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, October 07, 2011

HAPPY Amputee Awareness Day!!!

In honor of today being designated Amputee Awareness Day, I have decided to highlight my favorite five things about living with limb loss.

1. Handicapped parking. Yes, I realize that there is some debate concerning whether ambulatory amputees should take advantage of this accommodation. While I don't always utilize the convenient spots, I will admit that I don't feel guilty should I decide to take advantage of the opportunity. I find the priority parking particularly satisfying on high shopping days, especially Black Friday.

2. Bypassing snaking lines at amusement parks and events. We were spared hours of standing in a slowly meandering line, congested with hundreds of hot and sweaty participants when we attended the White House Easter Egg Roll this Spring. Because my prosthetic was visible, the attendants ushered our family to a private waiting area, complete with lawn chairs and bottled water. We were also permitted entrance a few minutes early which enabled us to avoid waiting in even more lines!

From concerts to amusement parks, the courtesy afforded to individuals with disabilities should not be underestimated. We are able to ride three times as many attractions as my fellow park goers simply because we don't have to wait in the snaking lines. Some amusement parks offer reduced admission to individuals with disabilities, although I have to admit that I do not accept this discount.

3. Priority boarding. After I have been thoroughly screened by TSA, I am often permitted to board the aircraft before the general boarding commences. This courtesy is especially beneficial when flying on Southwest, an airline which does not assign seats. I appreciate not having to stand in a cattle chute with scores of other passengers, all standing ready to elbow and push their way to the front of the line for a window seat!

4. Socks last twice as long. After I started utilizing a prosthetic, I quickly realized both the inconvenience and the unnecessary need of changing my sock that is donned over my foot shell. After all, the plastic doesn't sweat or shed skin. Within days I purged my sock drawer, replacing all of my colorful and whimsical socks with plain white. Now I have to change only the sock on my foot daily. (I do try to remind myself to change the sock on my prosthetic weekly, although I admit that I sometimes forget!) A six pack of socks lasts a long time!

5. The amputee community. A bond exists among amputees that surpasses most casual affiliations. An amputee can make a reference to socket issues or to phantom pain and often no other descriptors are necessary. We all know the discomfort and frustrations that accompany those issues. It is nearly impossible to accurately describe a "bad leg day" to an able-bodied friend. My amputee friends immediately relate and no further descriptions are necessary.

There is a comfort that can be obtained simply by being around another amputee. Often I am the only one in the room with a prosthetic. If I am at an event and see another amputee, no words need to be spoken for a connection to be made. Knowingly nodding and smiling because we simultaneously realize that we are no longer the "only one" in the room is the only communication necessary.

It takes a resilient and strong individual to fully engage in life as an amputee. Depending upon carbon fiber and titanium simply to get around and being forced to change plans because of a mechanical breakdown can be frustrating and humbling. The happiest and most active amputees have developed a sense of humor as part of their arsenal for adjustment. If you are ever at a party and see a group of amputees, stand close by. I guarantee that you will laugh and have a good time!

I am using today as an opportunity to celebrate my life and everything that I have accomplished since becoming an amputee. My limb loss marked the end of an old life and the birth of my new beginning. Since I am forced to live with the detriments of living as an amputee, I am entitled to celebrate the benefits! Happy Amputee Awareness Day!!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

No Maternal Medical Confidence...

Yesterday Robby experienced his first Kindergarten sick day. He woke up with a fever and complained of a sore throat, "farting ears" and a "battle going on inside his brain." Trusting my mommy instincts, I was certain that he had either an ear infection or strep throat.

I immediately called the school to report his absence and then scheduled an appointment with the pediatrician. After all, the sooner we started antibiotics, the quicker he would recover. I was proud of myself for acting so quickly. Apparently my mommy instincts are not honed yet. After the $20 co-pay, he was diagnosed with a cold and prescribed water, rest, cartoons and pudding.

While I'm relieved that he is simply suffering from a cold instead of a more serious infection, I feel embarrassed that I was not able to discern the difference. I always feel like an inadequate parent whenever I take Robby to the pediatrician for what turns out to be a benign ailment. I don't want to be overprotective, but I also don't want to miss a serious infection because of my hesitation.

I wish I could trust my instincts without apologizing. Robby's first pediatrician was a brash, rude man who should have left the medical profession a decade earlier. I rarely left an appointment in his office without feeling belittled, embarrassed, and many times in tears. His practice was highly recommended by friends, but I learned the hard way that experience trumps recommendations every time. Leaving his care was one of the best decisions we have made, and I only regret that we didn't act earlier.

Robby's new pediatrician is a gem. She listens to my thoughts and is gentle with Robby. I feel 100% confidence in her abilities. I know that my hesitation and lack of confidence when it comes to medical issues stems from my past pediatric experiences, but unfortunately, identifying the cause hasn't lessened my insecurities.

I may not be good at diagnosing Robby, but I am great at nursing him back to health. We spent the day on the sofa, watching cartoons, and reading books. He took a nap on my lap (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and colored Halloween posters. He exclaimed that my "chicken soup is magic" because he is already feeling better. (Incidentally all the credit for the soup's healing properties belong to Campbell's, but I happily accepted the compliment.)

Hopefully I will gain more confidence in my medical maternal instincts. Until then, I will continue to keep the pediatrician on speed dial and the cash for our co-pay on hand. I have a feeling that this is the first of many colds he is to experience this school year!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Amputee Awareness Week--(for the World)

I have received emails from readers from all corners of the globe, and I am constantly amazed that although the geography differs vastly, many of our self-image and daily living issues are universal. I love getting messages from readers. The communications that I receive make me feel as if the time and the effort that I devote to my blog are not spent in vain. It's always nice to know that my words are being read!

Tuesday morning while sipping on my first of three cups of coffee, I opened my email. I was delighted when I realized that my inbox was filled with messages from people instead of advertisements for flowers, various daily deals, and counterfeit Viagra. It turns out that many of the messages were from my amputee friends wishing me a Happy Amputee Awareness Week.

The Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) designated April to be Limb Loss Awareness month. When I questioned the reasoning behind choosing April, especially considering that the rest of the world celebrates during first full week in October, I was informed that the October was too congested with breast cancer awareness. April, it seems, was apparently decided by committee because no other cause or awareness group had made inroads towards claiming the month.

For the majority of the world, Amputee Awareness week runs from October 4-11. Unlike the designation in this country, October was not chosen by happenstance but was chosen because it was during this week in 1846 that the first patent was awarded for a prosthetic device. The patent marks what is accepted to be the beginning of the modern age of prosthetics.

The actual patent was awarded on October 7 which has become recognized as Amputee Awareness Day worldwide. Except, of course, in the United States. History be damned, we are apparently sticking with April.

I plan on honoring both designated events. All efforts to gain awareness, particularly about prosthetic parity, are worthwhile. I'll be wearing my button proudly this week. If Robby is feeling better and returns to school by Friday (he has caught his first of what is sure to be many bouts of what I have dubbed the "kindergarten cruds") I will speak with his class about prosthetics.

Happy Amputee Awareness week!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Shoe Shopping Surprise

If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you know of our relationship with Mr. Bill. Mr. Bill is our neighbor whom Robby has adopted as both a friend and a mentor. The two toil digging in the dirt, laying sod, and working on whatever project is being constructed at the time.

Robby adores Mr. Bill, and I believe the affection is reciprocated. Every afternoon after I pick up Robby at school, we drive directly to Mr. Bill's house. The two sit at his kitchen table sharing cheese and crackers while Robby fills him on his school activities. I should probably explain that Mr. Bill taught Robby to bite cheese directly off the block "like a man" instead of cutting it into squares "like a girl."

Going to debrief with Mr. Bill is such an expectation that Robby won't tell me anything about what he is doing in school when I pick him up. He merely replies, "I'm saving it to tell Mr. Bill." If I didn't eavesdrop I would never know what was going on! Their relationship is both rare and special.

Mr. Bill has chopped and supplied us with several years worth of firewood, claiming that swinging the ax is therapeutic for his shoulder and he needed to get rid of the dead trees. He built Robby's tree house. He taught Robby the joy of peeing on trees. He worries about me when my limp is pronounced. He also confessed that my wearing sandals (and having the foot shell visible) makes him sad; I try to avoid wearing my sandals in front of him.

In return we take him leftover meals when I know he isn't feeling well and keep him in a steady supply of cookies and cakes. Robby and I shovel his driveway and sidewalk when it snows (and I pretend that I didn't notice the dollar he slipped into Robby's mitten.) We get his mail, and I listen to his stories. Still, I often wish that I could do something more.

Yesterday, after the cheese and crackers were cleaned up, Mr. Bill asked me for help. He explained that his favorite shoes were worn out and that the duct tape was no longer holding the soles together. He tried to call the number for the shoe store but the number has been disconnected. He wanted to know if I could "go onto that www thing" and see if I could find the shoes, but lamented that they probably were no longer available because they "are old, just like me."

Robby and I headed home and immediately became cyber detectives. It didn't take long. In fact I was surprised that I located the prized shoes within three clicks. With the fourth click I pressed the "buy me" button, and the shoes are now on their way!

Mr. Bill doesn't know that we found the shoes. I think we'll just leave them by the door for him to discover. After all, that's how Robby's fishing pole always magically appears at our house, anonymously fixed after the line is tangled and reel is broken.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Not So Phantom Pain

I love autumn. I relish the cold evenings sitting by a crackling fire with the aroma of fresh baked bread wafting through the air and applesauce simmering on the stove. From the pumpkin patch to the apple orchard, fall is full of wonderful family adventures. I feel energized and alive when the air becomes crisp and cool.

Unfortunately, I also feel a lot of pain during this time of year. The drastic temperature fluctuations wreaks havoc on my stump causing my nerves to do the jitterbug and my bones to ache. Some days I plaster a fake smile on my face as I struggle through the pain. I don't want my discomfort to be limiting so I try to push through, but it isn't easy. It is during those moments that I despise being an amputee!

During the first few days of autumn weather, my leg bones ache. I wouldn't describe the sensation as painful, but it is certainly draining. I am reminded with each step of my amputee status as I feel a dull and twisting pain in my residual limb. It often feels as if my ankle is twisted which I find particularly annoying since it is not there! My gait has been adversely affected because of the discomfort causing me to walk with a limp--a reality that I also find annoying.

At night, when all I want to do is take off my leg and sleep, I find that the pain is at its peak. My leg goes into a full jitterbug routine, kicking wildly in response to the stinging nerve pain. The past few nights my stinging has caused my leg to wail so intensely that I moved to the pull-out couch in Robby's room so that Scott could sleep.

Warm baths, compression, and my Homedics massage pillow all help to alleviate the phantom flare-ups, but none extinguishes the problem completely. All I can do is try to keep busy and wait for everything to normalize. Thankfully in a few days my limb will adjust and return to its normal, happy state. That is, until the first snow begins to fall!