Wednesday, October 21, 2015

One-Handed Gadgets

Living with one hand definitely has its challenges.  For example, try holding a newspaper open with one hand.  Nevermind… no need to try… it is impossible.  Reading the front page is okay but I really dread seeing “continued on next page.”  Many times, I look at the end of the article to see if it is continued on another page.  If it is, I may not even start to read the article.  Placing the newspaper on a table is an option but turning a page is still an ordeal.  One hand is needed to turn the page but another is inevitably needed to make sure the crease stays smooth.  It never does, so this means you must drop the page, straighten the crease and try again.  One try is almost never enough.  In addition, there are multiple pages, and the dilemma is the same.  Suffice to say that reading a newspaper is quite annoying.

While not having found a solution for my newspaper impasse, below are pictures of some useful and handy gadgets for the one-handed user. 

These 2 pictures above represent extensions taped to a razor and a deodorant bottle.  Note that the handle of an old toothbrush is used for the razor.

I use this bottle washer in the shower.  It is handy for reaching my back and under my arm.  I find these at Target. 

This 2-quart jar with a spigot negates the need for lifting and pouring from heavy containers.

Another personal favorite is this small glass cup for teaspoon and tablespoon measurements.  It's hard to hold measuring spoons while pouring something into them.  I bought it at Walmart.

This is the same idea as above but it also measures ounces.   Found at Walmart.

Dental floss sticks are awesome and can be found almost anywhere, Walmart, Target, drug stores.

Handy shredder though there are various options on this theme, including electric shredders and choppers.  I have seen them at Walmart, Target, and kitchen stores.

This egg-white separator is an all-time favorite.  It securely fits onto a measuring cup.  Upon cracking the egg, the egg white falls into the cup but the yolk stays in the separator.  I got this as a Tupperware item. 

This is non-stick padding.  I use it under anything I don’t want to slip like bowls when I am stirring.  It can be found all over in lots of colors – Walmart, Target, hardware stores, etc.

There are lots of other gadgets but these are the ones I use every day.  I would love to hear from others who have found clever or useful gadgets.  Someone must have an idea for the newspaper problem.  I know the internet, on-line, etc., but it is just the principle of the thing! 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Phantom Pain

Virtually all amputees will experience phantom pain at one time or another.  Phantom pain is the perception of feeling in a missing limb and can include sensations of extreme pain, sharp, shooting or stabbing pain, throbbing, cramping, burning, and aching – basically any sensation in a limb as if it was still attached to the body.  It is considered a nerve-type pain where the nerve endings have become damaged with associated tissue damage.  Impaired nerve endings can send faulty signals to the brain.  For some, it is simply an intermittent annoyance but for others it can be debilitating.  For some, it is fleeting; for others, it is constant.

I had a foot amputated at age 9 and another at age 16.  In addition to the acute postoperative pain, I felt phantom pain almost immediately both times.  It felt like my toes were tied together and no matter how hard I tried, I could not stretch them apart.  More than once, it felt like hot water was being poured on my foot, and I actually looked every time to be sure it wasn’t.  I would reach down instinctively to scratch an itch on my non-existent foot.  To this day, I still experience sharp, shooting, stab-like pains that can easily take my breath away.  If I intently focus on either stump, it still feels like my toes are tied together, and I can’t stretch them apart.

Treatment options exist but usually offer limited and unreliable benefit.   Antidepressant medication, local anesthetics and anticonvulsant medication can provide some relief.  You might wonder what role antidepressants, anesthetics, and anticonvulsants might play but if you suffer from chronic, severe phantom pain, you will try almost anything.  Others have tried hypnosis, acupuncture, nerve blocks, trigger point injections, and even ‘mirror box’ therapy (looking at the reflection of the remaining limb and trying to move the missing limb into a comfortable position). Some find it helpful to wrap the stump in a warm towel or cold pack, change its position, or apply deep massage.  Therapy that works for one may not work for another.  Trial and error is often necessary before finding a treatment that will provide relief.  While treatment of phantom pain is largely ineffective and there is no cure, it tends to lessens over time.

When I had my surgeries, no one told me about phantom pain.  Initially, it didn’t seem odd that I could still feel my foot.  When I was 9, I never mentioned these strange events.  When I was 16, I mentioned them, but people reacted as if I was crazy.  The foot was gone, how could it have any pain?  I first learned about phantom pain at age 20 when I joined Amputees in Motion, an amputee support group in San Diego.  I couldn’t believe that there was actually a name for it and that it was very common.

It is critical to discuss phantom pain with amputees and their families.  It is important to know the facts and understand the options.  While amputees will experience lots of new issues, phantom pain will, no doubt, be one they didn’t expect.

Support groups are available locally and nationally, on the internet and on social media.  I find the Amputee Coalition of America ( to be especially valuable.