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As an amputee, I have to look at life differently. I have to ask for and accept help where I don’t really want to. Most of this help revolves around personal care. I have had to lose my modesty and discomfort of having someone else take care of the most personal of things, even if it is my husband. This is what amputee life looks like.
There are 5 things that I do differently in my amputee life.
1. I have bathroom hacks.
For starters, I would ask that you please forgive me if I get too graphic on my explanations. Without hands its difficult to get my pants down. When I’m at home I use a tool we crafted that is bolted to the wall. This is a hook that I can stand next to that will insert into my waistband. Then I can put my arms in to lower my pants. Afterward, I use a bidet to wash and dry me. This took a while to get used to, but I love it. I think everyone should have one.
As an amputee, I cannot just pick up a fork to eat. There is a process. I have a cuff that I can attach a fork or spoon to so that I can eat. Without hands, I must rely on someone else to first put a special sock on my arm. Then I put on a plastic cuff that is attached by velcro. It’s easier to show you a picture.
The fork or spoon swivel so that I can pick up the food, then move it to my mouth. When the doctors amputated my hands, they fused the bones in my arm somehow so that I don’t have the ability to do that swivel movement myself. To this day, it’s unclear why they fused the bones because I know others who have more flexibility. Nevertheless, I’m thankful for my cuff.
In the early days, someone had to feed me. Although I appreciate the help, it’s horrible to have someone else feed you as an adult. As for sandwiches, I hold them between my arms and pray for the best. I will tell you, it’s definitely messy. Wraps work better than sandwiches and I will never order a cheeseburger in public, except for little ones like McDonald’s. This is unfortunate and I always have to compromise when eating out. It’s pretty frustrating, but that’s how it goes.
My husband, Mike does the dirty work when I shower or dress. Let’s talk first about the shower. I use a shower seat. By removing my legs, I sit there while Mike washes my hair and scrubs my body. Again, modesty is a thing of the past and humility plays a big role.
The thing is, my arms just are not long enough to do things like washing my hair. Also, I can’t hang onto the soapy crunchy well enough to do the rest. My husband loves me with every ounce of his being and I believe that’s why he has no problems with his shower duty.
Once I’m dry, we put my legs on. This involves a rubber liner with a pin in the bottom. We add socks for cushion, then I step into my legs. The pin clicks into the legs enabling them to stay on. Then to remove them, there’s a button on the outside which releases the pin.
As soon as my legs are dry, we move to the bedroom where Mike puts my undergarments and then clothes on. Again, short arm syndrome. I need to tell you that when I contracted the flesh-eating bacteria it was in my groin area. Doctors had to remove the areas which were affected by the bacteria so I have an entire section of my hip, upper thigh and groin removed. I refer to it as looking like a shark bite.
Why am I telling you this? I figure if I’m going to lay it all out there, you’re going to get ALL of the gory details. Additionally, I’m painting the picture of the love that Mike has for me. Before you ask, neither the doctors nor I know exactly where my infection came from. I believe that my illness started with an ingrown hair but that’s been neither confirmed nor denied.
Many times I’ve asked him “how can you look at me, I’m horrible?”. His answer is always the same. “I love you and I love every part of you, and I came so close to losing you, so this stuff just doesn’t matter to me”. I understand and I am forever grateful that God knew that I needed this man in my life. To this day, 7 years later, I cannot look at myself, naked without crying, yet he does it daily. What can I say about that but Praise the Lord!
Bedtime is the same routine, only backward. The clothes come off, pajamas come on. I brush my teeth by holding my toothbrush between my two arms and brushing away. Way back when I was in the hospital, a very good friend gave me the gift of an electric toothbrush which has been a tremendous blessing. Once I’m in bed, we take my legs off and that’s how I sleep. If nature calls, which thankfully it hardly ever does, then I have to wake Mike up so he can put my legs back on.
Okay, folks, all the gruesome, gory details are over. I know you’re thinking that, “Whew!” It was like a train wreck, you wanted to look away but you just couldn’t, right? So the fifth thing I do differently as an amputee is shopping, one of my favorite past times.
Typically if I need to shop, I wait until someone is home and we do it together. It’s just easier that way. My kids dig out what we need from my purse and off we go. If I’m clothes shopping, my daughter, Megan helps me in the dressing room.
Now sometimes if there’s just one thing I need and I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I’ve been known to just go for it. I’m comfortable driving myself and I’ve learned to ask the store clerks for help. Those are the days I feel especially thankful and somewhat proud of myself because I’ve proven that I can do whatever I set my sights on.
It’s funny, the whole time I wrote this post, I’m was asking myself why am I getting so personal? I think it’s because this whole blog is my way of sharing what life as an amputee looks like with the goal to inspire you, that no matter what your challenges are, you can get through them. If I can get through them, so can you!. But also, by airing my “dirty laundry” so to speak, maybe I’m removing some of the shame I feel deep down by needing so much personal help.
It truly saddens me that I’m so dependent. However, God knows my heart. He knows my needs and He has provided for me every step of the way. I never imagined my life to be like this. However, it’s definitely the love I’ve dreamed of. The love of my husband and kids is overwhelming at times. I know I don’t deserve it but I’m so very thankful every single day.
I am a huge proponent of gratitude. Check out Gratitude from A to Z : Things to be thankful for and Gratitude: Why counting your blessings is so important . So go hug your spouse and kids. Give them what they need, and that is unconditional love. If you are interested in more information about life as an amputee, 10 things I can’t live without will answer a few more of your questions. To carry on the conversation further, follow me on my One Exceptional Life Facebook page or over on Instagram.