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, June 21, 2013

Envious? Doubtful!

I have noticed a disturbing trend. My first exposure was during Oscar's run during the Olympics, but the fury quickly died down so I didn't feel compelled to address it. After the Boston Bombings the issue has resurfaced, and I have encountered it numerous times during the past few weeks. At this time, I can no longer remain silent.

When I read the first newspaper article, which touted the wonders of prosthetic technology and referenced the "superhuman" that was being created, I chuckled. After all, I rely upon my bionic prosthesis on a daily basis. While I appreciate the technological innovations, it does not come close to recreating the biological limb. I chalked up the references to a sensationalistic desire to sell papers and didn't think much of it.

Then I read an interview with Hugh Herr, a gifted prosthetic designer and engineer who has created bionic devices which have revolutionized prosthetic technology.  In the article he repeatedly stated that technology is advancing to the point of creating "envy" within the four limbed population. Until they can create a prosthesis that will clean my house, do my laundry and cook dinner for me, I assure you that my friends will not envy my limb loss! I was honestly shocked that such an intelligent individual could make such an insulting and downright ignorant declaration.

Earlier this week I read an article which was titled "The future of robotics: in a transhuman world, the disabled will be the ones without prosthetic limbs." As somebody who is reliant upon this technology, I find that inference insulting on a variety of levels! Apparently the cyborg mystique has taken hold, and it is time to provide some facts. After all, I would hate to think that my friends would become so envious of my ability to utilize this Superman-like technology that they would actually cut off their leg. (Yes, I am being sarcastic.)

Herr developed the PowerFoot, which is a marvel of technology. This prosthetic ankle and foot system is the only foot that replicates the calf muscle, providing the wearer with a small surge of power with each step. I've walked this foot and I was impressed. But I'm more impressed with my biological foot.

I realize that Herr is now a salesperson trying to sell his invention, but his facts are wrong. His foot is reliant upon batteries, which are heavy and drain quickly, requiring the wearer to always carry a spare or risk losing the bionic benefits. There is nothing "superhuman" about the constant need of the bionic amputee to monitor their battery usage throughout the day. Should the battery completely drain (imagine loss of power), the prosthetic is relegated to the function of a heavy brick. The biological foot, with its readily accessible power source, wins this comparison.

Bionic prosthetic wearers can't dance in the rain, jump in puddles or go wading for tadpoles. The technology is good, but it has to be kept dry and clean. I am no expert, but I don't remember seeing Iron Man having to don a DryPro liner before getting wet! Again, the biological foot with it's utilitarian skin covering wins.

Computerized prosthetics require the user to master a variety of triggers in order to reap all of their benefits. When I want to walk up the stairs, my brain quickly tells my leg to lift and move. The bionic knee user must lift, dangle and tap their prosthetic foot in order to trigger stair mode. If any of those triggers are not done perfectly, the knee does not respond as expected. You aren't exactly leaping up the stairs like the Man of Steel when you are stuck at the landing trying to trigger the sweet spot so that the device works!

I realize that drawing superhero comparisons when discussing bionic prosthetics is a "sexy" angle. As an amputee, I find it degrading and insulting. The struggles, both financial and physical, that are hand in hand with bionic devices are swept under the rug and ignored. While the bionic devices are an improvement, they are heavy, expensive, break down and do not replicate the human body. Creating the mystique that amputees are "lucky" because they are missing a limb borders on the absurd.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer To Do

I have officially declared this the "Summer of Awesome!" Although I have to work, I am hoping that by waking early, I'll be finished with the majority of my work for the day by 1:00. No doubt I'll be exhausted by the time Labor Day rolls around, but hopefully we'll have some wonderful memories as well!

Robby is at an age where he loves playing with his neighborhood friends. The brood tends to travel between houses on the weekend with the only restriction being that they not leave our street. He loves the independence that he is afforded, and I have been able to work on projects because he has not been underfoot.

Unfortunately all of his neighborhood friends will be gone for the majority of the summer. Rowan and her brother are traveling to Iowa where they will stay until August. The new neighbors will be going to India for several weeks. Robby will again be the only child in the neighborhood which means that unless we have activities planned, he will quickly become bored.

I have redirected my dream of having a swimming pool. After the expense and heartache of last year's pool failure, I decided to avoid disaster and look for other options. Last August I discovered that there is a wonderful community swimming pool only 10 minutes from my house. Robby and I went there for an afternoon and had a great time. I was impressed with the cleanliness and the variety of water activities that were offered. Had I known that the pool was there last May, I probably wouldn't have a useless platform sitting in the middle of my backyard. In any case, our family now has a membership to the pool, and I plan on taking full advantage of the opportunity!

When I am not lounging poolside or swimming with Robby, I'm hoping that we will be able to embark on some day trips. Pulled over from last summer's list, touring DC in a double-decker bus remains a high priority this year. We live so close to the Nation's Capital, it is pathetic that we have not yet taken Robby on a proper tour!

I'm also hoping to take Robby fishing on a boat, although I'm not sure of any specifics. I just know that he loves fishing and would thoroughly enjoy the experience. I also want to go to the aquarium in Baltimore (at least once more to pay for the season passes I bought last year) and perhaps visit the Science Center in Richmond.

I realize I say this every June, but I really want to take Robby to the Jersey shore. I used to spend my summers at the beach, and some of my fondest childhood memories involve walking along the boardwalk. I want him to experience the same smells, sights and sounds that I so vividly remember!

Between working, going to the pool, visiting family and friends, and day excursions, the summer schedule is looking full. I can't wait to see what adventures lie ahead in the coming weeks. I'm going to do my best to make it both fun and memorable. After all, I know that the amount of time he wants to spend with his parents will decrease greatly as he gets older.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Fun Start

Each school day morning Robby and I have hosted a visitor. Rowan, the little girl from down the street, has been dropped each morning when her Dad left for work. The two friends would sit on the couch and watch cartoons until it was time for me to walk her to the bus stop.

Typically lethargic and quasi-grumpy in the mornings, she was animated and chipper when she arrived at my door yesterday. I didn't need to look at the calendar because she has been counting down for the past six weeks. Yesterday was the last day of school! Since it was a special day, I agreed to pick her up at the bus stop after school. She was having a half-day and if I hadn't agreed, she would have spent the remainder of the afternoon sitting in a karate school program that she dislikes. Wanting her to be happy and completely revel in the freedom of summer vacation, Robby and I decided to help her celebrate by going to Chuck E. Cheese!

Before going to pick her up for our arcade and carbohydrate adventure, I decided to prepare for another surprise. Hot temperatures always translate into one preferred activity for the twosome. Unbeknownst to them, I filled (and hid) all of the water guns. 100 water balloons were filled and parceled into buckets around the yard. I was fully armed to ambush the friends after Chuck E. Cheese.

Robby and Rowan had a blast playing the games and gulping down pizza. I did my best to avoid playing the games, but the compulsion got the best of me. I'm taking some solace in the fact that I was able to limit my personal losses to $40 this time opposed to the obscene amount I wasted trying to win tickets last time. After 3 hours they had spent all of the tokens that they were allocated and after much debate had settled on the small plastic trinkets they would purchase with their tickets (talk about high finance). We piled into the car and I drove the happy, but tired, friends back to my house. They were both satisfied with a fun day, but I knew that the celebration was far from over.

As soon as they stepped out of the car and closed the door, I grabbed a soaker gun and began the assault. It didn't take long for their energy to regenerate. The battle was on!

We played outside for nearly an hour, running through the yard armed with our Super Soakers. Peels of laughter and shouts of water taunts probably echoed through the neighborhood as we played. I just love to hear them laugh and giggle!

When we were all thoroughly drenched, Scott surprised us by delivering dinner. We called a truce in order to enjoy our treat. After we were done eating, Robby suggested we go and play in the sprinkler. The fact that it was raining was not a deterrent. Because it was a special day and they were already wet, I agreed and set up the Buzz Lightyear sprinkler for the two friends.

By the time Rowan's parents picked her up she had changed into dry clothes (I provided some insider information about my plan and we made arrangements for another change of clothes) and enthralled watching Ghostbusters 2. I have to admit that I found watching their reactions far more entertaining than the movie! Both friends were gleefully exhausted by the time she went home. I can't think of a better way to begin summer vacation!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sandal Fiasco

Last week I ended up splashing in the stream with Robby. I hadn't planned on getting wet but the heat was oppressive and since I was not wearing my Proprio foot, I figured there would be no harm. I jumped in and spent a few hours looking for tadpoles, catching crawdads and just having fun in the cool (albeit filthy) water.

Although I was wearing the correct prosthesis to play in the stream, it has become glaringly obvious that I was not wearing the correct footwear. No matter what I do, I cannot remove the funky stream smell from my shoes. I've watched them two times, dried them in the sun, and invested in two bottles of foot odor spray to no avail. The repugnant smell has become overwhelming, following me as I walk. 

Tired of battling with the smell and waiving the white flag of odor removal, I went to the shoe store to buy a pair of utilitarian summer sandals. I wanted something comfortable and easy to don both on my prosthesis and my foot. On this shopping trip, the most important characteristic was the ability to repel odor.  I was embarrassed removing my smelly shoe in the aisle of the store because I feared that the odor would being to waft as soon as I slipped it off. I tried to remove the distinct odor, but the lady standing next to me looking at the red sandals made a distinct sniffing sound before turning and walking to the sneaker section.

I was drawn to a pair of Croc sandals not because they were stylist but because they are constructed of plastic. I reasoned that they would be easy to rinse off and would repel odor. The absence of a toe-thong, coupled with the presence of a strap along the back, sealed the deal. I grabbed my new sandals, slipped into my smelly shoe and walked to the counter.

It wasn't until I got home that I realized that the sandal has a distinctively higher heel height. I've been spoiled with my Proprio which has an automatic heel height adjustment. My activity foot does not have that feature so I went searching through my underwear drawer to retrieve my Allen wrench. After struggling to find a comfortable alignment, I begrudgingly went online to schedule an appointment with my prosthetist.

Yesterday morning I packed up Robby and drove 40 minutes to visit my Prosthetist. My "simple" heel adjustment turned into a 70 minute exercise in frustration. Apparently the "perfect" sandal had a heel height that was over the maximum designed for my activity foot. I was going to require some McGyver-type adjustments to make these shoes work.

Thankfully Elliot does not give up quickly, and he worked diligently to adjust for the height. After maxing out the adjustment parameters on my foot, he turned his attention to the sandal. The fact that the shoes are constructed of plastic enabled him to manually grind out a pocket within the foot bed. My foot shell sinks a little deeper into the sandal, but it is not noticeable. We applied Velcro to the foot shell and the foot bed of the sandal in order to help secure everything in place. (Of course, the distinctive ripping sound of the Velcro separating between the foot shell and the sandal is difficult to ignore. I'm hoping it quiets soon!)

I drove for almost an hour, and spent over an hour to adjust my prosthesis for a pair of sandals. This is precisely why I usually wear flats! I hope that the sandals hold up over the summer because after this fiasco, I have no plans on changing the shoe anytime soon!

Monday, June 17, 2013

New School Picnic

Friday morning Robby and I visited his classroom for the final time so that I could retrieve all of the items I had loaned the teacher throughout the year. Our "quick trip" turned into a morning project. I lent more than I realized throughout the course of the school year; it took me four trips to take everything home!

In the afternoon we went to visit his school for next year because the Principal sent us an invitation to the end of the year picnic celebration. I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to begin to acclimate Robby to the new school and hopefully introduce him to many of his classmates for next year. I was optimistic that seeing the new school and meeting his teacher would go a long way to squelch the anxieties which I am sure will manifest as September approaches.

Robby and I were both nervous as we prepared to go to the picnic. He was worried that his new teacher wouldn't be nice, and I was apprehensive about mingling with the parents. Although I realize it is absurd and that I shouldn't care what people think, I was concerned about being ostracized because of my prosthesis. Together, Robby and I gathered our courage, put on clean clothes and headed to the new school picnic.

Although we were nervous during the drive, we quickly became comfortable. Robby's teacher met us in the parking lot, took him by the hand and showed him the school. I could see Scared Robby morph into my typical little boy as he spent more time with his teacher.  It was comforting seeing their interactions, and I had a sense of peace that I had made a good choice for Robby. I loved watching him smile broadly when his new teacher revealed that she also likes cats and turtles.

As Robby was being introduced to many of his new classmates, I spotted a little girl with a limb loss. Imagine the irony! Last year I was asked to disguise my disability, and now he is going to be enrolled in a school with an amputee child. Robby was delighted to see her prosthesis and, although they didn't have a chance to connect because of the commotion, he was excited to see her and has been chatting nonstop about meeting her.

We both left the school excited about the placement for next year. Robby is looking forward to spending time in the cool classroom (which happens to be painted his favorite color of yellow), and I was thrilled to witness the laid back and comfortable exchanges between the parents and the staff. Everybody whom I met reaffirmed that this was a great school and that Robby would thrive. I don't want to rush through the summer, but I know that when September comes, Robby and I will both be ready to tackle the new school. And if we aren't I'll just refer to this blog to remind me that it is a good change!