About Me

My photo
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 11, 2011

13 Years

Most days, I feel like I am a well-adjusted amputee. Most days, I don't lament the loss of my foot. Most days, I'm happy with my life just the way it is and I don't wish I could reverse time. This is not one of those days.

I hesitate to admit this, but I miss my foot today. I know the reason I'm feeling the loss, but knowing the cause has not lessened the intensity. Thirteen years ago this morning my foot was crushed, setting my life on a different course which ultimately included the amputation of my limb.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was 23 years old, fresh out of graduate school and excitedly looking forward to participating in my first professional conference. Getting dressed that morning, I was completely unaware that I would be putting my left shoe on my foot for the very last time.

My foot was crushed by a computer monitor that was improperly secured on a cart. In a moment my life changed. At first we thought that I suffered only a few broken bones. Within months it became clear that the injury was more substantive.

I wish I didn't feel this way today, but I would be dishonest if I claimed I was not sad. My 20's were spent recovering from surgeries and living in constant pain. I resent that I was not able to live the carefree lifestyle of my friends!

I realize that I have a life abundant with blessings. I typically don't dwell on the past, accepting what has happened and trying to make the best life possible as I move forward. Sometimes, that is more difficult than at other times.

Today, I am going to let myself feel sad and angry as I mourn what was lost 13 years ago. I am sure I will curse my prosthetic and my life as an amputee. This was certainly not part of my life path when I was a wide-eyed optimistic newbie from college.

Sometimes, I have learned, it is okay to cry (even after all these years). In fact, I think that it is important to allow myself to feel my emotions- as long as I don't visit those dark places for too long. Saturday morning I will wake up, put on my leg, and be happy with all that is wonderful in my life. But today, I think I'll grab another cup of coffee, crawl into bed and hide- at least until Robby wakes up.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

House of Cards

Before my amputation I never considered the possibilities of complications, revision surgeries and the occasional day where I wouldn't be able to wear my leg. I assumed that after I healed from the surgery, I would receive my prosthesis and life would be great. I failed to realize that my ability to ambulate would be built on a relatively fragile house of cards.

In one way, I gained my independence through my amputation. On the other hand, I feel vulnerable because my ability to walk is dependent upon so many factors. I now find myself completely reliant upon carbon fiber and computerized components. Fluid fluctuations within my limb, nerve issues and phantom pain can all conspire on any given day to make ambulating painful.

If I wake up with an ingrown hair, I am restricted for the day; if I fall and bump my limb, I have a painful prosthesis day; pinch cuts occur and I am without my leg until I am healed. Through experience I have learned that bone spurs, bursas and neuromas can develop from seemingly nowhere to sideline me, forcing me to undergo surgery and a painful recovery.

In order to maintain healthy and mobile, I am always vigilant. I am careful to examine my stump every night. I take all the necessary precautions with my liner and socket. I never imagined that my hand mirror and a tube of Neosporin would become fixtures on my nightstand. Still, despite my efforts, sometimes bad things just happen!

Speaking with my amputee friends, I have discovered that many times we become sidelined at the most inopportune moments although, I suppose that there is never a good time for something lousy to occur. Despite our efforts, revision surgeries, sores, phantom pains and discomfort happen.

It is frustrating when I wake up and I can't walk without pain. I am reminded of my "disability" when I have to adjust my socket, or when my prosthetic breaks down. I've had five revision surgeries since I became an amputee, and I would be lying if I didn't admit that I fear another.

I wish that being an amputee was as easy as learning to balance on a prosthetic. It's a lot harder than I anticipated. That being said, I have no doubt that I'm still better off today than I was the days before my surgery.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

No Good Horrible Rotten Very Bad Days

During the past few days it has felt as if everything around me was breaking and falling apart. It feels like every time I reach for something it doesn't work or is irrevocably broken. In some ways it feels as if the universe is conspiring against me.

Friday morning, sitting in my hotel room in South Carolina, I powered up my laptop to check both my email and the agenda for the day. My computer wouldn't load my programs and only the dreaded blue screen of death displayed on the screen. All of my attempts at repair were in vain. Incidentally, body slamming a laptop out of frustration onto a bed no fewer than 28 times will not fix anything!

Friday night I arrived in the FastPark lot at the Baltimore-Washington airport, after my long day of meetings, traveling and a broken computer. I was tired and not excited about the additional 90 minute drive before I finally arrived home, but I was excited to see Robby and Scott. I put the key in the ignition only to hear the now all too familiar silence that signaled a dead battery. Luckily the parking lot attendant was available and jumped my car.

Much of Saturday was spent shopping for a new laptop. Wanting to wait for the new ad cycle, we decided to wait until the next day to make a purchase. I had accepted the fact that I was going to have to buy a new computer, but I was still not happy about the expense.

Sunday morning I was thrilled when we opened up the newspaper to see the circular for Best Buy. The computer that I chose was on sale. We didn't save a lot, but I was happy for any price reduction. It took the sting out of the expense. We packed up and headed to the store.

Apparently while we were gone, we had a power outage at home. I noticed that the clock on the oven was flashing and pressed the reset button. Nothing happened. I pressed the button more, along with every other button on the control panel to no avail. After examining the fuse box and trying to reset the appliance, we were left with the realization that my oven had been fried by the power surge.

I wasn't surprised that the oven finally broke. After all, it is 21 years old and the accompanying microwave has been non-functional for over a year. We knew that we were baking on borrowed time, but it certainly doesn't make accepting the broken oven less frustrating.

After discovering that my wall oven was broken, I knew that I would need to rearrange my kitchen. My stand alone "less broken" oven would become my only means to bake. In order for this appliance to work, it must be slid out from the wall and plugged in. The plug is awkward and the only way I can get it into the socket is by hitting it with my cast iron tomato shaped trivet.

The on/off on the control panel on the oven no longer works. After the initial temperature is set, it cannot be changed. The oven must be unplugged and no less than 15 seconds must pass before it can be plugged back in. Only after it has been unplugged and replugged can the temperature be changed. When I am done baking, I have unplug the appliance and push it back against the wall.

The microwave which used to be stored downstairs but was moved upstairs when the wall microwave broke last year, has been stored on top of my "less broken" stand alone oven. I was in the process of moving the microwave onto the counter in anticipation of having to move the oven frequently. Just as I picked up the microwave I heard Robby exclaim, "Momom, it's raining inside again."

Our roof is leaking again. Rain is coming in around the fireplace, trickling down the wall of bricks and landing all over the hardwood floors and stairs. I threw down some towels and hid in the bedroom. I wanted to quietly sip on a cup of coffee and find my happy place before proceeding with my disaster of a day.

Unfortunately, I forgot that I was in the process of descaling my coffee pot earlier that morning before we left to buy the computer. Subsequently I brewed myself a steeping hot cup of coffee flavored vinegar. I ended up grabbing a bag of Hershey Kisses and crawling back into bed.

And then I discovered that I wasn't the only thing that had crawled into bed. Apparently Robby decided to give the newest members of our family, about 50 ants living in a glow in the dark habitat, a tour of the house. He placed the habitat on my nightstand, where it was knocked over by the cat. On the positive side, my chocolate remained unscathed by the ants!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Birthday Plans

Scott turned 45 on Monday. He has been prepping me for the "big day" for weeks, continually reminding me at every opportunity that it is a milestone birthday . Talk about pressure to deliver!

I love my husband and I wanted to make the day as special as he deserves. I also realized that there was no way I would be able to meet his expectations. He isn't usually high maintenance and has never chattered about his birthday months before the date. I knew that he wanted something memorable, and I did not want to disappoint him.

I racked my brain for weeks as I tried to come up with the perfect present. The truth is, he just doesn't need anything right now. He has the computer system that he wants, and I bought the last of his accessories for Christmas. I was at a loss.

Walking into his computer room/ man-cave/ pit, I had an epiphany. The room was an absolute mess. Actually, mess is probably an understatement. I am fairly confident that the fire marshal would have condemned the space, although Scott did have a path carved into the junk between his chair and the door. I decided that I was going to provide Scott with the special space that he deserves. He loves playing computer games, and I suspected that he was simply overwhelmed by the hoarding ambiance. I was going to clean his computer room and buy him a nice chair (he had been using one of our kitchen chairs).

As soon as he left for work I got busy. I grabbed four garbage bags and entered the abyss. I quickly realized that I was going to need more bags--a lot more bags!

I am not sure how he accumulated so much junk in a relatively small space. I found stacks of burned light bulbs, a soiled diaper (obviously at least 4 years old since it was for a newborn) and the dinner plates and forks that I have been missing. Not everything I discovered was trash--I also found a few gift cards and a prosthetic liner!
Eighteen full garbage bags later, I was finally finished. I schlepped the trash downstairs and stashed it in the garage. My back, shoulder and stump were killing me by the end of the day. I suspect I am going to be reaping the physical ramifications of this gesture for the next few days.

However, his room was organized, sparkling clean and functional. Robby couldn't wait to show his Daddy the "super cool and clean" new computer room. It turns out that I gave Scott just what he needed for this milestone birthday--a place of his very own that he can enjoy!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Padded Pat Down-- Courtesy of TSA

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Columbia, South Carolina. Although I hated to leave Robby, the brief respite from the family stresses was welcome. After one night in the hotel and a successful event, I was feeling refreshed and ready to return home. Only one thing stood in my way--TSA.

I've written numerous times about my experiences with TSA. Although I understand their importance and I appreciate their efforts, I remain resolved that there has to be a better way to screen individuals with disabilities. Dealing with these agents has been a crap shoot as I never know if I am going to have a positive or a nightmare experience.

I conducted all of my standard preparations as I readied to fly home from Columbia: I arrived at the airport in plenty of time; my prosthetic was clearly visible; I made sure that my clothes were rivet and buckle free. I put a friendly and engaging smile on my face as I approached the agents.

As expected, I was directed to the small plexiglass screening area. The female agent went through the normal script, explaining the procedure and offering me a private screening. I declined the private room, feeling that my fellow travelers should witness the security measures.

Almost immediately I knew that this agent was going to take "thorough" to a whole new level. She slipped her hand up the bottom of my skirt as she stroked my thighs to check for contraband. I have had the agents check my legs when I was wearing pants, but this was the first time I've flown in a skirt. I won't make that mistake again!

After my leg rub, I had to explain to her that I was wearing Spanx (basically a girdle) under my skirt. I tried to explain that the garment was form fitting to stop my bum and thighs from jiggling, but that did not deter her examination. She pulled down the waistband and felt inside both the skirt and the Spanx. She remarked that it was certainly a "tight squeeze" as she tried to feel the inside of the form-fitting lycra.

Typically I fly wearing a sports bra to avoid attracting undo attention from the metal detecting wand. Unfortunately I was traveling directly from the event, and I did not have time to change my clothes. I arrived at the airport in my "professional" outfit, including my Miracle bra.

When the agent finished with my bottom half, I immediately began to dread the pat down of my chest. I knew that I was wearing a padded bra, and, from the amount of contact I received on my lower portion, I anticipated her discovering this secret as well. With the growing swarm of travelers passing through the screening area, I only hoped that she would be discrete.

My hopes were immediately dashed. "My goodness Dear, you have a lot of padding up here." She continued to press along my breasts, with each hand movement remarking about the amount of "cushioning and extra fabric stored in the bra." Another screener walked by and was informed, in a casual tone, that "this one (referring to me) has a LOT of padding in her bra."

Embarrassed, I stood still and continued to listen her complain about my brassiere. I tried telling her that it was a push-up bra that I was wearing to flatter my figure in the V-Neck shirt. I tried joking about the price of beauty to lighten the mood. She remained obtuse to my embarrassment as she continued to chatter about the amount of padding I was sporting.

She eventually told me that she was going to "brace my back with her other hand because I have to press hard to feel through all of that padding that you have in your bra." Suddenly, my Miracle Bra was not feeling nearly as miraculous!

Finally, I just said "Yes, I am wearing a padded bra." I was frustrated and apparently made my statement louder than I realized. The suited man trying to put on his shoes nearly lost his balance and almost fell over. An elderly woman looked shocked and the teenage boy coming through the detector suddenly seemed very interested in exploring a career in TSA.

After an unusually intimate pat down and a public commentary on my undergarments, I was finally cleared to fly. I held my head high (nearly as high as my heavily padded breasts) and continued towards my gate. I couldn't wait to get home, strip off my Miracle Bra and Spanx, and take a shower. I don't regret denying the private screening area. After experiencing what the agent did in public, I wouldn't begin to venture what would occur behind closed doors!