27 December 2009

appreciating small progress

I've been knitting a lot during my recovery. It's something I learned as a child but never continued as an adult. Who has time for hobbies or crafts? I always thought--I'm too busy with important things: learning, working, doing.

Today I reminded myself that a year ago I was unconscious, in a hospital bed in ICU. Nine months ago, when I woke up, my hands were too weak to open a water bottle or take the plastic wrap off my hospital meal. Now I'm knitting. In fact, the project I'm working on now is fine work on small needles (3.5mm):

This is the first four inches of a scarf, with cabling and multiple stitch patterns.

So maybe I can't skate across the ice or shovel snow. Yet. Appreciate the small advances.

rain rain go away

Sadly, the snow is gone. For all my complaining about slipping and sliding, I like the snow. It's been raining for two days and two nights, washing away all the snow. The temperature has been in the 40s--in fact, I think it's over 50 this afternoon--if it all dries before it freezes, maybe I can safely leave the house.

I've been recuperating from skin breakdown. My plastic surgeon has recommended bone revision surgery to my residual limb, because the scar tissue is causing shearing, which leads to skin breakdown. Once the skin is damaged, it takes about a week to heal, a week during which I can't wear my prosthesis. So, without my prosthesis it's too dangerous to leave the house. Walking on crutches in ice and snow is ridiculously dangerous (though I admit I haven't yet tried the crutch spikes). Any injury--to hands, arms or foot--can put me back in a wheelchair.

But still I love the snow. I had such a pretty view of snow and trees outside the large windows in my (borrowed) sitting room. I would wish it back, but I suppose I would prefer to take a walk.

26 December 2009

winter tools

Due to the recent snowstorm, I've discovered the hazards of winter weather. All of sudden, the world is a cold, wet, icy, slippery and snowy potential death trap.

I've found these tools to help me navigate the hazards of New England's winter wonderland:

(1) Spare Spike: http://www.winterwalking.com/products/spare-spiketm ($24.95), a device that slips over my boots and provides traction on ice and slippery surfaces. (Will damage flooring, however. Figuring out how to get them on and off without wrecking indoor floors is still a challenge.) Haven't used these yet, but they fit well over my boots and look promising.

(2) Ice spike attachment for cane ($8.99): I purchased this locally, at Apex Pharmacy in Hamden, Connecticut (a full-service pharmacy with a comprehensive line of home medical equipment and medical supplies) Can also be found at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Duro-Med-Prong-Grip-Crutch-Attachment/dp/B0009STN2E/ref=pd_bxgy_hpc_img_b). Works great--but will definitely damage floors.

(3) Crutch tips with retractable ice spikes: I haven't purchased these (hoping to not be on crutches for much longer) but have found many variations online ranging in price from $15 to $90.


Recently purchased slippers. It was quite a search, given my criteria. Both of these fit the bill:

Down-filled booties with non-slip soles. (I found these at Claire's.)

Fuzzy, stretchy slip-ons with non-slip soles by Hue.

Both have non-specific soles, meaning I can wear both slippers from the pair on my right foot. Double the value! And each pair cost only $6.99 (on sale)!

24 December 2009

a note about my posts

My intent in writing this blog is to document my personal experiences, good bad and ugly, during my first year as an amputee. I've already gotten a late start--my accident was just over a year ago--but in my defense I've been conscious for only nine months. And I've just started writing this blog. So it'll be my first "self-conscious" year as an amputee.

My psychotherapist tells me that my emotional experiences are normal; she assures me that I'm progressing well in my recovery. So I hope that by capturing my honest experiences I'll be able to share them with other amputees in the future. If I can do this, if I can make it through this difficult time, then so can anyone else. If, in the future, someone else's experiences unfortunately mirror mine, perhaps knowing that I've been through it will help them feel less alone and more part of a community: the disabled community and also the world.

So my intent is to keep it raw: no cursing but no self-censoring either. I hope that if you know someone who's a recent amputee you'll share my thoughts with him/her. And also point them to the Amputee Coalition of America's web site (http://www.amputee-coalition.org).

prosthesis crisis

I'm getting used to wearing a prosthesis: not so much that I know I can count on using it all day, or even every day, but enough so that I plan ahead how to use the time that I'm able to walk.

Unfortunately, some housekeeping tasks require two legs (because they require at least one hand): sweeping, vacuuming, snow shoveling, carrying packages to and from the car, stuff like that. (And, honestly, given the limited time I have on two legs, I'm neglecting my housecleaning. If I have only an hour on two legs, would I want to spend half of that time sweeping the floor? I mean really.)

Today I planned to do a couple of errands: pick up some last-minute things for my Christmas visits, stop at the post office, check my mailbox. But this morning, after I put on my leg, as I was getting ready to go out the door, I stood up and my leg didn't stand up with me. Something was wrong with the socket. It wasn't staying connected to me.

This has to be the worst fears of anyone wearing a prosthesis: malfunction. There I was in the dining room with one able leg, a non-functioning prosthesis and a cane. My crutches were in the bedroom and (just to make it even more humiliating) I'd have to take off my pants in order to take off the prosthesis. I guess I could scoot across the cold tile floor (on my bare bottom) to the (thankfully carpeted) bedroom. (May be more than you want to know: I'm wearing a thong to accommodate the prosthesis. Because of the shape and fit of the socket, panties poke in all the wrong places.)

Luckily (I guess you can call it lucky), I was able to peg-leg my way to the bedroom without taking off the fake leg. Got another pair of pants before I froze my ass off. Called the prosthetist. Tried on my other leg (the one that was recently replaced because of changes in my leg). Looks like maybe it'll work. Except that the battery is dead. So I plugged in the old thing. We'll see how long that takes.

There's never a good time for emergencies. But it's Christmas Eve. Sometimes I feel like it can't get worse.

20 December 2009

shoveling snow

Like I said earlier, every day presents a new challenge. This morning it was cleaning up after the storm. I got myself all bundled up, prosthesis on, and was mentally prepared to go out in the snow. Lucky for me a young man arrived at that moment--pushing a snow blower. He works for the management company and had come to clear the drive. He ran a path down my walkway and I picked up a shovel to clean up around the edges. Carefully, carefully, I cleared the walkway to the garage (that's where the trashcan is stored) and tentatively made it up the walk and back. Phew! I read somewhere, in information I received from the ACA, that amputees use ten times as much energy as able-bodied people. (That can't be right, or else I'd be eating 10x as much as normal!) Well, whatever. It's hard work. I know I sure get tired out quickly!

Learning notes:
1. Keep the shovel handy. You don't want to have to walk through deep snow just to get to the shovel.
2. Keep your crutches near the door. I forgot, and had to walk through the entire house, to my bedroom, to take off my leg with its wet and snowy boot attached.
3. Hire someone else to do the heavy work, like snow-blowing.


The much-anticipated Blizzard of '09 arrived late last night, depositing over a foot of snow. In the past this would be cause for great joy. In fact, I wouldn't have referred to it as a 'snowstorm,' I would have been calling out 'POWDER ALERT'!! Over a foot of dry fluffy would have cried out for early morning hustling, hot coffee in the car and standing in line for the tram at 8am.

This is my first year as an amputee. It's been just over a year since the accident that caused me to lose my leg, and about nine months since I regained consciousness. Everything is still new and different to me. Everything is a new challenge.

We got snow about a week ago, just a few inches of slush. That gave me a taste of what to expect from this. I've learned that the most important thing about managing my life as an amputee is preparedness. Yesterday I positioned the snow shovel just outside the front door, within arm's reach. I have warm boots and clothes at the ready, and once I finish my morning coffee (ahhhh) I'll be ready to tackle the snow. Just a short walk to clear off, then the car.

19 December 2009

Thanks to all my supporters!

Thank you to everyone who helped support my attendance at the Net Impact conference in November. My experience was a success! The conference was terrific. All the sessions I attended were very valuable, I saw many friends and made great new contacts. I’m still trying to assimilate all that I learned in those two days! (And I walked everyday, which was a success in itself.) My sincere, heartfelt thanks to you all.

15 December 2009

good luck

Within the past three days I've been offered a new pair of skis, a foot and $250 cash. Maybe my luck has turned.

Ed Dusick, a wonderful man who donates his time to work with the Wounded Warrior Project and other programs for disabled athletes, offered to help me find a pair of skis after we met at the Gaylord Hospital Ski Discovery Night last week. The next day I got a phone call from him. Within 24 hours he had arranged to get a brand new pair of Atomic skis for me--with bindings! (I'm not clear on the details, whether the donation is from Atomic or a retailer.)

Then I got an email from a fellow Thunderbird who's working for the inventor of a prosthetic foot. This inventor is proposing a different suspension system and is looking for amputees to try it out. They've offered me a foot in return for my insights.

And then my friend Cameron, who I've known now for 30 years, told me that he quit smoking and is going to give me the money he saves from not buying cigarettes. I couldn't think of a more generous offer. He handed me a roll of bills, and I stuffed it in my pocket. I guess part of me was ashamed at accepting the money, but I told myself that it was for a good cause (him quitting smoking). I saw there was a $100 bill in there--Cam says that's from his friend, who bet that he wouldn't quit.

I'm surrounded by friends and family (and sometimes strangers) who do wonderful things to help me out. And I know it's not because 'good things come from bad,' I don't believe in that. These are good people who would do good things anyway. They enjoy helping others.

I prefer to believe that I'm just a lucky person. Even though I hate this. It's hard, and it remains a terrible experience.

16 October 2009

Help send me to the Net Impact conference in November!

I created a ChipIn account in the hopes that my friends and colleagues will be able to help me attend the 2009 Net Impact Conference at the Johnson School of Business at Cornell University.

The conference runs November 12-15 (and I'll be driving up the previous day, in order to break up the 5-hour drive into manageable chunks).I've itemized my estimated expenses below.

Net Impact is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire,educate, and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. The 2009 Net Impact Conference will bring together the players behind the sustainable global enterprise movement, including sustainability and corporate responsibility practitioners, social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders. (Visit http://www.netimpact.org)

I attended the conference in 2006 and 2007 and walked away inspired and enlightened. It's an educational conference and job fair, providing for me an ideal mix of thought and action. It'll be a place for me to reconnect with colleagues and meet potential employers.

The expense of attending is not huge, just under $1500. But my current financial situation is becoming critical. Although my medical insurance has covered most of my medical expenses, I still have daily living expenses, which I've been covering with my savings. With another surgery planned for January, it's no likely I'll be returning to work before next February.

Estimated expenses:
Registration fee $450
Travel (estimated at the IRS 2009 Standard Mileage Rate) $323.84
Hotel $560.48 (4 nights, one night longer than needed for the conference in order to accommodate my need to break up the drive)
Meals $105
Total: $1439.32

Help send me to the Net Impact conference in November!

27 July 2009

welcome to the next chapter

It's been a long road and, frankly, I'm impatient. Are we there yet? What comes next? When can I get my Tino? How much longer before I feel *normal* ?!

So-- I'm no longer in Africa. I'm in New England, living with family and focusing on my rehabilitation. No more geographical adventures for me-- for a while anyway. My present challenges are entirely internal-- physical workouts and mental gymnastics.