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, January 20, 2012

A Good End

It has been a long time since I've had a week as stressful as this one. I am ecstatic that it is finally Friday- primarily because it means that the week is over. Technically, my situation will remain unchanged for the next several weeks, but somehow knowing that this week is coming to a close feels comforting.

I was fully prepared to spend yesterday pouting and wallowing. I even invited a half gallon of Whoopie Pie ice cream and a freshly baked chocolate cake to my pity party. Fortunately, Robby had other plans for my time and my less than productive plans were derailed. It's impossible to remain deflated when you have a precocious Kindergartner chomping at the bit to do science experiments!

We spent the afternoon analyzing various water samples under the microscope. He took water from the refrigerator, the faucet and the stream. He was certainly in a curious mode! I did put my foot down and refuse his request when I wouldn't let him pee on a microscope slide. He claimed that I was "interfering with important science stuff" and refused to speak to me for about five minutes. Unbeknownst to him, his protest afforded me the quietest five minutes of my day!

I was forgiven when I suggested we go outside to hunt for dinosaur bones. He happily commenced whacking rocks with his hammer, hoping to uncover "dead animals inside rocks that are called fossils." Mr. Bill came over, and Robby told him what he was doing.

Without missing a beat Mr. Bill walked to his house and began to dismantle his stone fence. Robby followed and helped move the rocks, chatting about fossils and his hopes for finding some. Still silent, Mr. Bill carefully selected a flat rock and handed it to Robby.

Robby and Mr. Bill spent the next hour splitting the rock into two pieces. With the exception of an occasional direction, very few words were exchanged between the two friends. I was impressed with how attentive Robby was on the project, especially since he didn't know the purpose. I wish he would focus that much when I ask him to help clean.

With one final strike, the rock opened up. Hundreds of small fossilized snails and shells were uncovered. Robby threw the hammer down and began to gleefully jump. "Holy Macaroni! We discovered fossils! That's amazing. It's blowing my mind, Mr. Bill." Smiling, Mr. Bill leaned over to me and quietly whispered, "Ms. Dominique is going to $hit her pants when Robby actually brings in a fossil, isn't she. This should curry some favor when she grades Robby's penmanship test tomorrow!"

I am glad that my day of wallowing was interrupted. I had a great time with Robby and Mr. Bill, and the activities kept my mind off of my frustrations. To the delight of my waistline and bum, I even managed to leave the cake and the ice cream untouched! Yesterday was a good day in an otherwise abysmal week.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Young Skippy

After a lot of debate, Scott and I decided to reserve a hotel room and schedule an impromptu mini vacation Tuesday night. I knew that a lot of my anxiety would be alleviated just by knowing that I was closer to the location of the hearing and that I wouldn't have to navigate the dreaded beltway at rush hour. Robby was excited beyond words when we revealed that, not only was he going to be missing school the next day, but also that he was going to be spending the night in a hotel.

Just as we were walking out of the house to drive to the hotel, our phone rang. I went vaulting for the receiver when I heard the caller ID announce that it was my attorney's office. After all, I haven't heard from the man in months.

I was surprised when, instead of my attorney, another man introduced himself when I answered the phone. He explained that he worked in the same law office and that he would be representing me at the hearing tomorrow. Great, I thought. It figures that they would send a lackey to represent me!

He then asked to meet with me a few minutes before our scheduled time, and asked about how to identify me. I was not in the most gracious of moods at this juncture in the conversation. "I can wear a yellow rose in my hair if that helps. Of course, you could always just look for the carbon fiber foot. Chances are it will be me attached to it!" After a nervous laugh, his responded by saying, "Oh yeah, I forgot that you had one of them." Needless to say he did not instill great confidence!

Wednesday morning I was nervous as I waited in the courthouse lobby. Lawyer after lawyer entered, each walking directly to his client. I was alone and becoming more anxious by the moment.

Then, through the window I saw my attorney. Although we hadn't met, I knew him instantly. His suit was about 2 inches too short in the sleeves, his tie was tied too long, and his shirt was halfway untucked from his pants. For some reason, he looked like his friends would call him "Skippy."

Skippy was nice, albeit extremely young. We briefly spoke about my case and, after fumbling with paper for about 10 minutes, he told me he felt confident. I knew better, but I just had to ask how long he has been with the firm.

Young Skippy began to fidget in his seat. He tried to tell me that he has been doing this his entire life because his father was an attorney and the founder of the law firm. He told me a story about having to drive to get his Dad when clients would call because cell phones were not yet commonplace. I knew he was trying to evade the question and doing a bad job at it!

Finally, I looked at him and said, "You just graduated from law school, didn't you." Playing with the paperwork in the file, he said, "Um.. yes. But I did an internship." Turns out that Young Skippy just graduated last month and that I am among his first cases. My confidence level was not advanced! We were silent until the proceedings began.

When my case was called, I stood at attention. Unfortunately, Skippy and I were the only two standing. Opposing counsel was not in the courtroom.

After some scrambling and a flurry of phone calls, it was revealed that the attorney for the insurance company forgot about the hearing and was comfortably sipping his coffee 60 miles away in Baltimore. The judge ordered a continuance. Without being able to utter a word, my day in court ended. I will have to continue to wait.

To say that I'm angry would be an understatement. I am absolutely livid, deflated, confused, and heartbroken. Today I hope to decompress and gather my thoughts. Right now I'm feeling lost, and I don't like it. I know that I'll regroup and continue to fight because I have no other option. But today, I think I'll just curl up with a book and hide from the world.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Statement

Well, today is the big day. I can't say that I'm prepared because I have been provided with no expectations of what will transpire. I can honestly say that I am ready to attend the hearing, put the stress behind me, and move forward with my life.

I always feel better when I feel prepared. Lacking any guidelines for what might happen, I have taken it upon myself to write my own statement. I'm not sure if I will be provided with an opportunity to share my perspective, but I will be prepared if allowed to speak. Here is my speech:

Every morning I wake up and put on my prosthetic leg. I live my life with a physical reminder of somebody else's negligence. The accident that occurred on March 11, 1998, was not my fault. I was simply the victim of circumstance by standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet I am forced to live with the consequences of that mistake every single day knowing that the careless coworker probably doesn't even remember my name.

Although my life was changed by the accident and the subsequent amputation of my left foot and ankle, I have always aspired to live a fully engaged life. I'm not disabled by my limb loss. I am disabled by the bureaucratic red tape of this insurance carrier.

Since my amputation in 2003, I have habitually been denied standard prosthetic care. I find myself forced to fight for basic supplies needed to utilize my prosthetic. Liners, which Medicare issues every six weeks, are historically denied by this carrier. I am forced to compromise my prosthetic fit and the health of my limb while they wage a battle of paper and denials.

I have been offered wheelchairs in lieu of a prosthetic because the carrier could save money. Your Honor, I would be severely impaired if I lived my life in a wheelchair. My ability to access my home, which has two flights of stairs, would be limited if I were in a wheelchair. I am physically capable of walking with a prosthetic. I don't believe that walking is a privilege for the selected few. It is the right of every amputee who has the ability and the desire. I deserve the tools necessary to walk, regardless of the financial costs incurred! I am outraged by the implication that I should settle for anything less than standard prosthetic care.

I have work and family responsibilities, yet all of these must be put on hold every time this insurance carrier denies a claim. I have had days when I couldn't work- not because of pain but because prosthetic supplies were denied by the carrier. My life, and my ability to fully engage and reach my potential, has been hijacked by an insurance carrier who values the bottom line over its responsibilities to the patient.

I did not ask to be injured, nor did I do anything to cause the accident which ultimately claimed my foot. Over the years I have made peace with the fact that a mistake caused such a drastic impact on my life. The true irony of this situation lies with the knowledge that the accident on March 11. 1998, was the only true "mistake" made. Every denial and every obstacle that has been placed in my path since that date has been deliberately perpetrated.

I will never accept being handicapped by an insurance carrier attempting to shirk its responsibilities. I deserve the necessary devices for me to walk without swimming through a sea of denials and red tape. My amputation is not going to go away, and either will I. I will continue to fight for my care.

Now, if I can only get through this speech without my voice quaking...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anxiety Hearing...

My body has developed a horrible pattern of internalizing stress. For the past week, I have been clenching my teeth so strongly that it is both painful and difficult for me to move my jaw in the morning. In addition to my jaw, I have apparently been tensing my biceps during my sleep, leaving me with sore arms the next day. For good measure, my lower back has decided to join the party by developing a pinched nerve, rendering it painful for me to sit, move, and walk. It is safe to say that stress is making me fall apart!

This is a week wrought with anxiety. On Wednesday I have a court hearing where I must lobby (again) for prosthetic supplies and adequate limb care. Because my attorney has been unresponsive, I don't feel prepared for this hearing. I detest not being adequately prepared!

My only communication with my "advocate" was sent by form letter, announcing the hearing and reminding me that the preceding was "formal and that I should dress appropriately." I wanted to call his office and ask if my wedding dress was formal enough, but I decided that he probably wouldn't bother to listen to the message, so the joke would be lost. He has been markedly vague about the purpose of the hearing and why it is being held. I have been left guessing about what might transpire and my imagination has been conjuring some nightmare scenarios!

As if my fretting about the hearing hasn't caused enough worry, I have been stressing about my driving to the hearing. It is scheduled for 9:30 AM on the other side of the DC beltway. I am typically a comfortable driver, but I hate driving on the beltway at rush hour.

Wednesday morning I am going to have to wrangle with other rush hour commuters who are far more familiar and comfortable with the congested roads. I feel silly admitting that the prospect of my driving in rush hour DC traffic has been causing me to lose sleep. In the wee hours of the morning, I find myself worrying about getting lost or being in an accident, forcing the hearing to be cancelled and further delaying my treatment.

I am angry with my attorney for deliberately leaving me out of the loop on my own case despite my pleas for communication and information. Right now I don't have time for anger, but I know that I will deal with the situation after Wednesday. In the meantime, I am just going to try to gather my thoughts and jot down some ideas for tomorrow's hearing. Hopefully, my fears about the commute are unfounded and everything goes smoothly.

So much will be decided by the events of Wednesday. This is going to be an important milestone in my life, and I want to make sure that I represent myself competently and accurately. I really don't want my voice to quake when I speak! I'll be happy when Wednesday will be over because, either way, I'll be able to plan for the next few months. I'm also hoping that my stress will decrease and I'll be able to walk, move my jaw and use my arms again!

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Hero Worship Theory

For months I have been trying to figure out why my able-bodied peers are so easily impressed by my living my life. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning on yet another sleepless night, I had an epiphany! While I am by no means a psychologist, I wanted to share my theory.

I have long believed that losing a limb is a deep seated fear for most. If I had just one dollar for every time I have heard, "I wouldn't be able to continue" or "I don't know how you do it; you're so strong" I would be a rich lady. Most look at an amputee and instantly think pain, disfigurement, and disability. They fail to realize that the surgical pain wanes, that the mind slowly adjusts to a new body image. In reality, limb loss is something that must be experienced in order to fully grasp the personal evolution. I used to challenge the unnecessary compliments, but I quickly discovered that it wasn't worth the argument. I have learned simply to say thank you and move on.

Casual acquaintances often shower me with accolades without my doing anything remarkable. I assure you that I don't need praise because I finished the laundry, went grocery shopping, or took my son to school. These are tasks most parents do on a regular basis. The fact that I live my life relying upon a prosthetic is simply a part of my reality, not a reason for hero worship. However, if the self-soothing makes them feel better, I won't point out the flawed logic.

On an unconscious level, most people rationalize reasons that limb loss will never happen to them. This is accomplished several ways, the most obvious is blaming the amputee. The diabetic hears whispers, "She should have taken better care of her blood sugar." The traumatic amputee might overhear, "What was he doing driving that late at night," whereas the soldier "knew what he signed up for." I believe that this judgment is an attempt to separate the amputee from society. Coming up with a cause that could have been avoided is a way of justifying that a limb loss won't happen to them.

Trying to rationalize why bad things happen is human nature. I think it makes people feel better to believe that I had the strength and fortitude to overcome the obstacles, hence the amputation happened to me instead of them. It is simply too overwhelming for the average person to believe that limb loss can happen to him at anytime. I won't contest the praise and accolades and will continue to smile graciously, but I think that the compliments hide a common and pervasive fear.