Monday, April 13, 2015

Introduction

This is my first blog so as a bit of an introduction, I was born with no legs and no right arm during the thalidomide era in the 1950s.  Some say it is easier to be born an amputee than it is to be a traumatic amputee later in life. Both have advantages and disadvantages but no matter the timing, being an amputee is not easy or fun. It requires an enormous amount of stamina, courage, and determination. More than a few amputees, not yet used to their leg being gone, have fallen on their face when getting up at night to use the bathroom. I can hear the giggles now. It's okay. Light-hearted humor is an absolute necessity when traversing through an able-bodied world. Given a choice, however, no one would ever volunteer for any type of disability. Basic activities of daily living bring new challenges. Some days, these challenges are overwhelming and the will to move forward strained. However, quite simply, there is no alternative. One is forced to adapt and find new ways to do most everything. 

Being a triple amputee, I wore artificial limbs for about 20 years. I used crutches and felt like I was always walking on bendable stilts. Scary most of the time but especially in the rain, snow or ice. It was not possible to carry much of anything, not a purse or books for school. It was impossible to carry groceries or children. I thus decided to toss my artificial legs and use an electric wheelchair. Wheelchair usage brings an entirely new set of freedoms and limitations. I could now "walk" all over an amusement park carrying a beverage, but the bathroom and rides might not be accessible. I need a hand rail on the right side of the toilet (as you sit on it) and this need poses great challenges. Being a triple amputee in a wheelchair often elicits pity, patronization, and unneeded offers of help. There will be days when the unsolicited good intentions of others will make you want to scream.

Always remember, however, that people are mostly good intentioned.  They just perceive that help is needed - they simply can't imagine themselves with your disability.  It is never a good idea to be rude to anyone offering help. Doing so can lead them to believe that you are totally maladjusted to your disability, that you have a bad attitude, that you are rude, and that you have poor coping skills. Being rude or short will cause far more damage to the public perception of the disabled than if you simply and politely decline an offer of unneeded help. After all, it is comforting to know that there are lots of willing helpers out there if needed.

As an amputee, it is possible to lead a full, happy, fulfilling life. Not only possible, but probable. It is possible (and probable) to have a spouse, a family, sports, hobbies, and a career. You will find new ways to do ordinary tasks. You will appreciate the smallest things that many people take for granted. Your priorities in life will change. Your perspective will change. You will be surprised at the strength and perseverance you have inside.

You won't be cheery all the time. You don't have to be; don't expect to be all the time because... face it... being an amputee is not fun. I choose to have these moments privately. I choose to concentrate on the things I CAN do and give little focus on what I can't do. I do my best - that's all anyone can do. 


I hope my website, blog and book (My Extraordinary Life) will help identify some creative ways to overcome physical challenges and "bad" days. And... remember... light-hearted humor is a great companion.