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, April 27, 2012

Schooling the Trainer

I am officially halfway through my contracted sessions with my trainer. I am delighted to have finally crested the halfway mark, and I'm now able to start the countdown to the finish. I'm not giving up on fitness, by any means. I am starting to feel more toned, and I am enjoying my newly developed muscle strength and agility.
While I am like the physical transformation, I continue to detest every moment at the gym. I fully anticipated muscle fatigue, soreness, and a lot of sweat. Perhaps all of their hyper-focusing on muscle burn and calorie expenditures has caused them to experience lapses in memory. I am constantly having to explain my prosthetic limitations, and I find myself feeling both angry and resentful.

This week, after explaining yet again the pain that occurs inside my socket when I am attempting to "frog swat," I was asked to perform the same movement carrying two 8 pound weights. I put down the weights and asked for an alternative exercise. I guess nobody has ever challenged them before because it took several minutes of fumbling around on the clipboard before I was offered another movement. I was going to ask why it took so long to tell me to do jumping jacks, but I decided it probably wasn't the best time to be witty.

Towards the end of my session after I had adjusted for the volume change within my socket by adding another sock, I was asked to do a series of kicking exercises. At first I thought he was joking. I mean, who would knowingly ask an amputee to kick right after they were told that the prosthetic suspension was compromised? The scowl on his face let me know that he wasn't joking. I held onto the weight bench and I carefully began to count through my series of kicks.

He asked me to kick harder through my quad, to create more of a flicking action. I knew it was a bad idea. But I also knew that he wasn't going to listen to me. He was convinced that my cautious attempt at the exercise was due to fatigue and not "pushing through the pain to feel the burn."

I tried to explain the issue, and he told me to "stop making excuses." I became angry. I took a deep breath, and then I knew what I was going to do.

I adjusted my position slightly, held onto the weight bar tightly and began to kick. 9, 10, 11, 12 kicks; I knew there was no going back. My socket suction was completely broken. On kick 13, I provided the "snap" as instructed.

My leg flew off and, to my delight, knocked over my trainer's latte, spilling the foamy coffee concoction all over the gym floor.  He was horrified. I tried to keep the smirk off my face as I hopped past him and retrieved my leg.

Maybe now he will listen to me when I am explaining my prosthetic issues. If not, I have a new found confidence knowing that I apparently have perfect aim!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm Bragging

It is hard to believe that Robby is nearly through with his first year of school. It feels like yesterday I was not so quietly sobbing in the car after dropping him off at school. (Fair warning- the thought of full-day first grade is already causing me separation pangs and anxiety.)

Yesterday I attended Robby's end of the year parent-teacher conference. Although I've been through several hundreds of these when I was teaching, somehow it feels more intimidating when I am on the other side of the table, silently praying for good news while trying to look engrossed at the pile of papers thrust into my hands.

It turns out that my fears were unfounded as Robby is doing fantastic in school. Academically he is testing above his peers and demonstrates a strength in both math and science. His teacher described him as "inquisitive and smart" and bolstered my mom ego by telling me that it is a pleasure to have such a talented and attentive student.  I tried to contain my elation, but I know that I was beaming.

Equally important, I learned that Robby has earned the reputation of "Classroom Crusader." He has a natural compassion for his classmates when they are hurt, sad, or teased. My little guy apparently has no problem going up and intervening when he feels a peer is being picked on or mistreated. The fact that my son is not afraid to reach out and help others means so much to me. In many ways I think the development of that trait  is as important as  academic achievements.

Robby has always demonstrated a strong sense of empathy and a resolve to help others. Unfortunately he does not extend these traits to his own situations. He has no problem advocating for others but seems to have a difficult time speaking up for himself. According to his teacher Robby frequently loses his turn or a desired toy because another student takes it. He doesn't stand up for himself and simply backs away. (I have no doubt he inherited this tendency from his mom!)

We are going to have to work on self-advocacy skills. I suspect that he doesn't want to offend anybody and finds it easier to walk away. I'm hoping that role playing various scenarios will arm Robby will viable options so he will feel comfortable enough to stand up for himself. I want him to be as comfortable defending himself as he is intervening for his friends when he becomes a First Grader.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Socket Art

A few days ago I was contacted by a reporter from CNN who was researching a story about prosthetics. Specifically, she was interested in learning more about the socket art trend that seems to be growing in the amputee community. I answered her questions and provided some photos of my newly decorated socket which I admit is understated by most standards.

When I first became an amputee, I distinctly remember telling my Mom and Scott that I wanted a cosmetic cover. I didn't want anybody to know that I was an amputee. More important than components, which I didn't understand, it was paramount that my prosthesis looked like a "normal leg." I didn't want anybody to know that I was an amputee for fear of being viewed as disabled or handicapped.

My first leg had a hand carved foam cover and a flesh toned skin. From a distance it looked like I had a matching pair, and It was only if somebody really stared that it was apparent that I was using a prosthesis.  The flesh skin was nearly impossible to clean and, unbeknownst to me at the time, did not tan. My right leg had a healthy glow while my prosthetic simply turned to a bleached out, dingy shade of orange. My quest to fit in resulted in my standing out because of my mismatched legs.

I recall the moment that I decided to get rid of the cover and to stop trying to camouflage my prosthetic almost as clearly as I remember insisting that I have the cosmetic cover.  It was late August and I was wearing a pair of shorts. I looked down to adjust my sandal when I realized the grime and stains that had accumulated in the fabric. It had become downright ugly.

Staring at the stains while trying to come up with a cleaning solution, I had an epiphany. It may sound obvious, but in that moment I accepted that my prosthetic is not my biological leg. I needed to stop trying to make it look like one. It was a prosthetic, manufactured with carbon fiber and titanium. It wasn't flesh and bone, but it was still beautiful because it enabled me to be independent. I rummaged through the junk drawer in our kitchen, found the box cutter and began to cut away the cover.

Many amputees have fabric laminated into their socket. I have never been able to find a pattern that I could commit to wearing everyday for several years. In lieu of fabric, I've always opted for black carbon fiber. I love that I can dress the socket with sticker embellishments or decorate it for holidays using Colorforms.

A few months ago while in my prosthetist's office, I finally saw a socket design I knew I would be happy wearing for years. It is not created by laminating fabric over the socket but involves dipping paper in chemicals. I'm not really sure of the specifics of the application process, but I do know that I love the look.  I jumped at the opportunity to have my socket tricked out in this manner. My current leg is shiny silver and covered with black rain drops and I couldn't be happier. It looks both clean and modern.

My evolution to becoming a confident amputee woman can be traced through my sockets. I have gone from "I don't want anybody to know that I'm different" to "Hey, check out this cool leg" in a relatively few years. Who knows what my next socket will look like!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Roller Coaster Day

Robby had a rough night Sunday into Monday. He vomited on and off throughout the night missing the bowl each time. I felt so helpless with his being so sick. All I could do was hold him, wipe him down, and rock him until he finally relaxed.

His fever finally broke and he fell asleep about 3 AM. He left a pile of odoriferous bedsheets, pajamas, and blankets in his wake. I tried to catch a few hours of sleep before tackling the laundry, a project I knew was going to consume much of my day.

Doing the laundry would not have been nearly as difficult if I had a prosthetic that fit correctly. Although I've been frustrated with my weight loss progress, I have concluded that I must be slimming down because my legs are now all too big. I'm forced to try to pad my limb with a variety of socks in order to fit into my socket.

Unfortunately I can't obtain a comfortable fit, so my walking is both slowed and painful. Hobbling up and down the stairs lugging laundry baskets, I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself. It stinks that I suffer negative consequences when trying to become healthy and lose weight!

It's bad enough that my muscles are sore and I'm always hungry. Now my stump hurts and my leg doesn't fit. I'm trying to remember that this is good for me, but it is hard to remain committed. I was proud of myself for only eating 3 Hershey's Kisses when consoling myself.

Thankfully Robby is on the mend. Robby seemed content spending much of the day on the couch in the living room watching YouTube videos and cartoons. He only became excited and animated once. From his perch on the couch he was in the perfect position to see a giant tree became uprooted in our yard.  Thankfully it missed our house but took out three smaller trees as it fell. The trunk is nearly 5 feet in diameter and the hole is at least 6 feet deep where it uprooted. I can't help but think that the cost of this tree removal is going to sting!

Yesterday felt like a never ending roller coaster of mishaps and setbacks. By the time we were ready to go to sleep I felt a mixture of exhaustion and relief that the day was over. I was relieved to slip off my leg and crawl into bed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sick Call

What a rainy, dreary weekend we had here.  The sky has been grey and the sun has been elusive, but the rainfall has been plentiful. Instead of being frustrated because we were housebound by the weather, I was relieved. My leg has been ouchy and I needed a few days to relax so that the cuts could heal. A cold rain was the perfect excuse to take it easy, relax, and read without feeling guilty. (Okay, I felt a little guilty about not being more productive, especially considering the mountain of laundry that awaits me.)

Instead of cleaning or even working, I spent Saturday reading. I can't remember the last time I became so immersed in a book that I passed hours voraciously reading without noticing the time. I love to read, but since Robby was born it has become a rare luxury to be able to read more than two or three pages without being interrupted.  With Robby fighting off a chest infection, he was content snuggling up next to me while watching Mario Bros. videos on YouTube and dozing on and off. I hate when he is sick, but I admit that I love how he wants to cuddle with me when he isn't feeling well. He is growing up so quickly and I miss holding him!

Sunday morning it was clear that Robby was feeling worse. Since his pediatrician's office was closed, Scott and I searched for alternatives. We decided to try the Minute Clinic, a drop-in medical office that is manned by a Physician's Assistant (PA) instead of a MD. The clinic opened at 10 and we were the first in line for treatment.

The PA was so good with Robby that he immediately felt at ease with her. She asked a checklist of questions and encouraged him to answer instead of me. Despite his fever, he began to giggle when she asked him if he smoked. He denied tobacco use, but offered the following information, "I don't smoke cigarettes. But my Mom does. My Mom smokes cigarettes all the time, a lot of them."

I must be clear. I do not now nor have I ever smoked! I don't know why Robby decided to fib, but the more I denied smoking the more insistent he became. With his gap toothed crooked smile, he simply kept spinning his tale, offering specific details about my smoking. The more I denied, the more vocal he became. After bantering back and forth for a few minutes, I finally offered a firm denial and changed the subject to his cough.

We ended up leaving the clinic with a bag full of medication, a complimentary thermometer, and a variety of pamphlets detailing how to take care of the diagnosed "crackles" in his chest. During the drive home Scott asked Robby why he lied to the doctor about my smoking. He admitted that he thought it was funny. We both proceeded to lecture him for the duration of our drive about fibbing and spinning tales about other people. His being sick somewhat tempered my frustrations, but I was annoyed by his accusations.

Scott tried to convince me that the doctor believed me and not Robby. I was pretty sure that she thought I was lying. It was driving me crazy not knowing whom she believed, but I knew that it was silly to be concerned and decided to shift my focus to making Robby feel better. Still, it continued to bother me.

Finally at home, I pulled out the pamphlets to research how to care for his chest infection. Between the brochure about the antibiotics and the one about phlegm production, I discovered the answer to my nagging question. I found a brochure detailing the dangers of smoking and steps to quit. I knew she believed Robby and not me! He won!