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 21, 2011

Closure Needed

It is always painful when a friendship comes to an end. Perhaps it is more distressing when closure has been sought but not provided. I think that this is a situation that everybody encounters at some point, but the grief and pain is probably felt more deeply by women. It is not a comfortable state of mind.

I am currently licking my wounds over an ended friendship. In reality, I've known that the friendship has been over for some time. We never had a fight, at least not one in which I participated. Obviously something occurred, but I am at a loss to provide the reason. In any case, my attempts at communication were rebuffed, and after several months I have been able to read the signs.

Confrontation does not come easy for me. In fact, I tend to avoid negative conversations at all costs. That being said, a few months ago I gathered my gumption and wrote an email to my lost friend. I was forthright, acknowledging that the friendship had obviously changed and asking for closure by requesting an explanation for the sudden and drastic change. The email was difficult for me to write. I was disappointed and hurt when I received no reply. In all honesty, I felt that I deserved the courtesy of a response.

I grew tired of feigning friendships on Facebook when obviously there was no relationship. The occasional comments written on a photo or status message only served to reignite my distress over the lost friendship. The connection had become toxic, and I knew I needed to sever ties.

I would be lying if I said I didn't harbor ill-will. I am not angry because the friendship changed and ended. After all, relationships are fluid and are forever adapting. I am resentful because I was denied the courtesy of a reply when I reached out. Ignoring my communication was cowardly. Knowing that I deserve better made hitting the "remove friend" button a little less painful. I'm still a little sad.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Leg Talk

Yesterday was "Show and Share" day at Robby's school. All students were asked to bring in something from home that helps them. Robby's teacher also invited me to speak to the class about my prosthetic because, keeping with the theme, it helps me. (We have tried to schedule this lesson several times, but it had never materialized due to Robby's illness.)

Scott and I have been talking with Robby about what he wanted to share for the past few days. Despite our suggestions, he never made up his mind. We had a minor spat in the morning when he informed me that he was taking Mr. Bill to school. His logic--Mr. Bill helps him build things. I tried to explain that he needed to bring something, not someone to school. The technicality seemed to be lost on him. I stood firm and he finally conceded, opting to take his guitar instead.

I dropped Robby and his guitar off at school, knowing that I was going to be returning an hour later for my leg lesson. I didn't have a prepared speech because I figured it was best to wing it. After all, I'm used to explaining my prosthetic. In retrospect, I should have invested more time in my preparation.

When I entered the classroom all of the students were sitting in rows in their little blue chairs. My first impression was how Robby looked so cute sitting in the front row. It was also glaringly obvious that he is at least three inches taller than all of his classmates, but I suppose that is a topic for a different blog.

I began my presentation with my usual explanation. I simply told the children that my leg was hurt and that the doctors tried to fix it. They realized that they couldn't fix it anymore so they gave me a new one. I then took off my prosthetic and explained that my leg didn't hurt anymore. Typically this suffices.

Robby's class is anything but typical. I was quickly peppered with questions from a group of enthralled Kindergartners who had left their seats and were standing around me. "What happened to the foot after they took it off?" "Are worms eating the toes?" "Do I worry that my dog will dig up my foot and run with it?" Robby chimed in with "we don't have a dog, we only have two cats. They don't eat bones." His classmates accepted this explanation and sat down.

A little girl raised her hand and asked me where I got my leg. I explained that I go to somebody who builds me legs and he is called a prosthetist. She informed me that I was wrong, because only God can make legs. I explained by saying, "God made my first two legs, but Mr. Elliot makes my prosthetic leg." She looked impressed and then uttered, "Wow, Mr. Elliot can make more legs than God. Cool." The students then proceeded to engage in a lengthy discussion about God vs. Mr. Elliot, with the verdict in the prosthetists favor. Apparently the fact that Elliot can manufacturer as many legs as I want in a variety of colors and designs was the tipping point for the debate. I really wish I could be a fly on the wall during her next Sunday school class!

Typically I don't remove my liner during presentation. The sight of my residual limb can be off putting, especially for an unprepared child. Finally, with the kids begging to see my leg and Robby pulling off my liner, I agreed.

Seeing the actual limb, without wearing the liner, seemed to make the most impression on the kids. They were able to connect where my leg stopped and my prosthetic began. Most were cautious and respectful around my leg. I told them that they could touch the bottom of my leg but warned them to be gentle. Robby hovered around me, acting as an unofficial body guard.

One little boy, named Blake, made a fatal error during my presentation. He walked up to me, looked at my residual limb and began to belly laugh. His teacher scolded him, but he continued to laugh and began to point.

Robby apparently took Blake's laughing as a personal attack on me. In a flash he pushed his little classmate to the ground. He stood towering over him and warned, "Don't laugh at Momom." As if on cue, Robby's friend Nick joined the crusade by kicking the little boy in the bum while chiming in "Yeah, don't laugh at Robby's Mommy." The teacher separated the boys and I wrapped up my lesson.

I don't condone Robby's behavior, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that part of me was proud of him. In his eyes he was simply defending me. I love that he wants to stick up for me, and that he has friends who will rally behind him. That being said, I would rather he use his voice rather than brute force.

My Kindergarten presentation was nothing like I was anticipating. The question/ answer session turned into an inquisition based on theology. Follow that with the smack down by Robby and his wing man, and I was ready to go home. At least I have a year to work on my presentation; I've heard first graders can be brutal!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Insurance Overload

During the past few weeks I have been eating, drinking, and dreaming all things related to prosthetic insurance. To say that I feel overwhelmed is an understatement. I'm doing my best to absorb as much information as possible.

Every night, when I feel discouraged I congratulate myself for knowing more about the topic than I did when I woke up. I remember feeling this lost when I first began to learn Braille. With practice and time, the code made sense and is now second nature for me. I'm hoping that I can experience the same success deciphering the insurance red tape obstacle course!

Many times my head feels like it is spinning with all of the new information I am trying to process. At the same time, I find myself feeling sad. I never realized how much of an amputee's prosthetic care was dictated by the insurance policy!

While many policies now provide provisions for bionic technology (C-leg, Rheo knee and Proprio foot, etc.), the inclusion does not necessarily mean that the amputee will receive the device. The pesky "when medically necessary" rider in all policies often precludes amputees from gaining access to these life changing devices. Because of this stipulation, amputees need to know that their initial insurance claim for a bionic device will almost certainly be denied, prompting an appeal.

During the appeal the patient and the practitioner must prove why the desired prosthetic device is required. Proving medical necessity is a time consuming task, and many practitioners are not willing to invest their staffing resources towards this effort. Therefore, many amputees are forced to settle for an "almost-as-good" prosthetic.

A willingness to fight the appeal is not the only variable to secure success. I learned that appeals can go to one of two places, depending upon the type of insurance. The optimum route is having the final appeal decided by the state insurance board of appeals. This options provides for the most unbiased ruling and affords the amputee the best chances for having the claim approved.

Unfortunately a majority of insurance plans in this country are employer based plans, referred to as an ERISA policy. These plans are most commonly offered by companies with more than 100 employees. My husband works for a school system in Virginia. Our insurance is Blue Cross and Blue Shield, but it is an ERISA based plan.

Why is this information important? Because in an ERISA based plan, the final insurance appeal goes directly to the employer, not to the state insurance board. The employer decides what is covered and what is not going to be covered because they are the direct payer. The insurance company is merely acting as the middle man during the claim process.

With an ERISA based plan, the amputee's prosthetic decisions are relegated to nothing more than a simple popularity contest. If the individual, or somebody in their family, has clout within the organization, there is a good chance of having the appeal granted. If they are simply another employee without political ties within the company, the chances of having their claim approved may be greatly diminished--regardless of how hardworking the individual or how necessary the device.

There is no greater time in history to be an amputee. Prosthetic technology stands to change the quality of life for scores of individuals who have been struggling with limb loss. Unfortunately, the reality remains that this technology remains elusive for so many. It is heartbreaking to realize how many amputees are denied access to these life changing prosthetics because of riders in insurance policies and a popularity contest at their place of employment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Flower Power

I have been struggling to devise a workable schedule. Between Robby's kindergarten obligations and my working, I feel like I am frantically spinning my wheels yet little seems to be accomplished. Yesterday I worked on reports for the few hours Robby was in school. I had a work meeting scheduled and, left with no options, I had to take him with me. I packed a lunchbox full of snacks, his fully charged DS, and an assortment of quiet art supplies in the hopes that he would be entertained and let me work.

The 45 minute drive to my meeting was spent with me firmly informing Robby about my expectations. I expected him to be quiet and polite. I hoped that the promise of doing something special, should he behave appropriately, would seal the deal.

My meeting ran long, lasting over two hours. Despite my fears, Robby Rotten never emerged. My little guy spent the entire time quietly playing, and I even received compliments from others in the waiting room about my child's behavior! I could not have been more proud.

As soon as we got to the car, Robby reminded me that he was promised something special. I quietly sighed, disappointed that I had resorted to bribery instead of simple expectation to secure good behavior. After all, Robby should behave because it is an expectation, not because he is promised a reward. In my zeal to have a successful meeting, I felt like I broke the cardinal rule in parenting: "Thou shall not bribe thy child."

My internal reprimand was interrupted when Robby began to speak. "Momom, since I behaved, you said that I could do something special. Do you remember?" I told him that I remembered, and prepared to talk him down from an outrageous and unrealistic request like "I want to go fishing at the aquarium."

As I buckled him into his seat he continued with his request. "Well Momom, I was thinking. I really really REALLY want to stop and buy you some flowers. But there is one problem, I don't have any money. Can you please give me some money so that I can buy you some flowers? I know how much you love flowers, and I love you."

I regret that I bribed my child to insure good behavior, but I felt desperate to keep Robby Rotten at bay. I am not perfect, and I'm doing the best that I can in this new situation. I must be doing something right because Robby's request was not for himself but was for a gift for me. We stopped at the store and he picked out what he swears is the prettiest flower in the whole wide world- a bright yellow pansy plant. Sometimes I am reminded that I do have the sweetest little boy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Snake Attack

The cooler air of fall forces unwelcome outdoor pests to take refuge in my home. A stink bug colony has set up camp in my living room. It doesn't matter how many bugs I relocate (to the toilet) there seems to be a never ending supply of volunteers to assume their place. Air fresheners do little to mask the distinctive odor!

I could handle the army of odoriferous bugs, but I am having a difficult time with the snakes. I was on the phone a few days ago, happily chatting with my Mom while toiling in the kitchen. In mid-sentence my conversation stopped as I let out a blood curdling scream: I spotted a snake in the center of my dining room floor.

I felt a bit like the roadrunner from the Bugs Bunny cartoon as I hung up the phone and vaulted onto the top of my kitchen table. I am amazed how swiftly I could reach high ground considering that I wasn't wearing my running leg!. Robby followed suit and, within seconds we were both peering off the table, staring down at a snake.

We stayed on top of the table for about ten minutes, staring at the serpent invader. My inclination was to stay put until Scott came home, but I wasn't confident that the snake was going to stay still for another two hours. Perching on top of the kitchen table no longer felt like a viable action.

Robby and I debated our plan. He wanted me to hop off the table, go into the kitchen and grab a mason jar. I was then to pick up the snake with the hot dog tongs and place him into the jar so that he could keep him to show his daddy. I wanted to jump off of the table onto the snake, squashing him instantly. I won the debate.

I took a deep breathe and stepped onto the kitchen chair. Screaming "cowabunga" I jumped directly onto the snake. (In retrospect I'm not sure why I screamed cowabunga; it simply felt right at the moment.) We then put the snake into the mason jar and set him on the back porch so that Robby could show his Daddy what was a very dead, partially flattened snake.

Almost immediately after the incident I began to conjure images of the grieving snake mommy and daddy. I imagined the mommy snake weeping and slithering around the yard, looking for her little baby. Tears started to well in my eyes--my guilt definitely got the better of me.

My friends tried to convince me that the snake was more frightened of me than I was of him. I doubt this is true. I feel bad for killing the snake, but in that moment, I didn't know what to do.

While I remain terrified of snakes, I don't want to develop a reputation among the reptile community as a nasty giant-footed squasher. Therefore, I am going to become prepared so I have more options. I'm going to invest in a pair of snake tongs so that another intruder doesn't have to meet the wrath of the carbon fiber foot!