Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Keeping a Positive Outlook

When I speak about my book, the number one question from the audience has been, “How do you stay positive with such a significant disability?” When I was first asked, I didn’t have an answer to this very thought-provoking question.  As I thought about it, I could see how life as a triple amputee might look quite depressing.  So I wondered… wow… how did I do it?

I think it helped to be born as a triple amputee and not as a result of an accident or illness.  I just didn’t know any other way.  Whatever I learned to do, I had to do it with 3 missing limbs.  Growing up, I was expected to do chores, etc. that my siblings had to do.  If there was an obvious chore that I couldn’t do, I was given a substitute chore.  There were very few exceptions made for me.  Understandable considerations were made such as my bedroom was not upstairs with the other kids but my dad converted the kitchen pantry into a very small bedroom.  I got to choose the paint color – lavender!  However, I never thought that a downstairs bedroom was an advantage I gained because of my disability.

It never occurred to me that I should have advantages or exceptions.   It never occurred to me that I was courageous, heroic, brave or inspirational.  I just lived a very ordinary life.  Living with a disability is merely a lifestyle, not all that different from anyone else.  You simply learn to do things a bit differently.  I did realize very early on, however, that my attitude would be a fundamental key. 

For example, it was clear that I would occasionally need help; e.g. my high school guy classmates carried me up and down the stairs for some classes.  They were all willing – just anyone who was at the steps at the same time as I was.  They would each grab an arm and walk up or down. We made it fun or funny.  I doubt I would have had such willing classmates if I had a generally disagreeable attitude.  Negativity is nonproductive in so many ways. 

I took some time to think about the question, “How did you do it,” and it is fairly easy to answer now.

1.     I had to be adaptable.
2.     I had to be very patient and extremely tolerant.
3.     I had to make concessions and know when to make them.
4.     I had to perfect the art of compromise.
5.     I had to be determined to accomplish each task.
6.     I had to be content with other people’s biorhythms; e.g. when they could help, etc.
7.     I had to be happy with what I could do and not concentrate on what I could not do.
8.     I had to be creative at finding alternatives.
9.     I had to take perseverance to a new level.
10.  I had to be extremely organized.
11.  I had to be content to watch if I could not participate.
12.  I had to often credit someone else for an idea I slipped them.
13.  I had to make big things small in order to minimize disappointments.
14.  I had to quickly learn how to anticipate barriers, plan ahead for them, avoid them altogether, or make quick-thinking plans for “what if.”

In addition to the above, I credit my grandmother for her constant praise.  She no doubt wondered (worried) a lot about what my life would be like, and I think that prompted her to be extremely happy with everything I did.  As an adult now, I can see how excited, and maybe even surprised, she was at what I accomplished year after year.  It is clear that everything I touched turned to gold in her eyes.  That resulted in her unknowingly giving me a lot of confidence in myself.  I wish we had talked about this because she had a resounding impact on my life.

Another big reason that my circumstances do not derail me is really quite basic. There is, quite simply, no alternative, no choice, no option.  It is imperative to concentrate on what I can do and not on things I can’t do.  Sometimes I do wish I could do more.  Sometimes I am not in a positive or good mood.  Sometimes I do get frustrated.  Sometimes I do think how unfair it is.  Sometimes I do wonder why.  These thoughts can’t last long or they will overtake me.  I must consciously push them out.  I must also keep in mind that my circumstances are no one’s fault so it is unfair to take out my frustrations on anyone else.

Maybe because of my determination and success, others will be driven to do greater things.  No one ever knows how far the “domino effect” will reach.  I may never know who went on to accomplish greater things simply because I did not give up.

Yes, it is hard to be a triple amputee but it is not the worst thing that could happen.  I am grateful for that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Typing With One Hand, Part 2

To see Typing With One Hand, Part 1, click here...

Part 2:
I performed at the same level or better as my coworkers.  I could easily type 2000+ lines each day (national average for a good MT was 1000).  As it turned out, medical transcription became my life-long career.  I could not have known that learning to type would be the cornerstone of my career.  Therefore, it is very important that one-handed people know that there IS a way to type that is fast and accurate.

Below is a colored picture of a standard keyboard showing the home row (bold) and which fingers are used for each key (different fingers for the right or the left hand).


1.   Use a standard keyboard.  While there are lots of keyboards out there (and even some especially made for one-handed people), you will be much less limited if you learn to use a standard keyboard.  I have found that it is easier to “adapt to the world rather than expect the world to adapt to you.  
2.   Tilt the back of the keyboard up.  Keyboards often have little feet which make this possible.  If not, you can use a small riser (book or magazine) to raise up the back slightly.  I find it particularly difficult (and painful) to type for long periods on a laptop with its flat keyboard surface.
3.   Center the keyboard in front of your hand.  This will make all keys easier to reach.
4.   I find it easier to type (and faster) if I can hear a click sound with each keystroke.  Silent keystrokes create a tendency to visually check to make sure a key was hit.
5.   Use keyboard shortcuts because they save hand strain.  There are shortcuts for virtually every program for Windows and for Mac.  (http://www.computerhope.com/shortcut.htm).  You can also find shortcut keys by looking for underlined letters in the program’s menu bars.  Admittedly some of these shortcuts will strain the one-handed user’s reach.
6.   You must find the correct (ergonomic) position.  If your body, hand or eyes ache after a few minutes, then your position is incorrect.  You may need to raise or lower your chair or keyboard slightly.  My chair is my wheelchair which is a fixed height so I have different-heighted boards which I place underneath the keyboard depending on the desk height.
7.   It is also helpful, even necessary, to get up every so often to stretch and walk around.  I exercise my arm, hand and fingers.  I also move to a different sitting surface for short times (like a bed). 
8.   Stretch your fingers – this is critical because your one hand is doing the work of two.
9.   Wash your hands with soap and/or place your hand under cold or warm water every so often.  Your hand will get sweaty when you type for long periods.  I also dip my fingertips barely into baby powder to make them “slippery.”  This helps my fingers glide easier from key to key.
10.  Be sure to learn how to “touch-type” (e.g. type without looking at the keyboard).  This is irrefutably the fastest way to type.
11.  Staring at a computer screen will strain your eyes.  Every hour or so, focus on something across the room. 
12.  Computer glasses also help with eye strain.  Sitting in your most comfortable typing position, measure the distance between your eyes and the screen.  Take this measurement to an optometrist.  They are very familiar with computer glasses.  Remember to remove your computer glasses when focusing across the room.  J
13.  Keep fingernails at a reasonable length.  You will be faster if your fingers, not fingernails, hit the keys.
14.    For the mouse, I find track balls the easiest and most pain-free.

Below are some helpful websites that will help one learn to type with one hand.  I have often thought that typing with one hand was simpler than with two, though I could never test this theory. J

#myextraordinarylife   #amputee   #disability   #awardwinningbook    #inspirational