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, February 03, 2012

The Talk... Again

Last fall during one of Robby's first weeks of school, I sat down with his class and talked about my prosthetic. I was hoping to quell the near constant peppering of questions that his classmates posed daily. His peers were inquisitive and attentive during my explanation, and talking directly about my need for a prosthetic seemed to stem their curiosity. After my visit I was seen as "Robby's Mom" instead of the "one with the robot leg."

Yesterday, when I went to pick up Robby from school, I was shocked by the reaction of his little friends. They were again utterly mesmerized by my prosthetic. I was surrounded by the entire class as soon as I entered the room, and they began firing questions about my amputation and leg. It felt surreal, almost as if they have collectively forgotten that I have already answered all of their questions.

Within minutes I found myself sitting on a little chair, circled by curious five and six year olds who were pulling and poking my prosthetic. I took my leg off and passed it around. The class showed an enthusiasm for learning everything about my amputation and prosthetic. It felt as if they were seeing it for the very first time.

I wasn't expecting to be teaching his class about my leg, but I certainly didn't want to make any of his little friends uncomfortable about my amputation. They were excited to try on my prosthetic and enjoyed stomping on the foot shell and asking me if it hurt. For some reason, it was novel again.

Finally, after nearly 30 minutes of "holding prosthetic court" I packed up Robby to go home. He grabbed his dinosaur bone, took my hand and we headed out the door. I still haven't figured out what sparked the student's newly rediscovered curiosity in my prosthetic, but I suspect it has something to do with the dinosaur bone. On some level I think that seeing a leg bone reminded the students about my amputation and, although they weren't able to verbalize the connection, they were certainly intrigued. It never bothers me to talk with children about my amputation and prosthetic, but I'm hoping that tomorrow I can drop off and pick up Robby without encountering the Kindergarten Inquisition!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Dinosaur Hunt

The weather yesterday was unseasonably warm. I can't believe it is February and our coats aren't necessary! I couldn't fathom spending the day inside and missing out on the sunshine and warm breeze, so while Robby was at school I hatched a plan.

Instead of taking him home for lunch after school, I drove to his favorite park. It turns out that I was not the only mom with this idea= that place was packed. The climbing structures were crowded and, although he tried to integrate and play, Robby quickly abandoned the jungle gyms and asked to go on an explore.

I wasn't surprised when Robby began leading the way down to the stream. He loves throwing stones and climbing on the giant rocks in his favorite little hideaway, and with the warm temperatures and the absence of bugs, I knew that we were going to be there for several hours. Luckily I was prepared and packed snacks.

I was also happy that I wore my running leg in lieu of my Proprio. Feeling particularly energetic and motivated, I decided to join Robby on his climbing adventures. Walking across rock structures and trying to hop from stone to stone to cross the water is not an easy task for an amputee. I was constantly looking down and verifying my foot placement. To my delight, I only fell into the stream twice!

Drenched from bum to toes and tired from three hours of exploring fun, I was thrilled when Robby wanted to go home. On the way from the stream back to the park, my little guide noticed a path forking off the main trail. Curious, he decided it would be fun to take the path less traveled.

Within one turn we were in the middle of a densely wooded area. Robby was confident that we were in the haunted woods where the dinosaurs roamed. He was utterly convinced that we were the only humans to have walked this path. Thankfully he was oblivious to the used condoms littering the trail. Apparently the "dinosaur woods" is a favorite stomping ground for teenagers.

Steering him away from the used prophylactics on the ground, I tried to indulge Robby's imagination. He chatted about finding a dinosaur bone and how happy his friends would be if he brought one to school. I agreed that it would be super neat, but warned that dinosaur bones are hard to find.

As soon as those words came out of my mouth, Robby stopped. He began to jump up and down and pointed to the ground a few feet off of the path. "Momom, you are not going to believe this. I think that's a dinosaur bone."

Setting in the middle of a pile of leaves was a large, white bone. Robby is certain that he found a leg bone from a baby dinosaur. In reality it is probably from a dog, but I didn't have the heart to burst his bubble.

We brought the treasure home, where it was soaked in bleach for two hours. When it dried Robby, immediately put it in his backpack to show his friends at school tomorrow. I've sent his teacher an email explaining that Robby found a bone and is convinced that it is from a dinosaur. I'm sure that his little friends will be impressed with his discovery, and I'm hoping that nobody bursts his paleontology dreams.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Caregiver Help

I have been doing a lot more peer visits during the past few weeks. Although I always feel emotionally drained afterward, I understand the fear that often accompanies losing a limb, and I am happy to help somebody else on their journey. I've often thought that my adjustment would have been easier had I had a mentor.

With each visit I am beginning to fully understand how much an amputation impacts the entire family, not just the patient. When I was preparing for my own surgery, my thoughts were consumed with my own fears, anxieties, and plans for the future. I wasn't able to look beyond myself to see how my family and friends were coping with the loss of my leg. Now that I'm in a different role, I am able to see the impact from a different perspective, and I am astounded with how profoundly a family can be affected.

I find that I am investing nearly as much time with the spouses, parents, siblings, and children as I am with the new amputee. Many times I am followed from the hospital room and into the elevator by a family member (or two) after my visit with a patient where I am peppered with additional questions. It is evident that the loved ones of new amputees are often struggling and need support. However, the needs of the new amputee often trump the needs of the caregiver, leaving the family searching for ways to help, cope, and adapt to the changes.

Although it's been nearly 9 years since my amputation, Scott avoids talking about the first few weeks after my surgery. It isn't a memory that makes him comfortable and he would rather not revisit that time. Finally, this past weekend after a particularly draining peer visit, we had one of our first conversations about his adjustment.

Only after our chat did I realize how profoundly Scott was affected. Obviously our lives changed and I am physically different. However, I never realized how he was impacted on an emotional level.

Scott felt like he couldn't grieve, at least not in front of me, for the loss of my foot. He had to remain strong, steadfast in his support and unwavering in his resolve that I was going to be okay. I learned that he worried and fretted about my future but he felt that he had to put on a positive face at all times. It's ironic because I was trying to be brave for him. I worried that had he known how lost I felt, he would have a more difficult time adjusting.

We were trying to protect each other but, in essence, we were isolating ourselves. We were both feeling the same fears and grieving a loss, yet our desire to "make everything okay" kept us from communicating those fears.

I've been amazed how simply asking how they were coping and validating their feelings can open up a flood of emotions. Asking the simple question of "How are you dealing with this?" can make a world of difference for a loving family member who is struggling to help and to adjust. I have been trying to reach out to the individual in the caregiver role more often because I am beginning to realize how much it means.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Resolution Update

My resolution for 2012 was to be more accepting of my flaws and imperfections while taking better care of my emotional and physical well-being. We are one month into the New Year and, although I have meant well, I have hit some road blocks.

Between family issues, my workman's compensation issues, and various unforeseen health problems, my stress levels have skyrocketed. For many of these issues, the only thing that I can control is my response to the situation. Unfortunately, knowing that worrying is not going to change anything has been little deterrent.

I read several articles about the effectiveness of meditation to relieve anxiety. Throughout my day I have been diligent about trying to take small breaks in my routine so that I can regroup and try to calm down. I've tried to enjoy my minute vacations from reality, but unfortunately my worries keep sneaking up on me when I try conjure happy place. I always end up with a clenched jaw and tight shoulders in my frustrating attempts at relaxing.

I've been unsuccessful meditating, but I have rediscovered the benefits of exercise. Initially I experienced a lot of guilt exercising while Robby was at school. I felt compelled to put my time towards more productive activities, primarily work. When I picked him up from school I wanted to spend time with him and felt guilty taking time to myself. Needless to say, I spent much of his first semester in school feeling a lot of guilt- and not working out.

Since January I have made exercising a daily priority. After I drop off Robby in the morning, I come home and immediately begin my work-out routine. I have decided that I deserve 60 minutes everyday to strengthen my body and relieve my stress. In addition to feeling better, I have shed 6 pounds since Christmas!

Typically I would scold myself for faltering on my resolution. Instead, I am going to congratulate myself for making myself a priority for one hour each day. Meditation might not be my strength, and that's okay. Since I've been rediscovering the stress-busting benefits of exercise, I'm toying with the idea of taking up boxing. Something about hitting a bag hard seems appealing right now. I would try kickboxing, but I'm worried about my leg flying off.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jumping Scared

Robby has been looking forward to his friend Nick's birthday party for the past month. Nick and Robby became instant friends on the first day of school. My little guy loves a party, but the fact that this was a birthday party for his best friend- and that it was being hosted at Jumping Jimmy's (an inflatable playground for kids)- made the event near monumental in his mind.

Robby immediately began pestering me to take him to the party when he woke up on Saturday. I tried to divert his attention from the party but wasn't successful. By the time we were ready to leave, I'm not sure who was happier-- Robby because he could play with his friend or me because it meant that I didn't have to listen to his constant requests to go!

As soon as we entered the party complex, Robby shed his boots, the present, and his coat before he took off running after Nick and his friends. I was saying hello to Nick's Mom and hanging up Robby's coat when my cell phone rang. I was surprised when I saw my Mom's number on the caller ID because she knew that we were going to a birthday party so I immediately sensed that this was not going to be a good call.

It turns out that my sister Sheri was driving and became dizzy, pulled over and called my mom. By the time my Mom got to her location, my sister was nearly unresponsive. An ambulance was called and my sister was transported to the local hospital.

Hearing that news stopped me in my tracks. I was surrounded by happy jumping five and six year olds, yet I felt like I was in a dream. I was literally numb with fear and worry.

My Mom had no other details, and I knew that there was nothing that I could do. I felt so helpless, but I also knew that dragging Robby away from the party wouldn't accomplish anything other than disappointing him. I stayed at the party and tried to hide my anxiety and fears from the other parents.

Finally, after nearly two hours my Mom called back. It turns out that my sister had developed an infection in a hand laceration which was sustained earlier in the week. The infection caused her to become dizzy and pass out. She was put on heavy IV antibiotics and would undergo surgery to open the wound and clean out the infection.

Immediately my mind jumped to sepsis and the possibility of her losing her hand. I have come to know so many amputees who have lost limbs because of sepsis developing from a seemingly benign cut. I tried to remain upbeat but inside the anxiety was eating me up. I kept conjuring up worst case scenarios, including prosthetic hands. In that moment, the leap from a hand infection to an amputation didn't seem that far.

I hate that my mind instantly jumped to the worst case scenario. I've always considered myself to be an positive person who looks for the silver lining in every situation. In this case I suspect that my experience jaded my reaction. I've come to learn that there is no such thing as a "small" wound infection because it can rapidly spread without notice or cause.

Thankfully my sister's infection is under control and she is resting comfortably She is waking up in the hospital again this morning, but we are expecting her to be released this afternoon. With a continued course of antibiotics and with a freshly cleaned incision we are expecting a full recovery and are counting our blessings!