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, August 26, 2011

What Everybody Should Know

A few weeks have passed since I received the paltry offer from my workman's compensation adjustor. I decided to become proactive by coming up with a counter offer that I felt was both fair and justified. My prosthetist and a lawyer friend have been collaborating to develop a spreadsheet detailing the cost of a lifetime of prosthetic care. To say that I am grateful for their help is an understatement!

I was angry when I received the initial offer because it was based upon the assumption that I go onto Medicare. In the offer, funds were being allocated to what is dubbed a "Medicare Set-Aside Account (MSA)" which would be accessed by Medicare to pay for my care and prosthetic supplies. I found this to be absurd because I have health insurance and I am not on Medicare!

I struggled to determine a settlement figure that would assure my access to prosthetic care. In my mind I finally made peace with both a number and the method of allocation that bypassed Medicare completely. Once I formulated a plan, I felt a sense of relief and was able to sleep without waking in a panic from stress and anxiety. I was beginning to feel excited about putting this chapter of my life behind me!

A few days ago I optimistically phoned my lawyer to present my terms. A phone call that began with me smiling abruptly ended with my tears of frustration. In retrospect, a few minutes on Google would have saved me a lot of heartache!

It turns out that Maryland became the first state to adjust their Workman's Compensation laws to mandate that Medicare be utilized by individuals who have suffered long term injuries. The legislators have left me no option but to join the government quagmire to access prosthetic care. The MSA account is required to off-set a portion of the financial burden from the taxpayers albeit the amount is relatively small.

When my claim is settled, I am forced into a government run, taxpayer funded system. On principle, as both a taxpayer and a patient, I find it offensive that my Workman's Compensation insurance company can sit on obscene profits (7.8 million last quarter) while the government is forced (by its own laws) to cover the expenses for my care. Yes, the MSA will help to absorb some of the cost, but it will by no means provide a lifetime of prosthetic care.

Obviously, the insurance lobby is strong in Maryland. In the Legislators infinite wisdom, they have forced an already financially strapped government program to pay for care, allowing insurers to abdicate their responsibilities. I resent being put into the Medicare system so that the insurance company can avoid paying their bills!

Currently I am fighting to have the MSA increased, although my motivation is probably more vengeful at this juncture. When my Medicare slush fund is depleted, a combination of Medicare and my health insurance will pick up the responsibility.

I am trying to accept the fact that I am strong-armed into the Medicare system. My goal now is to increase my MSA account to accurately predict my future prosthetic care. Much to the chagrin of my adjustor, I don't plan on spending my life reliant upon a wheelchair, even if it is cheaper than a leg!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Ground Shook

Unless you have been living in a news vacuum (which I have been known to do on occasion), you know that an earthquake was felt in approximately 1/3 of the country. Being an East Coast girl, the idea of earthquakes is terrifying. I'm don't appreciate the ground abruptly shaking without warning!

Thankfully I was still in Texas when the earthquake struck. We heard the news and immediately became concerned about our home. We live in Virginia, approximately an hour from the epicenter, and the news reports were sketchy and the extent of damage was unclear. My mind immediately began to conjure worst case scenarios.

I spent the next two hours frantically making phone calls and posting messages on Facebook and Twitter to ascertain any possible damage. Unfortunately the phones (and apparently the internet) were congested with others who had a similar predicament. Getting through was nearly impossible and was an incredibly frustrating experience.

Finally I reached our neighbor, Mr. Bill, who proudly proclaimed that he checked our property and that the tree house was fine. He then proceeded to explain that he climbed into the tree house and that it didn't even have a loose board. After bragging that he had constructed a sturdy structure, he finally added the information I wanted to hear. "Oh, and your house is fine too."

Surveying the house when we arrived home, I noticed only pictures askew on the walls and a few fallen books. Yesterday morning I discovered one of my spice house containers had been jostled off the rack and had broken. I was heartsick to find my grandmother's woven porcelain bowl had also fallen victim to the quake. After cleaning up the broken spice house and bowl shards, I decided to clean the kitchen. I turned on our faucet to discover brown water.

A quick google search revealed that brown well water following an earth quake is normal. We have been instructed to run the water in short durations (15 minutes at a time) for the next few days. The sediment that has been shaken into the bottom of the wall from the quake should clear within the week. Hopefully the water becomes clear soon. If I tried to bathe Robby right now he would come out of the tub looking like an orange Oompaloompa- sporting a cowboy hat and boots of course!

Despite two broken treasures and dealing with brown water from our well, we consider ourselves to be incredibly lucky. I can't help but think about the earth quake victims in Haiti, New Zealand and Japan. When I think about the devastation to both life and property sustained by survivors in those countries, I am grateful that our damage was superficial.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Several times a week I am contacted by a new (or soon to be) amputee. Each contact reminds me of how I felt before my amputation. I will never forget the fear of both the surgery and of living my life with limb loss.

Although the stories vary, many of the concerns and questions are universal. I am often asked, "What questions am I not thinking of? What else should I be asking you?" My answer is almost always the same.

After the amputation surgery, there is little to do but wait for the limb to heal. During this time it is not uncommon for depression to set in. I know that this was one of the most difficult periods of my recovery. I was suddenly without my foot, but not able to actively work towards my recovery. Of course, healing is the first part of that recovery, but pointing out that technicality merely is sometimes perceived as negating the very real frustrations that are being felt.

I have started to encourage new amputees to use their recovery time to become educated about their prosthetic choices. Since we are the ones who are wearing and relying upon the devices, it stands to reason that we should have input into the components used for their construction!

Prosthetic components can be confusing, especially for the novice who is not familiar with the jargon. Prosthetic components are categorized by both weight limitations and activity level, referred to as the K-Level. In order to begin window shopping for a prosthetic, it is important to figure out your K-Level.

Here is a brief overview of K-Levels:

Those with a K-O classification are not ambulatory. They do not have the ability or the potential to walk.

K-1 amputees may benefit from a prosthetic to assist in transferring (such as from a wheelchair to a fixed chair). Walking at various speeds and maneuvering around environmental obstacles is not deemed feasible.

K-2 amputees are considered community walkers. They can walk for limited periods of time but cannot typically vary their walking speed.

K-3 amputees have the ability to vary their speed and can traverse through a variety of environmental obstacles. They are community walkers and considered to have a moderate ability to exercise.

k-4 amputees rely upon their prosthetic to complete high impact activities such as running and jumping.

Once the appropriate K-level has been determined, hop onto the Internet and visit the websites of prosthetic manufacturers. Here are links to the major component manufacturers:

Otto Bock
Freedom Innovations
College Park

As you shop, these questions might help to guide you through the options. What you want to get out of your prosthetic? (Do you want to walk to the bathroom or around the block? This answer makes a difference when choosing a component.) What aspects are important to you? (Do you want ankle movement at the cost of increased weight? Do you want something with a high energy return but not as reactive when walking?) How important is a cosmetic cover?

Once you are familiar with the attributes of a few different prosthetics, call your prosthetist and talk about them. You don't have to be "socket ready" in order to start the prosthetic process. Learning about the options available is empowering and may help fill the time void during recovery.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Texas HOT

Dear Texan and all heat-dwelling friends,

During my vacation in Austin, we have been experiencing high temperatures in excess of 110 degrees. I never realized it could get so hot outside of my oven! I understand that this weather is not unusual for this area, and for this reason, you all have my utmost respect.

Socket and stump issues have been trying to intrude on our family fun and I have no doubt that the heat is the culprit. My leg has literally swelled out of my prosthetic, causing sores to develop where I have ballooned out of my socket. When it is 110 degrees in the shade, my attempts to contain the swelling have been futile.

Perhaps more uncomfortable than the sores is the the fluid retention that has kept me from reaching the bottom of my socket. I am able only to get 3/4 of the way into my prosthetic, causing me to be about an inch taller on my left side. My limp is more pronounced, and my hip and knees hurt because of the substantial height difference.

Trying to seek relief from the heat and hoping to shrink the swelling in my limb, we packed up and headed to the pool. The cool water felt heavenly, and I could feel my leg shrinking by the moment. Unfortunately, the swelling returned within hours of leaving the pool, but at least I felt stopgap relief!

We were having such a good time in the pool that we didn't realize that five hours had elapsed. I should have been as vigilant with my own sunscreen as I was about Robby's. My face burned around my sunglasses, leaving me to look like a bright red raccoon for the rest of our vacation. Thankfully it didn't hurt, and I don't mind looking strange!

Between dealing with a muffin top socket, a marked height difference and a raccoon face, I am sure that I am quite a sight as I tour the area. Thankfully I have been accompanied by a little boy sporting an Ohio State shirt, shorts, leather boots and a cowboy hat that is two sizes too big. He has certainly garnered the attention away from my limp and red raccoon look.

I have a new respect for my amputee friends who deal with these heat issues on a regular basis. For me, despite having a wonderful visit, I'll be glad to be going home where the temperatures are now a comfortable 82 degrees. Hot temperatures are not beneficial for this amputee mommy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sea World!!

Friday morning we packed up and headed to Sea World. Nearly every night since we confirmed our trip to Texas three months ago, Robby has curled up into my lap before bed time and said, "Momom, let's talk about Sea World." I would fire up my laptop and we would spend about twenty minutes looking at their website and Sea World YouTube videos. He was raring to go and began to giggle when we told him that we were finally going to Sea World that morning.

I have to admit that my little boy loves animals. He took a map at the entrance and practically ran to the dolphin exhibit. After working with his Daddy to pet the dolphins, we headed to the sting ray and shark exhibit. Lo and behold, we got to the tank in time for a show!

Robby was so cute sitting on the floor in front of the giant aquarium, attentively absorbing everything the speaker was saying. He never squirmed and didn't get up to walk around like many of the other kids. In that moment he looked so grown up, I found myself feeling both pride and sadness simultaneously.

After visiting the sharks and rays, we headed over to the Sea Lion exhibit. My Dad surprised Robby and bought a tray of sea lion food so that he could feed them. I found it somewhat ironic when my Dad handed Robby a tray of dead fish. After all, he was the person responsible for buying Robby his fish aquarium. Because just about every resident that has swum in its waters has met an untimely death, I figured that it was easier to just give Robby his fish already belly side up and save us some trouble!

Robby was delighted to feed the sea lions. After throwing his first fish into the waiting mouth, he looked at me and squealed, "I've never fed a sea lion before in my whole entire five year life." He then proceeded to toss another fish to the crowd of sea lions below.

Yet again I found myself feeling a sense of maternal pride. Many of the other visitors were teasing the sea lions with the fish, dangling the food above them without releasing it. The animals were yelping and begging to be fed, yet the tourists continued to taunt them. Robby remarked that he felt the people were being mean, and that it "wasn't nice" not to give the fish to the sea lions. He never made them beg and simply enjoyed watching them eat. I think that this small observation speaks to his sensitivity and compassion!

Robby, it turns out, wasn't the only person impressed by the sea lion exhibit. My Dad considers himself fortunate enough to have witnessed what apparently was an awesome sight. He saw a sea lion poop in the water while swimming. Now Robby and my Dad have deep conversations about, you guessed it, poop!

My favorite part of the day was, without doubt, the Shamu killer whale show. While I was impressed with the tricks performed by the giant animals, I enjoyed watching Robby's reaction much more than watching the whales. His unbridled enthusiasm and pure delight came shining through his eyes and expressions as he watched the show.

When the show started, the whale swam underwater and jumped, performing a back flip in the center of the pool. Robby spontaneously screamed, "Oh my gosh, this is the most amazing thing ever. I'm so happy!" I will never forget the pure joy in his voice and the astonishment in his eyes. That single moment was worth the price of admission.

That night Robby giggled himself to sleep. He woke up two times in the middle of the night, once to remind me that he fed a sea lion and the second time to talk about the Shamu show. I worried that the combination of the heat and Robby's ultra high expectations might cause Sea World to fall short. I am thrilled that was not the case. After months of anticipation, and despite the 110 degree temperatures, we had a wonderful Sea World adventure!