation and regain their mobility, they will not fully believe me. I know I didn't believe those who tried to comfort me.

My day started with a 5 AM call from my friend in Arizona. She was scared and nearly inconsolable. I tried to provide the right words, but I knew that nothing could soothe her pain. Sometimes, as helpless as it feels, I realize all I can do is listen and validate. By the end of the call she was no longer crying, but her anguish was radiating.

I tried to busy myself around the house, but my thoughts kept driving back to my own surgery. I don't like remembering those feelings so I do my best to push them out of my mind. I'm sure a therapist would disagree and tell me that it is not healthy, but it seems to work for me. My avoidance tactic worked because my house is now clean and we are caught up on laundry.

I have received calls from the families of both of my friends. Both women are recovering and are as comfortable as possible. My heart lightened with the news that the amputations are over and that they can both work towards resuming their lives. I am thankful that they thought enough to have me contacted with the updates.

Both of these ladies are now unfortunate members of a small group of amputee survivors. We did not lose our limbs immediately because of an accident or trauma. Instead, we had to choose to amputate our painful, diseased or broken down limbs in order to regain our lives. Many of us endured years of painful and unsuccessful limb salvaging surgeries only to come to the conclusion that we would be better off with a prosthetic. The process is heartbreaking and draining for all involved.

Both women are going to have arduous journeys ahead of them. They will be in pain and they will struggle. I know that they will also celebrate each step and will regain their independence and health. I am grateful to have been part of their journey, and I look forward to celebrating the victories which are awaiting them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TSA Press Release

Hot off the presses... I have been working with ACA concerning my experience with TSA last month. They have included my nightmare in a press release that just went out today. I am proud that my "little blog" might be a player in effecting a change that will benefit all amputees.

Click here to read the release.

Amputee Perks

Finally, my "secret" berry patch is beginning to ripen and yield fruit. Robby and I stumbled upon the stash of free berries last year when we were playing at our local park. We have been checking the bushes, anxious to pick the ripe fruit before the birds and deers have their feast.

Yesterday morning I packed up my seasoned berry picker, grabbed a bucket and headed to the park. As we were picking I again realized how "lucky" I was that I was using a prosthetic. I have had these thoughts before, but the irony of this observation never ceases to amuse me.

I have written a lot about the obstacles of living an active life with a prosthetic. Sometimes having a prosthetic is an advantage. While I would obviously still prefer to have my original limb, I would be remiss if I didn't expose the advantages of living as an amputee.

Picking blackberries can be a hazardous job. The wild bushes are thorny and are often covered with brush and poison ivy. My two legged counterparts would risk thorn punctures and cuts if they tried to reach into the depths of the bushes. I was able to stomp down the thorny growths with my prosthetic and remain untouched by the sharp prickles and unaffected by the poison ivy. A prosthetic is an invaluable advantage when trampling down thorns and overgrowth.

Having an amputation is especially beneficial if you are flying on Southwest Airlines. Because seats are not assigned, passengers are grouped by number for boarding. A stampede often ensues, especially on a sold out plane, as passengers vie for a better spot in line. Those at the back of the line are often stuck in the worst seats.

Since my amputation we have not had to volley for the optimum position in line. As soon as I reach the gate, I immediately locate a Southwest employee. I ask for the "blue card" which permits pre-boarding access for me and my flying party. I am allowed to board the plane before the first group, providing me with the opportunity to pick the best seats possible.

As I discovered at Disneyland and have since confirmed with other amusement parks, amputees qualify for preferential access for rides. The amputee and those in the group are ushered to the front of the line. Avoiding the 45 minute wait in the herd of hot, grumpy and sometimes odoriferous visitors is a definite advantage!

Not only do amputees avoid the long waits for the rides, but many theme parks offer reduced admission prices for disabled patrons. Check at the ticket counter or online, but I know that Six Flags parks offer half price admission for those with disabilities. Saving money because I'm an amputee? That's a good thing.

If you enjoy visiting national parks, you have probably realized that the entrance fees have skyrocketed in the past few years. Some parks are now charging upwards of $20 for admission. Disabled individuals, including active amputees, qualify for the "America the Beautify Access Pass" which allows for free entrance into every national park. Discounts are also available for various park amenities. Check here for more details.

I have learned that many zoos also offer reduced admission prices for disabled individuals. I have gotten into the habit of looking on their website, typically under frequently asked questions, to determine individual policies. I know that the National Zoo, which doesn't have an admission fee, does offer air conditioned sitting areas for disabled patrons. After a few hours of walking in the heat and humidity of DC in the summer, the air conditioned respite is a welcome relief!

When I first became an amputee I shunned the "perks" that were offered to disabled individuals. With the exception of handicapped parking, I refused to accept discounted admissions, access to amenities and special treatment. I think my pride kept me from utilizing these offers. I figured that I was "just as able" as everybody else, so I didn't need anything extra.

Time has tempered these feelings. I now realize that, although I am capable, the special access to amusement park rides was beneficial. Standing still can be painful for me, and I am often fatigued merely by standing in line. With time, I have come to realize that preferential ride access is merely an accommodation to make my experience more comfortable.

My accepting a reduced fare because I am "disabled" is no different than the senior citizen taking advantage of senior discounts. I do not demand to pay less because I am an amputee, but if the opportunity to save money presents itself, it would be financially imprudent to pay more merely on principle. Still, in some situations I turn down the reduced fare, opting to pay full price. For example, the DC metro system offers reduced subway prices for disabled patrons. Somehow, that just seems wrong so I pay the normal price.

I am forced to overcome obstacles on a daily basis because of my limb loss. Many times I adapt without giving it a second thought because, after all these years, living as an amputee is natural. However, sometimes I am forced to the sidelines because I am having difficulty or I am in pain. I have opted to accept the benefits and accommodations which are afforded to make my experiences better. I am forced to accept the obstacles; I might as well embrace the few benefits as well. Have I forgotten a "perk?" Feel free to list your own!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Sweat

I love summer. I relish the sense of freedom that comes from wearing sundresses and sandals. Feeling the sun on my shoulders and feeling the grass beneath my foot makes me feel energized and alive. Even in this carefree season, summer does pose some interesting issues for the amputee.

Heat causes the skin to sweat. Typically perspiration is a relatively benign occurrence and is not given much thought. However when the stump begins to sweat, it can ruin the activities for the entire day.

A sweaty stump can lead to pistoning within the liner, making the amputee unsteady. It is an unnerving feeling when the liner is secure but the stump is moving in and out of the socket. When this happens, I feel as if I am no longer in control of the prosthetic, and in many ways I am at the mercy of my leg. I have no choice but to stop what I am doing, remove my liner and dry my leg. Depending upon where I am, this is not always easy.

I went sight-seeing a few years ago and was struggling with a sweaty leg all day. Because we were in the middle of DC, I did not feel comfortable taking off my prosthetic to dry my skin. I opted to tough it out and keep going, making sure to walk slowly and deliberately to avoid falling. When I finally got home and took off my liner, a puddle of sweat poured out.

I didn't realize that I was damaging the tender skin on my limb. In addition to contributing to instability, a sweaty residual limb is prone to sores and pinch cuts. The movement of the skin against the liner can lead to irritation. I made it through the day, but I had also developed a sore on the back of my leg. I was forced to go on antibiotics and I couldn't wear my prosthetic until it healed. I knew that I had to start doing something so that this didn't happened again.

Through trial and error, I have discovered that a little preparation can thwart a sweaty residual limb. When I know I am going to be exercising or spending a lot of time outside, I will spray my stump with Stay Dri antiperspirant. This keeps my stump from sweating, enabling me to stay secure within my liner despite the oppressive heat.

I don't like putting chemicals on or in my body, but the risks of falling or skin breakdown because of a sweaty stump outweighs those concerns. I don't use the spray daily because I do not want to decrease the effectiveness nor do I want a constant supply of chemicals on my skin. I always wash my limb as soon as my exposure to the heat and activity is over.

I have tried numerous brands of antiperspirant spray, but I found them either ineffective or irritating. For whatever reason, Stay Dri works for me. Scott became the beneficiary of the 14 sprays that didn't work for me. In retrospect, perhaps I should have purchased sample sizes for my experiment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Summer of Peggy!

Today officially starts Scott's summer vacation. At noon today he turns in his keys and doesn't have to worry about grading papers, calling angry parents or breaking up student fights for nearly 10 weeks. I know that he is looking forward to his vacation, and Robby has been excitedly chatting about having "Daddy home for summer."

Although I am glad that he is going to be home, it is going to require an adjustment. I am used to taking care of Robby by myself during the day. He and I have settled into a comfortable schedule, striking a balance between playing and working around the house. Although it is a lot of fun having Scott home, it certainly does impact my day to day activities.

I have vowed that this summer will be different from years past. This summer, we are going to tackle our ever growing "to do" list with gusto. This summer, we are going to split the cooking and the cleaning so that it is not my sole responsibility. This summer, we are both going to relax!

In addition to soliciting more help around the house, I am planning on using the time for personal growth, and I have set some summer goals. In an effort to hold myself accountable, I am declaring my intentions.

1. This summer I will continue to jog. I will not become discouraged by my slow speed. I realize that the only way I will continue to improve is to keep moving. I still do not enjoy running, but I do relish the time alone. I also appreciate the effect jogging has on my thighs and bum!

2. I am going to continue researching freelance writing opportunities. I have been accepted by a writer's forum which distributes writing jobs. I am going to complete at least one assignment by the Labor Day.

3. Since Robby was born I have been toying with an idea I have for a children's book. There are few books written on a child's level addressing a parent's or friend's amputation. I am going to try to fill this void.

4. Many times I invest so much time and energy into Robby and Scott that I forget to take care of myself. This summer, I am going to invest more time in myself. I am going to paint my fingernails, read novels and indulge in long baths without feeling guilty.

5. I am going to make a quilt out of my wedding dress and Robby's baby blankets. I have been sketching out the pattern for over a year. This is the summer I take out my scissors and get quilting.

I am looking forward to our family summer "staycation." We are going to have fun playing in the Buzz Lightyear sprinkler, going to the animal park and playing hide and go seek. Robby is already begging to sleep outside in his giraffe tent (I have decided that camping is a father/son activity) and he has been learning camping songs in preparation.

Life moves so quickly. Next summer Robby will be getting ready for kindergarten. The thought of him going to school brings tears to my eyes so I want to soak up every minute while he is still young. I look forward to all of the adventures that lie ahead. This summer will be our best yet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Scott, Robby loves you very much. He is downstairs watching CARS, curled up under his covers with a sippy cup of milk. He smiled to me when I was coming upstairs and told me he "liked watching race cars like Daddy." He tries to emulate you because you are his hero.

I know that Robby runs and hides when you come home from work, and all you want to do is give him a hug. You don't see him jumping up and down gleefully squealing "Hooray... Daddy is home from work.. Hooray!" He misses you so much some days that I am must complete multiple craft projects and bake numerous dozen cookies because "Daddy will be super happy."

Robby loves you, and so do I. Thank you for working so hard so that I can stay home to raise our little boy. I know that he is going to be a better man because of our sacrifices.

To my Dad, I love you. I miss seeing you regularly but I know that the move was your best decision. Robby still refers to your room as "Candy Papaw's room" and frequently asked when you are coming back. I wish you were here today. I would make you meatloaf and potato kugel.

You've raised me to be an independent, free thinking woman. Although we may not always agree, we have always been able to talk. For that, I am thankful. I love you, and I hope that you have a wonderful day.