Well obviously it’s gonna be another one of those nights where, after staying up on a Saturday night watching television in bed, I have yet to be visited by the sandman. Oh where art though in my time of need? Anyway… At least it’s not a weekday and I have to go to work in a few hours! So awake I lay in bed at 4:30AM doing what I do best when all is quiet and I’m admittedly somewhat bored, I reflect on my life’s travels and worry about the future. Yes, yes I know. Worrying is fruitless and a waste of time, but that’s the German in me and it probably won’t change anytime soon! But wow, I must say, the last 9 years have been anything but boring. Alot of crappy days yes, but absolutely not uneventful. Not here! Who would have thought on the day of my amputation so many years ago that I’d be feeling content with life again to the degree that I do? Sheeew, certainly not me. According to me in those days, my life was over! Finish! Done! Anyone else feel that way that fateful day? But for what it’s worth, and it’s probably good to remind myself and others, the pain and anquish that accompanied the death of our body parts did slowly fade with the passage of time. Now don’t get me wrong, I said it faded and not disappeared. I am a realist you know! It still stinks being a one-legged feller. Nevertheless, as I lay here in bed with only the glow of my X3 charger and my phone illuminating the darkness, I find myself at peace with my loss, my journey and my life. I understand the future might hold more difficult times, even if in short spurts, but for now I rest in my comfy bed, thankful for my additional time on earth and thankful that my amputation couldn’t steal my soul. Afterall, its gonna take a whole lot more than a missing leg to do that! How about you? Do you still have your old one? Your soul, I mean! Not your bodypart! As for mine, rest in peace my beloved right leg. Now let me see if I can do the same! Ugh. 10-7 Amp Cop
I’ve met a lot of people from all kinds of places around the world, and the more people I meet the more I get asked about what happened to me? And its not because of my mental state or some of the things I post on here that lead to that question! That being said, I think most of us amps have been the victim of at least one rude stranger with absolutely no interpersonal skills or tact, that blindly appear out of no where and asks what happened? And all depending on how well our prosthesis is fitting that day or how we feel about ourselves at that particular time, and how many people have already pointed and stared for the day, will dictate the answer some people get. That being said, small children and really old people are fair game and I will never be an ass to either one of those sectors of society. I figured, with kids, explaining what happened to me and talking to them about my accident and prosthesis could potentially lessen or even eliminate the stigma attached to being an amp. And with old people? I figured, with age their tact filters are all worn out and they are going to ask. Here is an excerpt from my book tilted, The Serious Business of Laughing at Life about the three weeks after my accident when I had to live in a nursing home.
…As I learned to get out of bed and into my wheelchair with minimal help, I started traveling the halls of the nursing home meeting new faces. The first day or so, most of the residence stared at me before gathering the courage to ask what I was doing there. When they finally got around to it, they used little tact and came right out with a, “What are you doing here?” or “What happened to you?” I laughed every time because they never beat around the bush. In their minds, time was of the essence, I guess. Initially I answered their inquiry with the long version of my story, thinking I had a great tale to tell, but after one resident fell asleep during my story, I started telling them, “I had a wreck” And kept the explanation to a minimum. Then that usually was enough for them before they got bored. Besides, I knew they had hundreds of experiences I could only read about in history books, I wasn’t going to impress them with a motorcycle wreck. The stories they had were about fighting the Germans during War World II and starving during the Great Depression, participating in the civil rights marches and watching Kennedy’s assassination. Mine? I hit a tree. I couldn’t compete.
During my second week at Mount Holly, I took the opportunity to meet some of the residence and spent many hours listening to stories about grandchildren, their deceased spouses and the favorite pet they once had. Usually they put their trembling hand on my arm as they spoke. Many carried around tattered and faded pictures of their family, ready to show anyone who cared to take the time. Like a pro-athlete from days past, they relived their life through their stories, just like it happened yesterday; sometimes they cried, most times they laughed. But as I sat there, admittedly sometimes bored listening to their stories, I couldn’t help to wonder if their family still came to visit or if we spoke of people who long ago forgot about them as they lived out their final days stashed away in the confines of the nursing home. They truly were part of a great generation.
Having that three week experience in the nursing home taught me that, sometimes people mean no harm in asking what happened. The elderly especially. Have I been rude back to people my own age who knew better? Yes I have, and it was on one of those days I wasn’t feeling good about myself. Was it right, no. Did I look like another bitter amputee, yes? How you respond to that question will be up to you, but what I learned is, if you kind of have some idea of what you are going to say when the question arises, you’ll feel less stressed, help show the world that we are normal people too and the encounter will end quicker is you want it to.
Last, I know of two new members to our elite amp club over the last two weeks who are going through the same doubts most of us had in the beginning. Keep them in our thoughts and stick together for each other.
Also, my book is available on amazon.com on in hard copy and e-books and my funny amputee t-shirt store is up and running at cafepress.com/thefunnyamputee
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog titled, What to do When Your Prosthesis Doesn’t Fit. If you didn’t catch it or need a refresher, follow the link below.
In that post I emphasized the fact that you as an amp must take responsibility as the guardian of your own treatment and act as your number one advocate. That includes letting it be known you are not satisfied and firing prosthetists if you are getting ignored or if you think your interactions, or lack of, have risen to that level. With today’s technology, which is getting better every year, unless you have collateral issues such as stump problems or circulatory complications that disallow you to wear your prosthesis, most of us should be up and at least walking. A good fitting socket is the key. Also, we all have a responsibility to ourselves and to our amp community to let others know about those prosthesis companies that do a sad job of responding. Together we must stick together and make our experiences public. Look at it as an amp public service announcement! I’ll do more with this and all you’re help in the near future. THAT BEING SAID.
If you are the one-in-a-million who can run unassisted out of your prosthesis office the first day after getting your new robot part, and do it without tripping and NEVER have a single complication from that time forward, considered yourself as one with Mother Teresa or Gandhi or anyone else who has moved the world to be a better place. Then gather that knowledge and become a ga-zillionaire teaching other prosthetist and amputees around the world! AMEN! And stop reading now, for I am a mortal and will learn from you, oh great one…….BUT, if your not, keep reading.
RARELY will you walk out that door with that type of success the first time around. Maybe even the first 5 times around. However, if your prosthesis guy or gal is listening to you and making the necessary adjustments and following up in a timely manner, you WILL successfully walk out that door at some point. Here’s the kicker, and it kind of goes back to my blog about how being an amputee can suck therefore we must recognize it and move on,
NO PROSTHESIS OF ANY KIND WILL HELP US AMBULATE OR FUNCTION AS WELL AS OUR BODY DID BEFORE WE LOST OUR BELOVED PART!
Now, read that bold sentence 100 more times. Now, realize that THAT is our reality! However, a good prosthesis should help us do most of 95% of our daily functions just like before if we are willing to put in a little time figuring out how to rework the way we do things. No, activities wont be the same, but you can relearn how to do things. Along with the fact that it will not function EXACTLY like our real body part, remember our body is biological and a prosthesis is mechanical in nature. The machine is less likely to be more sensative than our limbs. So throughout the day as you wear your prosthesis, it will be normal for fluid retention in your stump to change thus changing the fit of your Prosthesis. And even that issue is being addressed by new technology as well. As we pound away on our stump throughout the day and as we lose or gain fluid in our limb, it might just start hurting or might become so sweaty that we have to take it off, dry it out and refit it again to carry on. I once wore my leg for 32 hours when I was working a case as a homicide detective. I assure you I made two trips to the bathroom to dry off sweat and readjust a trapped air pocket that was pulling a hicky larger than any found on a teenagers neck! And as I grew tired, I limped a little more. BUT it sure beat the hell out of not being there working a cool homicide scene that most only see on TV! You got to learn to deal with little issues along the way.
The other part of the whole success equation when it comes to being an amputee is the strength of our bodies. Now most people see me or an Ottobock video of me and immediately start player-hating by saying I got along so well because I’m a big muscular guy with a strong core. And you are right. Today I get along well because I spend time in a gym and wear out a treadmill working my hip flexors. I also concentrate on walking correctly. Yes, I was a bodybuilder before my accident and I exercise today, but after my accident, I lay in an ICU for two months where I lost 55 pounds of muscle. After that, I didn’t walk unassisted for 2.5 years. After I had my amputation 2.5 years after my accident, I was a fat out of shape man with atrophy throughout my entire body. I literally could not lift 5 pounds. Compare that to my best lift on bench press where I pressed 247 pounds 26 times, trust me I wanted to give up when I started back. What I’m trying to say is this, the prosthesis will also not replace the muscle we lost completely so we have to work hard, maybe like never before, if we want to use our prosthesis to our full potential. All that is required is some willpower and time. THAT, you can influence.
In short, will our prosthesis completely replace our original limb? Absolutely not. Will our prosthesis feel exactly like it did when we had our limb? Absolutely not. And will our prosthesis make up for the lost muscle we have? Absolutely not. Hopefully you figured out that last answer on your own! These are the norms of all amputees to some degree or another. This is just one of those things you have to accept and move on. Should you accept a ton of misery and pain? No. But if you have a little discomfort after wearing it for 8 hours or so, then that is normal. Our challenge is getting back to as close as we were in life before our amputation WHILE enduring the hardships of wearing a prosthesis. Most amps do it everyday. You can do it to! Just never give up. Never let Life win! Peace out my amp brothers and sisters, until next time. AMPS ROCK!