29 November 2011

Have you tried alternative medical treatments? Have you had success?

Like most amputees, I suffer from non-specific chronic pain. Since I was released from the hospital, I've been on pain meds (Neurontin and Percocet). Though decreased, the daily dosage has plateaued. I still feel foggy and disoriented at times and would like to be able to stop or reduce further the meds I'm taking.
For the past six months, I've been receiving acupuncture treatments to relieve chronic pain in an attempt to reduce the daily dosage of pain meds I'm taking. Almost immediately, I was able to go down from four to three Percocet per day. That reduction in pain meds has improved my mental clarity (and reduced constipation related to pain meds), along with the unanticipated benefit of decreasing my anxiety level. For me, acupuncture treatments have been very beneficial. I've shared this information with my physicians -- and they're also happy to hear that my intake of pain meds has reduced.
Do you see a chiropractor? Use herbal medicine or homeopathy? If you're an amputee, I'd like to collect information based on your experiences with alternative medicine. Visit my survey "What is your experience with Complementary and Alternative Medicine?" -- it'll take just a few minutes of your time.
Results from the survey will be posted in January.

Survey Results: Has your self-image (as an amputee) changed over time?

Last month I posted a link to this survey -- and received 10 responses from the AEP community. I'm reposting this survey in the hopes that even more amputees will reply. I appreciate your time; if you could spend 60 seconds taking this brief survey, it will provide interesting data for further discussion.
So far, the results are 50/50 in response to the question "Since you became an amputee, how has your self-image changed?" 50% of respondents say "My self-image continues to change" and 50% of respondents say their self-image hasn't changed since they became an amputee.
How about you? If you're an amputee, I'd like to hear from you and share with others the transitions you have experienced -- Do you label yourself "disabled?" -- is "amputee" part of your self-image? I've created a brief survey asking the question "Since you became an amputee, how has your self-image changed?," and invite amputees share their experiences. After completing it, the results to date are provided; I will post final results in January. 
Click here to take the survey. (If you have already taken the survey, you will now be able to re-take it if you like.)

22 October 2011

How has my self-image changed?

As a relatively recent amputee, and because of progress in my gait training, this has been on my mind lately. My self-image has changed since the day I woke up in the hospital and learned I was an amputee. I'd like to hear from others about the transitions they have experienced -- How do you identify yourself? Do you label yourself "disabled?" -- is "amputee" part of your self-image? I've created a brief survey asking the question "Since you became an amputee, how has your self-image changed?," and invite all amputees to take it. After completing it you will be able to view the results to date; I will post results in two weeks. Click here to take the survey.
Over time, my self-image has changed from freak to (relatively) normal, and for me "amputee" has become integral to my self-identity. Coming out of the hospital, I felt like a lump, a mutilated freak. I still had bandaged wounds and was too weak and uncoordinated to dress myself in anything but loose clothing with an elastic waist. (I'm sure many of you can relate.) My hair had been shorn and I weighed 89 lbs. My self-image was as an invalid, dependent upon others. Full rehabilitation seemed so distant that I couldn't image a future where I would be independent.
Gradually I became more mobile, my hair grew back, I returned to my regular weight, and eventually began to walk with a prosthesis. Anxious to look as normal as possible, I bought jeans as soon as I could. My self-image began to shift: now I was a disabled person in rehabilitation, I was making progress, I was able to think about the future.
Now that I am as physically "normal" looking as I am going to get, I am taking charge. I still walk kind of funny; my gait is slow and awkward and I use a cane. To make myself feel better, I try to look as good as possible physically -- I style my hair, wear makeup, make sure my outfits are put together. (I'm also trying to fit into the professional business world.) Sometimes I'll flaunt my prosthesis -- I don't feel that I have to cover it up -- but I confess that I dream of the day when no one will be able to tell I'm wearing it.
But it's not just about appearances. I enjoy being an advocate for amputees and the disabled. When asked questions about my prosthesis, for example, I happily answer. I use my disability to bring obstacles to the attention of business owners. I want to build awareness not just about disability, but also about ability. It's as if I'm saying, "Look at me, I'm disabled and I'm walking -- but if you take down these obstacles, you'll see me run!"


15 October 2011

Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings I choose the blue mug. There's only one, it doesn't match the others, and it's smaller in size than the white mugs that are part of my regular set of dishes. I choose it on Sundays because I love the muted turquoise color and the shape -- it's not ordinary like my weekday mugs. 
On Sunday mornings I like to sit out back on my small porch, with my coffee and raisin bread toast and the Sunday New York Times. Maybe this was also one of my favorite things pre-accident, but now I savor it, as often as New England weather allows. 
Post-accident, my life has in some ways slowed down. I'm not racing down mountainsides on my bicycle, I'm not darting about the house doing 17 things at once: carrying fresh laundry upstairs and chasing the dog down stairs; in this way I've been forced to slow down post-accident. So I've chosen to not only enjoy the slower pace but savor it. Sunday morning coffee is one thing I love, along with crispy raisin bread toast. Sitting on the porch and watching fall sunlight glow behind colored leaves, or lying in bed awakened by a full moon's light shining through the tree branches. Rather than cursing my mid-night awakening, I welcome the beauty of the moonlight and the quietness of night. 
Maybe it's less of a slowing down and more of a conscious acknowledgment of my change from a life constantly in motion to one of stillness. And also accepting that change with grace. Every day I acknowledge moments that give me joy, and I pause to smile and enjoy: sharing warm hugs with close friends, snuggling with my dog, laughing out loud, getting lost in the pages of a thrilling novel.
The turquoise of my blue mug reminds me of different colors on different days. Some mornings it's the color of the summer sky, other times it's a perfect robins-egg blue, and today it reminds me of the sparkling Caribbean Sea. This morning the sun is shining through brilliantly colored Fall leaves, a crisp breeze blows through the trees, my dog is asleep beside me and wisps of steam curl upward from the blue mug of hot coffee in my hands.


15 September 2011

Juggling, knitting and television

Sometimes it's startling how much my life has changed. Pre-accident, my evenings were spent hiking with the dog, followed by cocktails with friends and dinner on the evenings I wasn't training. Weekends were active, filled with mountain biking and rock climbing (often weekend getaways) in the summer and skiing in the winter. I have always enjoyed learning new things, and in those days it was often about learning new activities: having skied since I was five years old, I learned to snowboard at the age of 30; never having been good at rollerskating, I tried rollerblading as an adult. One summer weekend I was so determined to learn how to juggle that I stood outside for eight hours, practicing the same simple moves over and over again until I got it.
Now, post-accident, my time is spent in more sedentary activities. I don't complain about it anymore, but from time to time I recognize how the aspect changed every aspect of my life -- and I muse on the impact, both deep and superficial.
While recovering, I picked up knitting, a craft I learned as a small child. In my family, all of my aunts always had projects at their fingertips. At all family gatherings they were always working on something: needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, rug hooking, etc. While I was still confined to bed, knitting seemed like a useful, constructive way to pass the time and now I'm hooked. The repetitive motion seems to put me in a meditative state, much the same way running or bicycling did before. While my body is occupied with physical motion, my mind is free to wander.
While in the hospital I also acquired the habit of watching television, a habit I still haven't kicked. In fact, I enjoy it tremendously, though tv programs are not the same as they used to be. Now I watch tv online, using Netflix orHulu or ESPN live. It's a completely different experience because I have to choose what I want to see rather than leaving it to babble on in the background. Now I can watch the full season of a series in a week (or less). I caught up on all of "30 Rock" and  three years of "Mad Men" in just a couple of weeks. The quality of programming, if you pick and choose, is quite high, I think. And knitting and television go together well.
Juggling has re-entered my life more recently. Now that I'm relearning how to walk, I've started juggling as part of my self-imposed at-home PT program. Because of residual muscle stiffness (hip flexor contractures) and scar tissue, I have difficulty standing up straight. And, like every new amputee, I need to practice fully weighting my prosthetic leg. Juggling seems a natural fit to fill both needs. I use soft, bean bag type juggling balls (I actually knitted some using cotton yarn, filled with small beans enclosed in a nylon sock) so that they won't roll away when I drop them (and, because I am re-learning to juggle at the same time I am re-learning to stand, I drop them often) and stand next to the sofa or bed so that I won't have to bend over all the way to the floor to pick them up. Juggling requires that I stand up straight and distribute my weight between both legs, shifting gently from side to side and front to back as I toss and catch the balls. It helps to build balance and is also a great workout for your arms.
So I am accommodating these changes well. Juggling is a terrific way to get exercise, it's highly entertaining and I feel as though I am building a skill. Knitting and television go hand in hand, both as sedentary activities that I enjoy in the evenings. And I also am happily productive: while watching a movie I can knit a complete baby hat!


11 September 2011


Are you a tennis fan? Today the US Open women's and men's singles finals will be played. 
Here's the schedule:
12pm, Court 11: Wheelchair Men's Singles - Finals
Shingo Kunieda(JPN)[1] vs. Stephane Houdet(FRA)
12pm, Court 7: Wheelchair Women's Singles - Finals
Esther Vergeer(NED)[1] vs. Aniek Van Koot(NED)
Sadly, you won't be able to watch it online (at least I haven't found it). Much of the US Open I've been able to watch at US Open Live -- but only the Juniors wheelchair finals were televised. 
YouTube has many wheelchair tennis clips available -- here is one official post from the 2011 US Open, the draw ceremony. Let's hope that video highlights of play will be posted too.


26 August 2011


Today I’m traveling to California (from Connecticut). It’s been a while since my last flight, since last August when I went to Miami. That was my first post-amputation flight. This is the second.
I give high marks to the Hartford, Connecticut, Bradley International airport. All of the staff were courteous, friendly and helpful. I got a wheelchair ride right away, no waiting, from the ticket counter to the gate. The Delta Airlines gate agent came over, introduced himself and offered his assistance. I visited the rest room (in wheelchair) and was happy to find a commodious handicapped stall. It took a bit of maneuvering to get the door closed (ultimately I used my cane), but once situated in the stall I had plenty of room to move around.
At the security checkpoint, I asked the TSA officer to be gentle. "My balance isn't very good," I explained, "last time, in Miami, I was almost knocked over by the officer." She smiled and agreed. The gate agent helped me board even before early boarding was announced. 
The airport has free wifi throughout, so I was able to download email and even do a little bit of writing while I waited. On board, the flight staff were friendly and helpful. I loosened the pin and slipped off my leg. I was wearing a dress, which made doffing my leg easier. It reseted under my skirt for the flight. I also brought a light shawl with me, planning to drape it over my lap if I needed more privacy.
All in all, I found that by allowing myself extra time, asking politely and giving people big smiles, it was not at all difficult soliciting help from others. Of course I hope that I always treat others kindly, but for this trip I was on my best behavior. It's true: a smile is contagious. Pass it on.

Oscar Pistorius

I thought that this had been settled, but according to an August 14, 2011 article on insidethegames.biz, the scientists that did the evaluation in 2008 have had a falling out and new information was released.
In this later article, posted April 16, 2011 on insidethegames.biz, a key scientist involved in the research refutes the conclusion by Brueggemann in the August 14 article.


17 August 2011

Get back to work!

I went back to work as soon as I could following my injury and amputation. It was helpful for me to have something other than my physical rehab to focus on. Because the work I do is primarily intellectual, such as research, analysis and writing, my schedule can be flexible. As long as I have a laptop and high speed internet access, I can work from home -- which was very convenient at the time since my mobility was limited. 
How does work fit into your life? Did you return to your previous job? Have you been out of work for a long time? Were your capabilities changed so much as a result of your amputation that you can't do work that you did before? Or did you ultimately return to the same tasks and career path? 
Please -- share your experiences. I look forward to hearing how you've gotten back to work.

02 August 2011

Support our supporters!

Being disabled sometimes means needing to ask for help. Unfortunately, those that help us -- family, friends, those that we love the most -- often feel that they don't have anyone to ask for help. Often they feel alone even though, according to the National Family Caregivers Association, they belong to a community of 65 million. Whether our reliance on others is temporary or permanent, a few months or life-long, it's important to remember that our supporters need our support too.

Whether full-time or part-time, it's important for caregivers to take a break now and then. Or better yet, to schedule a regular day off and allow themselves an indulgence from time to time. A walk in the park or an ice cream cone are inexpensive (and not too time-consuming) ways for caregivers to get some down time. A walk in the park with an ice cream cone -- and a dog -- is even better!

Most importantly, like us caregivers need someone to talk to who shares their questions and problems. It's common for caregivers to feel that they can't or shouldn't complain. "How can I complain about caring for someone I love? They need me so much," is often rationalization for subsuming their own needs and feelings. Caretakers need to be reassured that it's ok to have a bad day, or that it's ok to dislike emptying a chamber pot. It's hard work!

Just as there are support groups for amputees to share insight, advice and encouragement, support groups for caregivers provide a much-needed outlet to discuss common issues. Most communities now have local support groups for caregivers. Go online and google "caregiver support" plus the name of your town. Contact your local community center or senior center (even if you aren't a senior) and ask about local support groups. And there are lots of resources online. At medicare.gov, you will find information on a number of topics: financial help, legal assistance, planning and more, including this PDF download (printable brochure), "How can you care for yourself when you're caring for others?" The US Department of Health and Human Services' Agency on Aging offers online an explanation of the National Family Caregiver Support Program and links to additional agencies that conduct research and work to improve public policy.

In my quick search, I found some other more innovative online resources:
  • Caregiver.com: An online feature provided by Today's Caregiver magazine. Includes online access to the current issue of the magazine, archives of their newsletter, an advice blog, links to local resources and more.
  • Children as Caregivers: An article from caregiver.com about children and the physical and emotional stress kids experience as caregivers in a home with a disabled or chronically ill adult. Written by a registered nurse, it offers an interesting point of view that I hadn't considered.
  • Caregiving.com: A collection of blogs by individuals who are caretakers of parents, children, grandparents, siblings, spouses, etc. This is a great resource for caretakers to read about others' experiences and also share their own. The site also offers downloadable podcasts and an internet talk show.
  • Connecting Caregivers: three online resources provided by the National Family Caregivers Association include The Caregiver Story Project (you can share a story, read stories by others, and find a penpal), E-communities (linking caregivers in the same local area), and the Family Caregiver Forum (an online forum to ask and answer questions on a variety of related topics).
One of the nice things about all of these online resources is that you can look around and choose which one suits you best. You can take just a taste of each, watch from the sidelines, or jump right in. Have you found a particular resource that you enjoy interacting with (such as our own Amputee Empowerment Partners)? Please share it and your experience with us!


31 July 2011

Kids say the darnedest things!

Walking down the sidewalk with a friend, we passed a young mother with her five-year old son. After we had gone a few steps further, I heard the little boy say, "Mommy, where's her leg?"
That is the most amusing and confounding remark I have ever heard in reaction to my missing leg. People have asked How? What? When? ...but never Where?
What are some of the difficult questions you've heard from children about your disability? The disabilities of others? And how do you answer them? 


22 July 2011

New socket, new day

I've had a new socket since last Thursday, one that I was awaiting with great anticipation. Now that I've been using it for a few days, I know that many of my hopes have been realized -- It fits well, in fact it feels 'right' -- snug all around but not too tight. But my greatest hope was dashed -- I didn't snap it on, jump up and run across the room. No spinning and twirling and jumping for joy. There was no miracle. No, my movements are still slow, small steps taken with great concentration and care.
My entire being is crying out for the ability to run across an open field, followed by my dog Tino, lightly scamper across the rocks in a stream, feeling cool water pass over my toes.
I KNOW I've made progress. I KNOW it's a long road. I KNOW it's slow, I have to take baby steps before I can run. But how long will it take? And what abilities will I have? Those are the questions that no one can answer.
I'm a positive person. I'm an optimist, I believe in the future. But sometimes doubt creeps in as I realize that I don't know what the outcomes will be and that fear makes me doubt the rosy future that I normally believe in. I have learned that those doubts are part of me, as much as my hopes and dreams are a part of me. And I can choose which to believe.
What I do know is that even though I can't predict the future, I can do a lot to make my future dreams come true. For example, if I don't take baby steps, I will never learn to run. If I don't practice swimming laps in the pool, I will never be able to swim across Lake George. If I don't believe in my own abilities, I will never reach my goals.


Some days are better than others

Let's face it -- some days I wake up and just feel lousy. The alarm goes off but I'm still tired, I want to sleep. My body aches all over. The dog barks, wanting to go out, and I really don't feel like getting up and out to take him for a walk. Can't I just roll over, go back to sleep, and dream it all away? Some days it's just all of the tiny little extra steps that wear me down. For me to get up and out of the house in the morning, it just takes longer than it did when I was able-bodied--and some of this will never change. 
I've always enjoyed slow mornings. I'm not one of those people who jumps out of bed, raring to go. I'm fuzzy-headed and want to spend 30 minutes drinking coffee and reading the newspaper before I even speak to another human being. Then I like to exercise (I used to run three miles or do an hour-long yoga routine), shower and get dressed. When I was self-employed, I usually started work at 10am.
As an amputee, everything takes longer. Morning coffee? Try walking around with a cup of coffee in your hand--on one leg. Showering? Just be careful while shampooing one-handed, holding a grab bar with the other. And putting on lotion afterward, I have to sit still, no walking into the kitchen for that second cup of coffee while I rub my hands together. Getting dressed, I have to follow a strict protocol: after making sure that all items are within reach, first put the pants on the prosthesis, followed by sock and shoe. Next, don the liner (and for me a second liner), then step into the other pant leg and put on sock and shoe. This is done sitting, with the prosthesis balanced between my legs and my pants likely dropping to the floor (which encourages good housekeeping). Next I stand up to don the prosthesis, trying to hold up my pants with one hand, steady myself with another by holding onto a chair or table, and simultaneously somehow using both hands to hold the prosthesis upright (usually my pants end up on the floor again). Once the pin is inserted and I have a secure fit, I can bend over and pull up my pants. Depending on the shirt I'm wearing that day, my camisole is tucked in or pulled over my pants (I usually wear a camisole because it makes my scarred belly feel protected). Tucking it in sometimes requires dropping my pants again.
As you can tell, this--pants on the floor--is one of my pet peeves. Especially when traveling and using public restrooms, I get very annoyed at having to drop my pants. I've figured out many ways to bunch up my clothes, brace myself against the wall of a stall or otherwise contort myself to avoid letting my pants fall onto the public restroom floor (yuk!).
So some mornings I don't want to face all of the petty annoyances that I have to experience in order to get out and face the world in the morning. Some days I'd rather stay in my pajamas and stay in bed. Some days I get pretty close to that (some days I work from home), lounging in shorts and t-shirts. But except for those days, I do get up and get ready and get out. I know that it's necessary for me to do it every day or soon I would not be doing it at all. It's one of the small steps in my slow recovery to return to full functioning. And no one can make that happen but me.

13 July 2011

Dog park

Every morning I take my dog Tino, a 20 lb Mini Schnauzer, to the local dog park. I've found the regulars to be an eclectic mix -- a programmer, an aerospace engineer, a single mother of twin boys -- but they all have in common a love of dogs and a friendly attitude. Even though I've been going to the park for only three months, everyone seems to know me already. I suppose I'm hard to miss: I'm an AKA and have been on crutches for most of that time. It must be quite a spectacle, seeing me crutching around the one acre wooded park following Tino. My phone is in the front pocket of my cargo pants, a headset usually in my right ear, and colorful plastic bags left over from the previous Sunday's New York Times poke out of the other pockets.
Our visits to the park follow a predictable routine. At the entrance gate, Tino barks like mad to announce his arrival. Next he trots around the perimeter as if he were a sentry on duty, stopping to mark every tree and inspect all of the rocks (and marks most of them too). Three times I stoop to pick up after him; after that I know it's safe to let him wander without having to clean up after him again. Then I'll take a few minutes to check email or make a quick phone call before joining the other dog owners around a picnic table.
One of the regulars is also an amputee, an older man with two white German Shepherds. We met the first week I visited the park, and I learned that he's been an amputee since 1956. During the first couple of times we met we compared notes about prostheses and prosthetists, and talked about healing and tips for keeping liners clean. Now we've moved on to discussion of ordinary matters like our respective plans for summer vacation and what books we're reading now, but I will always treasure that opening conversation, the immediate intimacy and openness we both allowed, despite being strangers, because of the odd condition that we share.

09 July 2011

Controlled fall

I've received advice from more than one amputee about falling -- 'tuck and roll,' they say, or 'learn to control your fall,' so I won't get hurt. During the past two years living without a leg and (mostly) without a prosthesis, I've been getting around on crutches. At home I'm in a wheelchair most of the time and sometimes will hop across the room (or rather I did, until I learned recently that hopping is especially dangerous and damaging to joints).
Before I lost my leg I was an active skier (50+ days on the mountain each winter) and mountain biker in the Rocky Mountains and red rock desert of Colorado, Utah and Arizona. Both of these sports are essentially a series of controlled falls. You point yourself downhill and through a series of technical maneuvers, balance and plain old-fashioned luck, you guide you fall yet inevitably you move downhill; you experience the thrill of pushing your physical limits while in the grip of gravity. 
Now my daily mobility is also dependent on gravity. Sometimes the movements feel similar to my past activities, but now it's a different game I play with gravity. Sometimes I use gravity to pull me down and forward, as when I'm moving from wheelchair to sofa. Other times I have to pull against it, lifting myself up and out of a chair, but then I'll use the momentum to continue to propel myself forward, as when taking steps with crutches. Sometimes I feel out of balance and almost out of control, as if I'm taking big chances to rely on my balance and land on my target seat. Yet so far I've fallen fewer times than I can count on one hand and haven't had any injuries worse than a big bruise on my behind.
All of these experiences, this playing with gravity and learning to fall safely, give me insight into re-learning how to walk. A proper gait includes fully weighting my left leg (prosthesis) to trigger the knee function. Learning to walk down a slope or down stairs step-over-step using the C-leg is a more intense act of trust, requiring reliance on the prosthetic knee to fully support my body weight while I move through mid-air.
The better I understand the functionality of my new prosthesis and my new physical limits, and the more experience I have using my prosthesis, the better I understand how to use my new 'gear' to play with gravity and learn to once again enjoy the controlled fall.


30 June 2011

Will "Bionic Bodies" Offer High-Tech Hope to the Disabled?

On June 28, PBS Newshour ran a segment about technological advances in prostheses -- the use of "bionics" -- that are now being tested with real people (you can view the segment online). The word "bionics" is gradually becoming accepted among researchers as a descriptor of the fusion of biology and electronics -- an apt application for advanced technology prostheses. In the segment, they talk about advances that have come out of military research (including the arm created by Dean Kamen, funded by DARPA). Technologies that aid mobility, manipulation, vision and sight are demonstrated. I highly recommend viewing the piece.
An avid supporter of technology and research, I have high hopes that someday I too will personally benefit -- that in the future my movements will become more and more natural and that I will be able to do more of what I did before. (Ah -- if I could once again ride my mountain bike through the aspen groves of the San Juan Mountains...) For all disabled people, this could improve quality of life and increase our ability to contribute to society.
Whenever the advanced capabilities of new prosthetic limbs are compared to natural limbs, however, I confess I feel a bit angry. This new stuff is amazing and wonderful, yet in the excitement and celebration of the new achievements there needs to be an acknowledgment that there is nothing like the real thing, that there is no real substitute. In the PBS Newshour segment, I was pleased to hear Dean Kamen admit "I don't know anybody today that would say, 'yeah, I'd rather have your arm than the original equipment'," as he raised his hand and wiggled his fingers.


"Merging Man and Machine: The Bionic Age," National Geographic, January 2010

If you've already educated yourself about the prosthetic options that are available and those that we'll see in the not-too-distant future, then this article won't offer any surprises. But it offers an easy read and great graphics for educating others -- useful for amputees to share with family and friends. It has explanations of how advances in technology have helped to create better prostheses. For example, in a "bionic" arm, neural impulses are transmitted to electrodes that then trigger muscle movements in the shoulder or upper arm; electrodes placed on those muscles capture the brain's impulses and relay those commands via wires to motors that operate the elbow, wrist and fingers. Similarly, neural implant technology is used to help the deaf and blind. View the entire article online at NationalGeographic.com.


I'm now a featured blogger on Amputee Empowerment Partners

I was recently invited by Carrie Davis, founder of Amputee Empowerment Partners, to be a featured blogger on this social networking site created especially for amputees, families, caregivers and friends. AEP was founded as a safe place for people to share their feelings, thoughts, ideas and resources. I was introduced to the site by another AKA, Todd, who I met at the monthly Gaylord Hospital amputee support group meeting. Not sure what to expect, I joined the site and before I knew it I was posting queries about knee technology and offering support to others. There are two million amputees in the U.S., and over half of those are lower limb amputees, yet I the first amputee I ever met was myself. It's easy to feel isolated and unique -- and difficult to remember that there are a million people out there who have had a similar experience.
I'm honored to be selected as a featured blogger and because AEP is a members-only site, I hope to share my posts here as well. Of course, you can also join AEP.

21 March 2011

Loving skiing again

On Saturday I joined the Gaylord Adaptive Sports Association on a ski trip to Bromley Mountain in Vermont. Because of my hospitalization in November, I've missed most of the ski season. I also have had mixed feelings about skiing again. It had been something I truly loved to do, and I knew it would never be the same. I learned to ski when I was about six years old. I remember pulling on my shiny black ski boots, lacing them up tight, strapping on my little wooden skis (painted blue with red and white stripes), snapping into the bear-trap bindings, climbing up the slope in our backyard (at the farm) and sliding down again. Maybe that's just a romantic memory, but it is true that I have been skiing for over 40 years.

Anyway, last year I learned that 3-track skiing was HARD. I could barely make it down the bunny hill without my legs burning from the effort. I was crippled for days afterward, limping along from my sore muscles. So I was concerned about suffering again, about not being able to recapture the grace and pleasure of doing something really well, and also just hurting while trying to make my way down the gentle slope at the ski mountain and then recovering once I got back home.

Well, I had a great time. Today my calf is a bit sore, right in the meat of the muscle, and a little soreness in my forearms, but that is about it. What a relief! I guess I'm stronger than I thought. It was difficult, you better believe it, but I had fun. Now I better understand how the equipment works; the snow was warm, pure corn snow, which slowed me down (that's a good thing); and it was pure joy to glide down the slope. We did several runs on the bunny slope, then I graduated to the longer lift and had time for one long easy run.

I didn't get any video taken this time, but I'm sure it looked much the same as last year, so you can always revisit last year's video:

The entire staff at Bromley Mountain is terrific. Nancy, my instructor, and Jason, her teenage assistant, were warm, attentive and gave me helpful tips to improve my technique. They were aways right beside me when I took a tumble. They respected my request to try to do things on my own but were right there when I needed help. Joe, the manager of the adaptive program at Bromley, was also very accommodating and offered useful advice about finding my own gear, and invited all of us to return again. Bromley has a terrific team! (And they're all volunteers.)