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Kids see a big question mark when they see me. I imagine most adults do too. I would certainly wonder “What happened?,” and “Are they alright?” But really curious kids come from a whole different perspective.
I was recently invited to a local preschool to talk to four children who had recently been learning about people who were unique and sometimes different from how normal people looked. They had been reading a book about someone who was in a wheelchair. The owner, my friend Elizabeth, told them she had a friend who didn’t have hands and feet and they wanted to meet me. They just couldn’t imagine how I could walk without feet.
I have to be honest. I was pretty concerned that if I shared my story I would scare the kids. I didn’t want them to worry that if they got sick, they would end up the same way as me. However, Elizabeth assured me that they already had that discussion. They knew I was sick and that doctors had to remove my hands and feet to save my life.
A week later I showed up at Imaginations- a Child’s Place armed with my tote bag with a couple of the tools I use daily to help me get through my day and a healthy fear that I couldn’t explain my situation to preschoolers at their level. It’d been a long time since my own really curious kids were four. They are all now in their twenties. I was anxious to share my life with these really curious kids.
When I arrived four, very cute boys named August, Lucas, Caleb and Braxton were eating their snack. During that time we talked about how I was able to walk on these clunky things that I call legs. I explained how the prosthetics were attached by a pin system to stay connected to my leg. They seemed like it made perfect sense.
After snack we moved to the circle room where Elizabeth broke out a large tablet of paper that had two pages full of questions for me to answer. No, I wasn’t intimidated at all! These were not the typical questions I got about my situation. These really curious kids had questions from a whole different perspective.
How do you move your body? How do you work your new limbs? I showed them.
How do I decorate my Christmas tree?
How do I take my shoes off? They were shocked to hear that the shoes stayed on but the legs came off. We also talked about how I can wear different heel heights by simply adjusting my feet. Additionally, my prosthetist can adjust my physical height, which I mentioned I would recommend that I wanted to be a little taller when I get my next set of legs.
How do I lay down? Roll over?
How do I eat? Enter visual aid #1 which is the cuff I use that my prosthetist made for me. It contains a fork that swivels so that I can pick the food up and eat it.
What’s my favorite color? Purple and pink!
Can I go to the store? I don’t like to go to the store by myself because I have trouble reaching things on the top shelf because my arms are shorter than theirs. If I need something on the bottom shelf, I’m afraid I’ll tip over. Also, I always need help paying for things, but the service people are always real helpful in that case. Yes, I can go to the store alone, I just prefer to have help.
Can I drive? Yes and I would show them my car when we were done.
Can I kick a soccer ball? Yes as long as I’m careful. Can I swing on a swing? You bet! Can I cut paper? No, I cannot hold the scissors properly.
Can I dress myself? That one I need help with, showers too. My husband, Mike, is always there when I need to do those things because my arms are short so I can’t reach to get everything done.
How do I brush my teeth? I brush with an electric toothbrush that is held in a stand so I can put toothpaste on it, and then pick it up.
Can I swim? I told them my story, that I previously told you in my Traveling with Disabilites post. I’m not a vvery good swimmer without a life jacket.
Can I run? No, but we talked about other amputees who can when they wear their “cheetah” legs. You’ve seen those, right?
How do I carry my purse? I showed them.
Would I rather have people stare at me or ask questions? Interesting! A hundred times I would answer ASK QUESTIONS. This is a big difference between adults and children. Kids ask, adults stare! Then adults get so bristly when their really curious kids ask anyway. Its okay! Let them ask. They’re just curious and they don’t mean any harm. The primary question I get from kids is what happened to your hands? I just tell them that doctors had to remove them because I got a very special illness and I would not be able to live with them in place. That answer seems to work so they run off to show mom or dad that I don’t have any hands. Oddly enough, they never ask about my legs, and I wear shorts all the time. I think that’s because I still have legs and feet, but no hands.
Did it hurt when they removed my limbs? No, not at the time because the doctors gave me medicine to help me sleep. When I woke up, though, yes it hurt because they interfered with my nerves and so now I take medicine so I’m not in pain all the time.
Finally, I showed them my favorite tool, which is my stylus attached to a wrist strap. I showed them how I have a hook on my phone so it stays on my arm without falling off and breaking. My stylus enables me to text, dial, change the channels on the remote, turn pages in a book, help me pick up the paper and many other things that you would use a finger for.
When all their questions for me were asked, these four little cuties walked me to my car. They wanted to see how I opened the door, with a rubber hose-shaped like a circle that I could put my arm through and pull. They liked the triangle that I rested my arm in on the steering wheel so I could drive. I showed them a few other assists so I could open windows and shift into gear. For more information on amputee driving, visit Driving Miss Wendy. Finally, I got hugs from everybody and the show was over.
All of my nervousness was for nothing. These little guys and Miss Elizabeth all made me feel right at home. It made me realize that I have nothing to fear from 4-year olds and they didn’t need to be afraid of me. I was somebody’s mom and even though I looked a little different, I was still fun to hang out with. In conclusion, I hope I answered many of the questions that you may have had about what it’s like to not have hands and feet. If you’re still curious, I’m an open book. I welcome all your questions. Leave your comments below, or visit me over on my One Exceptional Life Facebook page.