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.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Chasing Cheetah!!

This morning I woke up obscenely early. Bleary eyed, I made myself an extra large mug of coffee, turned on my computer, and patiently waited. At 5:35 AM I witnessed something amazing.

I cannot find the words to convey the emotions that I felt when I saw Oscar walk on the track with his prosthetic Cheetah legs. Dressed in the colors of South Africa, he has come to represent every amputee who refuses to be defined by their loss. This morning, a man with no legs proved to the world that he is not disabled!

I had no expectations of a fairy tale ending. I wouldn't even flirt with the notion of Oscar moving beyond the qualifying round. Apparently wishes that aren't dared spoken sometimes do come true. Oscar finished second in his heat, promoting him to the semi-final rounds.

Forums and blogs immediately began buzzing after the race. Naysayers are claiming that Oscar cheated because his man-made legs provide him with an unnatural advantage. I choose to ignore those inaccurate assertions and concentrate on those posts that demonstrate the true significance of what happened this morning.

A Mom, sitting in a hospital room next to her 9 year old daughter, posted this after watching the race:

 "The nurse came running into the room with a computer and woke up Lily to watch Oscar. She didn't say a word but just watched the screen. When he finished, she looked at me and smiled. The first time I have seen that pretty smile since the accident! She said that the man had fake legs and ran really good. She didn't know that she could do things like that. Now she can't wait to get her leg and start running!!!!"

Seeing Oscar pass his competitors is something I will always remember. Oscar's competitors better watch out in the next heat-- they are about to be chased down by a Cheetah!


Friday, August 03, 2012

Setting my Alarm

Tomorrow morning I will be setting my alarm to get up at a ghastly hour. I won't be cramming to finish a project or packing for a trip, the usual reasons for my rising early. Instead I'll be waking up early so that I can watch Oscar Pistorius run in the Olympics.

I fully admit that I am not an avid Track and Field fan. In fact, I couldn't name one other athlete that will be competing on the track this summer. But at 5:35 AM I will be sitting in front of my television, eating a breakfast cupcake, and nervously sipping my coffee. For the first time ever I will root for an athlete who does not hail from the United States.

What most don't realize is that for the majority of amputees, this race isn't about winning a medal. This race has come to symbolize the possibility that a disability cannot only be overcome, but also can become a source of triumph. I continue to become overwhelmed with emotion when I think of new amputees, especially young children, who will be looking at this accomplishment with awe and inspiration. For some, the fear of trying will be erased by witnessing what is possible.

I hold no expectations of a medal finish. The fact that he is going to be taking his earned position against his bi-legged competitors is enough of a victory. I never imagined that I would be seeing a bilateral amputee running against able-bodied competitors on the world stage. This is a truly a monumental feat for amputees!

You can watch the race live on this link (http://www.nbcolympics.com/liveextra/video-watch.html?video=track-feed-mens-100m-heats-more) and follow the conversation on twitter by using #runoscar. The race will be over in mere seconds, but the impact will transcend his running career. I have no doubt that I'll be walking a little prouder on Saturday.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

In Defense of the Blade Runner!!

With Oscar Pistorius set to run in the Olympics on Saturday, the controversy of the "unfair advantage" has hit a boiling point. As an amputee and somebody who lives with the reality of utilizing a prosthesis on a daily basis, I find the fallacy infuriating. I cannot fathom the notion that seemingly intelligent people actually assert that missing both legs is an advantage for a runner!

I've been spending a lot of time enlightening the naysayers on forums and through comments on articles and blogs. The proponents of the "unfair advantage" seem to cite the same concerns, without facts, when justifying their position. I understand why they are sticking with "perhaps" or "could be" justifications because the facts are clearly against them.

The controversy first came to light several years ago when Oscar made his first bid at the Olympics. An Olympic scientific committee was convened to examine the issue with the findings initially seeming to confirm the "prosthetic advantage." According to researchers, Pistorius' cheetah legs provided him with an astounding 90% energy return, considerably higher than the purported 60% by the intact human foot. Immediately the controversy of whether or not carbon fiber prostheses sparked an unfair advantage hit a furious speed.

Upon further examination, it was discovered that researchers involved with the initial study failed to cite the energy return of the human foot with an intact calf muscle (which, in the case of Pistorius is obviously missing). The human foot, with an intact calf muscle, has an energy return of 254%. All seem to agree that a prosthesis cannot provide more than 90% return due to energy lost due to components. It was determined that the carbon fiber prostheses render Pistorius with a 164% energy return deficit over his bi-legged competitors. Although very good prosthetics, the technology does not replace the muscle lost.

With the energy return theory debunked, many are citing differences in oxygen expenditures as an unfair advantage. I have read rationalizations that an amputee does not have to work as hard to walk and move because the prosthesis does the work. Obviously these individuals have never tried to walk on a prosthesis!

It has long been accepted by authorities in the field that amputees have to work harder to ambulate and to run. The body must compensate for the lack of muscle and bone, putting more strain on the remaining structures. According to research from the Amputee Research Centre, a bilateral below knee amputee (such as Oscar) expends a whopping 200% increase in oxygen consumption to simply walk. Oscar uses more energy when walking and running because of his prostheses, not less.

I find it pathetic that the "unfair advantage" debate still mars this extraordinary achievement. Perhaps it is human nature to cast doubt. I suspect that jealousy fuels many of these commentators. Maybe it is intimidating knowing that a man who stands 5'2" and uses prosthetic legs could be competitive on the world stage!

The fact remains that on Saturday morning, Oscar will take to the track and run because he has earned his position, not because he has somehow cheated. Insinuating an "amputee advantage" is insulting to every individual living with a limb loss. He has achieved Olympian status because of his will and his hard work, not because of the carbon fiber and components in his prosthesis.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Paying it Forward

As my experience and this blog have grown, I find myself spending an increasing amount of time talking with new amputees. I always try to carve out time for a phone call, to respond to emails, or if possible, visit. I didn't have the benefit of meeting with an amputee when I was preparing for my surgery or during the recovery. I have no doubt that the void added to the isolation and fears that I felt during that difficult time. Remembering the confusion and anguish, I feel compelled to try to help others on their journey.

Statisticians claim that there are 507 amputations every day in this country. With a number that large, I suppose it was just a matter of time until somebody I knew became an amputee. During the past month I have been contacted by two people from  my childhood who have recently had an amputation. I am accustomed to meeting with new amputees, but it was truly a unique and special experience talking with somebody who I already knew!

My childhood neighbor was in a car accident earlier this summer rendering her a partial hand amputee. Within days of the accident I began to receive emails and calls telling me about her situation and asking me to reach out to her. It is amazing how quickly news spreads courtesy of Facebook and Twitter!

During a visit to my Mom's house, I took the opportunity to visit my former neighbor. It was obvious that she was having a difficult time adjusting to the loss of her fingers. She was teary eyed and nervous when we first began to speak. I spent a lot of time listening and reassuring her that she was going to be okay. The adjustment is difficult, but I have no doubt that a time will come when the loss does not define her.

Although her amputation was the purpose for my visit, we ended up reminiscing. We talked about my childhood, about her children (we did not always get along) and about Robby. We had a bond because of our past. Now we are bonded because we are both amputees.

Last weekend while visiting my Mom I received another Facebook message telling me the struggles of an acquaintance from high school. Ron was battling cancer when we were in school. I never really knew him, but I do remember him fighting hard to save his life and his leg. When he graduated, he was in remission and walking on both limbs.

Apparently the chemo treatments used to save his life ultimately ended up destroying his afflicted leg. His bones were disintegrating and he was left with no choice but to amputate. Two weeks ago he underwent a below the knee amputation. He, along with his wife and young son, were staying with his parents until he was released by his surgeon to return to North Carolina.

I immediately contacted Ron and his wife via Facebook. After a flurry of emails and phone calls, we realized that I was only 10 minutes away! Scott and I delayed our departure to Virginia, left Robby with my Mom, and went to visit Ron.

Ron and I chatted for an hour. He has had a lot of visitors, but nobody who could completely relate. Sometimes there are questions that only another amputee can answer! I think that just seeing me walk into the house, without crutches and a limb, was all the reassurance that he needed that he was going to be okay.

It is always rewarding when I feel like I have actually helped somebody. In some ways it makes me feel like my journey has not been for nothing, that perhaps there is a greater purpose for the pain that I had to endure. Paying it forward and helping a new amputee leaves me with a sense of peace that I am making a difference. It was especially gratifying being able to reach out to people whom I already knew and respected!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Non-Anniversary Celebration

This past Sunday marked our eight year wedding anniversary. I decided to not mention the significance of the date. I wanted to see how long it would take him to remember.

I spent the next three hours pressure washing the deck. I took a small break to make Robby lunch and to scoot him outside when I saw his friend riding her bike down the street. Drenched and with sore muscles, the "Happy Anniversary my Love" demeanor from the morning was quickly turning into a "I can't believe you forgot you a$$" mood by the time I returned to the deck for round two with the pressure washer.

Almost four hours after lunch I drug myself back into the house.  I was tired and frustrated that only half the deck had been cleaned after an afternoon of diligence. Scott was still in bed wearing his boxer shorts and sleep t-shirt, watching the Olympics and playing on his smart phone while happily munching on potato chips. I was covered with splattered dirt, bits of removed deck stain, and a lot of water. Needless to say I was not amused.

I was fuming so much that I don't think I needed to add warm water to my shower! I cleaned up, walked into the bedroom, and produced the biggest smile I could muster. "Scott, do you know what today is?" His responded with, "Day two of the Olympics?"

In an attempt to minimize my ire, I decided it was probably prudent just to remind him. I wished him a happy wedding anniversary. He looked like a deer in the headlights and responded with an instinctive, "Oh f*ck, are you serious?" He then proceeded to remove his wedding band to verify the date that we had inscribed inside when we were married. We've been married for eight years, but it was during that exchange that I confirmed that my husband has the romantic inclination of a snail.

In all fairness, Scott did attempt to make amends for the forgotten anniversary. He took me out for dinner and helped Robby buy me flowers. I let go of the anger, but I have to admit that I was deflated. It would have been nice if he had remembered on his own accord. Next year I think I'll start sending him text message reminders a week before our anniversary so he doesn't forget!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dutch Wonderland!

Friday morning we decided to pack up Robby and spend the day at Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park designed primarily for children under 10. Scott and I enjoy the lack of lines, the cheaper prices for admission and food, as well as the plentiful shade trees. Robby loves that he is able to ride everything, including the "ginorously big roller coaster."

I never ask for a discount because of my "handicapped" status, but I am not above accepting one when offered to me. There are so few perks to living as an amputee that I will certainly take a benefit when it is presented! I was delighted when we were offered a hefty discount on our admission tickets and I graciously accepted the "disabled courtesy rate" when it was offered. With our budget for the day suddenly padded, we headed into the park for a day of rides and fun.

Robby took off skipping to the first ride in his sights- the Space Shuttle. (It is the same ride as the traditional pirate ship, minus the nautical theme.) There was no line for the ride, which meant that Robby could stay in his seat and continue the stomach jumping fun for multiple turns. My little thrill seeker was all grins. Scott and I were both turning an odd shade of grey. We quickly realized that we needed to take turns if we were going to survive the day.

After four times on the Space Shuttle and only after the promise of returning to ride more, we finally convinced Robby to explore more rides. He quickly spotted the swings and took off towards them. We all took our seats, Scott took my leg to a secure location (I learned the hard way never to ride the swings with a prosthesis because it will fly off) and we buckled in and prepared to take flight. I could hear Robby squealing through the entire ride, and there was no doubt that he was having a blast.

When the ride ended, we were permitted to stay in our seats for another turn. Before I had a chance to fully weigh my decision to ride again, we were up in the air and spinning. Around and around and up and down. Robby was giggling and pointing out every landmark he was spotting from our quickly moving vantage point. My eyes were shut and I was concentrating on breathing. My goal morphed from surviving the ride to not vomiting while I was in motion.

Scott must have sensed my sudden onset nausea because he brought me my leg in record time. I staggered off the ride and asked the 16 year old attendant to point me in the direction of the nearest restroom.  Meanwhile Robby and his Daddy hopped on the swings to ride again.

Thankfully the restroom was closer than I anticipated, which is good because I arrived in the nick of time. With my head down, I ignored everybody and went to the first available stall. I recall hearing a few people saying "excuse me" in an annoyed tone. I made a mental note to apologize for pushing my way in line but assumed that any questions would be answered when the vomiting commenced.

There is no pride in vomiting at an amusement park. It is a sign that my body is getting old and cannot handle the spinning. I hate getting old!  I have become the Mom on the sidelines, holding the water bottles and watching her family ride from the comfort of a nearby park bench.

I tried to hold my head high despite the fact that I had just been sick. Stepping out of the stall, I knew that my day of riding was done. Only when I walked to the sink to splash water on my face did I notice the long line of men standing against the wall, all frantically trying to zip up.

It took me a moment to process, but was instantly humiliated when I realized my mistake. I had run into the wrong bathroom. The barrage of "excuse me" were not by annoyed women with husky voices- they were from surprised men! 

Trying to muster as much dignity as possible, I profusely apologized. I tried to explain that the swings were making me sick and that I'm too old to ride. I yammered on about how I used to love the swings when I was young, but something has happened to my inner ear when I hit 30. I joked about how my husband was still on the ride with my little boy and that he will be the hero for the day. It was only then that I realized that my captive audience wanted me to leave instead of offering a long winded rambling explanation. I screamed "sorry" as I ran out of the door.

By the time I returned from my adventure in the men's room, Scott and Robby were climbing out of the ride after 5 consecutive turns. He bought me a pretzel, a bottle of water and proceeded to laugh as I recounted the incident. The boys had a great day riding together. I assumed my new role as park Sherpa, holding the bottles and bags while dutifully following the pair from ride to ride.