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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

When your foot breaks off...it's Tuba players to the rescue!!

It has come clear to me that the prosthetics I am wearing/have worn, are designed for people who live a more sedentary lifestyle. I happen to be one of those people who likes to jump off cliffs into freezing cold water, go on a three hour shopping spree at the local mall, and climb vertically across rocks 20 feet above ground. Is it to much to ask for a dependable fake leg?

I was fifteen and had a fake leg for two years. High school band practice had started for the summer. I had to wear a knee brace for awhile because the way my real leg had been, the ligaments in my knee were stretched to the right. After getting my prosthetic, my knee was forced in to the "normal" straight position, so now my ligaments were loose making my knee wobbly. It's a little more complicated than that but that's the best way I can explain it. The brace was actually attached to my prosthetic with two metal bars on each side of my knee. Apparently, all the extra activity caused the metal to break. I was walking to the band practice field one afternoon, and the metal just snapped. I remember thinking, how can metal just break like that. Am I really that fat?? My mom explained that the metal must have been brittle when it was formed, thus poorly made. (Mom knows a lot about metal)This made me feel a little better.

After I had a new leg brace made, I continued to test the endurance of my prosthesis. I learned why it is not a good idea to swim with a fake leg. I had swam that summer with it on. I thought everything was fine. I didn't understand why other amputees took off their leg when they went swimming. I had no problems at all...

The band practice field was located on the south side of the campus, across the street from the public library. The directors could be heard all over town with their headset microphones. We were practicing formations for our halftime show and we had all just sat down with our instruments to listen to the instructor rant about something we did wrong. The band was scattered from one end of the field to the other. I was with the rest of the saxophone players, creating a curve on the upper east side of the field. The band director bellowed for us to stand up. As I moved to stand, my foot broke. Horrified, I looked down to see it connected to my leg only by the white sock I was wearing. I sat back down and pushed down the sock to see that the bolt that connected the foot to the leg had crystallized and snapped cleanly in half. Chris, a senior who was behind me asked if I was okay. I said "No, my foot broke off." Part of me thought this was hilarious, the other part wanted to sink through the ground and disappear. I heard Ms. E. scream through her mic for everyone to sit down. Everyone started looking around. I could feel my face burning. Mr. R., the assistant band director, reached me first and asked if I was okay. I told him yeah, I just needed to get up. He told me not to move and called for the tuba players to rush over and carry me off the field. There is nothing like seeing a wall of six teenage males carrying the largest of brass instruments wrapped around their middles like silver metal boas, come charging to your rescue. I started repeating in an increasingly shrill voice that I was fine. I didn't want their help. Somehow having them attempt to carry me would have been more humiliating. Would it really take all 6 to get me off the field? (These were the things that were running through my crazy mind) I stood and put my foot under my arm. I was able to limp off the field. It was like walking with one four inch heel on my right leg and no shoe on my left. Chris held my other hand,(I didn't want him to do that either) and escorted me off the field. The tuba players followed. While I slowly hobbled off, Ms. E. must have had an aneurysm and yelled for everyone to sit down again making it very noticeable that something happened to me and I was moving off the field. I made it to a tree close to the sidelines and slumped to the ground underneath it. I had them call my grandma to come get me. I can't remember if they continued to practice after that or not. My brain was in protective mode, shutting down what it thought was the worst of my embarrassing spectacle.

Later that evening, my mom was looking at my prosthetic and she could tell that the bolt had been moving back and forth inside the wood. Apparently, water that I had accumulated from my swimming and cliff diving adventures had soaked through and caused the material the prosthetic is made of to break down. The motion of my foot moving back and forth caused the bolt to hollow out the inside of the leg. This friction caused the bolt to break. I guess the manufactures of these bolts and other prosthetic parts, believed they were creating a device that was to be worn by people who generally sit in front of their TV for 12 hours, moving only to feed their 20+ cats, or to yell at the paper boy for missing the front step.

I will admit, my newest leg has been working beautifully. Of course, I haven't been jumping off cliffs or canoeing in rivers that are quick to overturn me into the raging waters. I guess I need to give my fake leg the ultimate test and go sky diving with my friend in Siloam Springs, who has been hounding me to go with him. I will let you know if my leg survives. (If it doesn't..chances are...neither did I)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rubber foot does NOT equal Bending it like Beckham

Before I lost my leg, I was horrible at playing kick ball. The other kids would all move in closer. The only way I could ever get a chance to run for the base, was to delicately bunt the ball and gallop like a mad animal towards first base. A realization struck me after I got my fake leg. FINALLY, I would be able to kick the ball hard and into the air, sailing way over the fence. I was giddy with excitement. I kept thinking of the six million dollar man and how he could do all those cool things with his "enhancements". This was my chance to show all the kids who teased me that I could play just as good as someone with two good legs. I would be like Babe Ruth, and point to some far out spot in left field and get the ball right there, having plenty of time to lazily stroll and take my base.

I remember wearing sweats that day. I wasn't brave enough to wear shorts yet. I was burning up, but we were going to play kickball at last! I could picture it in my mind how it would happen as I waited for my turn. They would all crowd closer as I came up to the plate. Thomas would roll the ball toward me. I had my fake leg positioned a little behind me so my momentum would be greater. My foot would make contact and the ball would fly hard and fast, right over their heads into the outfield. They would all OOOHH and AHHHH. Their mouths would be hanging open in disbelief. I giggled as I thought of it. My turn had come and I already had a smug look on my face, like I knew this would be a sure thing. This was going to be so awesome! The ball came rolling toward me. I stepped forward with my right foot as I brought back my left to swing it forward. I kicked the ball straight up into the air. My leg followed not far behind it. That's right, I kicked my leg off. Since I was wearing sweats, it didn't fly completely off but I fell to the ground with it somehow to the side of me in a way no natural leg could ever be. The coach kept asking if I was ok and everyone was crowding around me. I was mortified. I said I was fine and I wouldn't let anyone help me. I was able to get the leg back on as I sat in the dirt. I really don't remember much after that. I must have blocked it from my memory. Needless to say that was the end of my aspiring hopes to go down in history as 8th grade's best kick ball player ever.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And now...The Reveal

It's funny to me how people apologize when they ask about my limp and I tell them I have a fake leg. I try to show them I am comfortable with it and I don't mind talking about it. I kinda have to be since I'm stuck with it until they make bionic legs or full limb transplants. I read about how doctors are using salamander DNA to grow back fingers (on humans), since salamanders can regenerate their own lost body parts. I wish I could do that, but since my loss of limb is due to a genetic disorder, I would just grow back another defective leg. (sigh)

Ok, enough about lizard limbs and damaged DNA, I wanted to share my experience of telling people about my leg and their reactions. Adults usually show little reaction. The braver ones ask how I lost it and will assume it was due to some accident. When I was younger,I told a person a shark had bitten it off. He didn't believe me. I guess this proves I'm a very bad liar. My best friend has two children. As they grew from infant to toddler, they would stare at my leg and reach out to touch the prosthesis then touch my other leg. Then they would touch both at the same time, then touch their own leg. I would knock on the top where the hard plastic is not covered by foam rubber and they would knock on their own knee. Since it didn't make the same sound, they would knock on mine and we would spend several minuets doing this. When they got old enough to ask about it. I told them it was my barbie doll leg. Jamie, the girl, thought this was funny. Noah insisted it was not a barbie doll leg. So I said it was a robot leg. He accepted that.

I am student teaching right now and I debated on telling my students about my leg or not. I had this small fear that it would scare them or make them reject me. I was silly. It didn't bother them at all! I explained how my old leg was broken and the doctors had to make me a new one. I showed them one of my old prosthesis. There was some EWWS and OOHHS and WEIRDS but they all wanted to hold it. I think its amazing how children can be so accepting of what is different when you explain it in a way that they can relate to. As long as you have a positive attitude about it, so will they.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Starting Over

I still do not know what I really want to write about but... I guess I will continue my egocentric story about my life as a person with a fake leg. I don't like to say "a person with disabilities"...because I am not disabled. I may be limited to what I can do, but

What's in a title anyway?

I know that my title is "To be Happy", but so far I haven't wrote anything that would contribute to it. I would like to change my title to something like, "The Misadventures of an Amputee", or something, but I don't know how to change it.