Friday, April 29, 2011

Going To The Mailbox

I made a decision, I was going to drive myself to the drive-by mailbox and mail some bills this morning. I got up early, as I always do, wrote out my bills and decided to get in my car and mail them by myself.

I have never done this since the loss of both of my legs. Something as seemingly simple as driving to a mailbox is more complicated for me than you might imagine. After putting on both of my prosthetic legs, which went smoothly, it doesn't always go quickly or smoothly, I gathered everything I thought I might need. In the red bag I always carry, I made sure I had my wallet, keys, tool for putting on my legs, and cell phone.

In order to get to the car and get into the car I brought my walker. While seated in my wheelchair I pushed the walker in front of me. After reaching the garage via the elevator, I wheeled over to the car, unlocked it, put my red bag on the front seat and wheeled to an area where I stood up with the aid of my walker. I slowly WALKED with the walker to my car (about fifteen feet) and sat down on the seat. Fortunately I have a small SUV and the seat height allows me to just turn around and sit on the seat. After putting both of my prosthetic legs under the steering column, I folded the walker and put it next to me. Now I was ready.

I drove to the drive-by mailbox, about a mile or so, mailed the bills and drove home. I backed into the garage, no easy task with hand controls, then I reversed the process to get back to my wheelchair and finally into my condo.

I was elated. This seemingly simple task, for me, was a monumental accomplishment! If I were able to do a dance, I would have. Four monthes and ten days ago when the loss of my second leg nightmare began, I would never have imagined I would be able to do what I just did.

Some people might read this and think, poor Glenn, look what he has to go through just to mail a bill. Another unsympathetic person might think, what is the big deal? So what?

This excercise in independence, driving to mail a bill, has been such a feeling of accomplishment for me. It is hard to put into words, what a triumph this has been for me. I know now, this is just the beginning. With much perservence, strength and courage I know I will be able to fulfill a lot of the dreams I have for myself and my future.

I am filled with feelings of faith in myself and gratitude to God for what has just occurred. I know this is just a small step toward my ability to once again take control of my life. Today I mailed a bill, tomorrow who knows? I am so thankful and happy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Learning To Drive...Again

I have been driving a car for thirty seven years minus the last four monthes when I was unable to drive because of the loss of my second leg. During the first thirty four years I drove a car the traditional way with my right leg. After the loss of my right leg in July 2008, I taught myself to drive with my left leg. It was much easier than you might think. Driving with my left leg became second nature to me surprisingly quick.

Now after the loss of my second leg, I found myself faced with learning to drive with a hand control. The older of my two sisters understood right away the loss freedom that you feel, when after all these years, you find yourself unable to drive. She was instrumental in finding out information about the installation of a hand control and of making sure I had the needed lessons to bring driving my car to fruition. I am eternally grateful to her for her concern, understanding and encouragement through this portion of my leg loss experience.

I had a total of three driving lessons with a hand contolled driving device. The hand control is a lever that is attached to the accelerator and brake with metal rods. The lever runs up the left side of the steering column. You push forward to brake and tip the lever down to accelerate. My driving instructor, an excellant teacher, was pleased with my ability to adapt to this new way of driving so readily. The number of driving lessons required to learn to drive with a hand control is determined by the instructor. Fortunately, I was able to relearn driving in the minimal number of lessons required, which is three. After learning to drive with a hand control, in my instructor's altered car, I had a hand control installed in my own car.

Last Friday I had my personal assistant drive me to the shop where the hand conrtol was installed, I then drove the car home by myself and he followed. As luck would have it, it was raining all the way home from the surburbs. I will admit I was a little nervous but everything went well.

A few days later I drove my car to Rush Medical Center for my biweekly physical therapy, my assistant was in the car beside me. It was just before the onset of morning rush hour and fortunately the traffic was relatively light, at least in Chicago terms. I arrived safely.

Switching from driving with my right leg, to my left leg and now with my left hand is quite a change. One of the difficulties I experience is the fact that you also operate the turn signals with your left hand. This requires some forethought to be able to squeeze in turning on your signal in addition to braking and accelerating.

Needless to say I missed turning on my signal a couple of times. In the past, other drivers not using their turn signals was a pet peeve of mine. I was never a person who drove with much, if any, road rage. I was never a horn blower or a person who used obscene hand gestures or anything like that. I did however get irritated when people didn't use their signals, I thought that was being inconsiderate to other drivers in addition to being lazy. I always try to be considerate to other drivers and not keep them guessing what my next move will be.

So where do I find myself now? I am in the process of learning to incorporate the use of my turn signals in addition to braking and accelerating all with my left hand and of course steering with my right hand. It made me think that perhaps we as drivers, don't take into consideration why another driver might not use their signal. It might not be inconsideration, lack of forethought or laziness, but an extenuating circumstance we are unaware of. It is easy to accuse other drivers of doing things we feel are unsafe or inconsiderate, but the fact of the matter is we all do things on occasion that are also unsafe and potentionally dangerous. I am not talking about such major infractions as talking/texting on your cell phone, putting on makeup or anything as dangerous as that, which of course is unlawful and unacceptable. I am talking about using your turn signals or waiting to turn them on after you have stopped at a light, slight infractions of that sort. I have reconsidered my feelings and I am going to take into account other possiblities I wouldn't have considered before and try to be more tolerate.

I have done it all, driving with my right foot, driving with my left foot and now with my left hand. I am so grateful and appreciative of my ability to drive again. My sister is right, driving is a wonderful feeling of freedom. As times goes on I know I will become more proficent at driving with a hand control. Until that proficency arrives, I hope I don't drive other drivers crazy with my driving and vice versa.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I was at a prothetist's appointment last week looking at a video on an i-phone of a man and I was marveling at his ability to walk with two prosthetic legs on a sloped driveway, unaided. I asked the sales representative of the computerized knees I have, how he was able to do that? He asked me how long it had been since I lost my first leg? I told him a little over two and a half years. He said, "you are still a novice."

What people don't understand, and what I didn't understand is that becoming proficient at walking on prosthetics takes practice and time. I guess I could compare it to learning to play a musical instrument. You wouldn't expect to play a Brahm's lullaby the first time you sat down at the piano. Similarily, it takes a lot of practice, and practice of course takes a lot of time.

Learning to perform a difficult maneuver takes a lot of patience. Naturally there are times when you will perform better than at other times. This fluctuation of performance is due to a myriad of variables, how your prosthetic limbs fit that particular day, how rested you are, how positive you feel that day and so forth.

Before you even reach the point of being fitted for prosthetics, you must allow your body to heal from the surgery you underwent to have your damaged limbs removed. One thing I have learned is that your body heals itself in it's own time frame. You cannot rush healing. For me, I first try to be thankful and appreciative of my body's ability to heal at all. Focussing on the miracle of the body's ability to heal itself gives me pause and thus patience to allow such a miraculous occurence to manifest.

I have found that being patient in just about every aspect of this journey of being a bialateral above knee amputee serves me best. Wishing things would move along faster, getting upset when things are delayed, getting angry for having been placed in this position, will only lead you down a path of frustration and resentment. It is best, at least for me, to just try to relax and know that over time things will fall into place. My belief in divine order has helped me achieve the patience I need to maintain hope and happiness. These lessons in patience, have taken time and perservence to learn.

I had to have my new left prosthetic leg redone to have a more permanent and comfortable upper section placed on it. Originally we, the prosthetist and I, thought this could be done in a two day turnaround time. After arriving at the prosthetist's office, it was discussed and to insure the best possible quality and fit, it was determined to take a week, not two days. Now I could have insisted on trying to get it done quickly, however, we decided that taking more time and getting a more precise and comfortable fit was definitely more productive than getting the leg back quickly. In the long run, it will save me trips to the prothetist's office for adjustments and in the worse case scenario having to have the leg completely redone. Once again, patience is serving me best in this situation.

I have found that in my life before my limb loss, I could do a lot of things effortlessly. Now, I can still do a lot of those same things but they take more ingenuity and once again more time. Instead of being angry about how long it takes me to shower and dress, for example, I consciously focus on being thankful and appreciative of my ability to still perform those tasks independently, no matter how long it takes. It is easy to get angry about what you cannot do, or how much time it takes to various things, but I have found if I am patient with myself and others I can avoid a whole lot of unnecessary anger, frustration and self-pity.

Learning to be patient, at least in my case, is an acquired skill. Achieving a happy and peaceful life in the midst of seemingly chaotic, insurrmountable odds can only be achieved by having patience with yourself, your situation, and other people.

Before I close this blog entry, I want to be clear and honest about things in my life and not come across as self-righteous. Do I lose my patience? Of course I do. Am I trying to learn to be more patient more often than not? I hope so. Is being patient work? It certainly has been for me. Are things getting better? Most assuredly.

Take a deep breath and relax, you only do yourself a favor by learning to be patient and hence maintaining peace and harmony in your own life. It is worth the effort.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Just Don't Get It

I was reading another man's blog, he also has suffered the loss of both legs. What caught my attention was his statement that the loss of both legs had not dramatically changed his life. Huh? I tried to understand his statement and figure out how he could honestly feel that way. In an attempt to not place judgment upon him and make comparisons between he and I, I still do not understand his claim.
The loss of my legs has dramatically changed the way do just about every task in my life. Lets see, it changed the way I get dressed and undressed, it changed the way I shower, it altered the way I use the bathroom, the way I drive (or soon will), the way I walk, the way I excercise and on it goes.
However, what the loss has not changed is the love I have in my heart for God, my family, my friends and life in general. Do you suppose that is what he means? I would like to believe that I chose to approach the loss of my legs in the most positive manner I could muster and yet I cannot say it has not dramatically changed my life.
I was talking to a friend about this and he said maybe the other man had developed a different type of outlook on his life. It seems to me, at least im my life, no matter what kind of outlook you may have developed, you could still not make a statement about limb loss not changing your life. When I hear stories of people's lives that have been changed as a result of injury, disease, death of a loved one or any major change, I try to pay attention to how they handle their particular situation. The reason I pay attention, is to learn; to learn for myself ways of developing coping skills that may help me through my trials.
I understand the importance of acceptance and the importance of moving on. I also understand that maintaining the most positive attitude toward a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle is benefical in the long run. I always strive to be and do the best I can possibly do in any given situation. I made my mind up early in this limb loss scenario that I would not allow it to rule my life with respect to happiness and accomplishment. Thus far, I feel I have done what I set out to do.
Further, I realize that my God given spirit is whole and intact. Knowing that my spirit will always remain whole and undamaged has given me comfort and strength.
Unlike the other man, who stated that limb loss had not dramatically changed his life, I don't honestly feel that way nor will I make such a statement. I do believe this loss will in some way manifest itself into a way for me to help others. I want my loss, to be a gain of sorts, a gain in compassion, love and understanding.
A friend of mine from Seattle was having trouble logging on to my blog. When she became increasingly perplexed and unable to connect to my blog she wrote to me in an email, "I'm stumped." Upon reading this, I chuckled, and I subsequently told her, "nice choice of words" then we both laughed.
Well that is how I feel about the man who stated his bialateral leg loss had not dramatically affected his life. Really? "I'm stumped" by that statement.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The day before yesterday I stood on both of my prosthetic legs for thirty-one minutes, a new record for me. I was talking to my best friend and I told him a couple of days ago I was able to stand for thirty minutes. He said that must have been awful, just standing there. I said no, it was wonderful. I continued to explain that for me, under my circumstances, it was quite an accomplishment. Of course he immediately understood, he went on to say people take walking for granted and don't even give standing a second thought, they just do it.
I think we all take a lot of things for granted, unless we are faced with a situation where a previously simple task becomes a victory of sorts. Human nature is a funny thing, we don't think about all the things we are given, like any one of our senses; sight, hearing, smell, touch, and even taste. Take away our ability to walk or even stand and it can be quite unnerving.
It has made me appreciate all the things I can still accomplish. I find myself watching people walk down the street, I observe the ease with which they move. I would never have done that before the loss of my legs, it would never have occurred to me.
Standing upright is something no one thinks about until you can't do it, then it becomes something you treasure. My ability to stand at my kitchen counter for thirty minutes made me realize I am on my way back to being able to move more freely. Think about when a baby is beginning to walk, first they must learn to stand. At fifty three years old I am learning to stand. My ability to stand on my prosthetic lower limbs for half an hour, for me, is an indication of great things yet to come. I am thankful for that.
Another friend stopped by and that was when I stood and talked to him for thirty-one minutes, telling him I was trying to set a new record for myself. One day thirty minutes and a few days later thirty one minutes, tomorrow who knows? After standing for thirty-one minutes we cheered for my accomplishment.
I said to him I thought it was quite a feat. He said excuse the pun, and we both laughed....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Comments and Following

To all those who read my blog, I inadvertently had the setting wrong in the comments section at the end of my blog. Now that it has been corrected, you simply leave a comment, if you choose, no more google buzz or any other bs. I would really appreciate your feedback not only do I appreciate it, but also it helps me to become a better writer. Anyone who has tried to leave a comment before will now find it much simpler to do so.
Further, by becoming a follower I have a better idea who reads my blog on a regular basis and this is also helpful and encouraging to me. You simply click on the "follow" button on the top of the blog.
Thanking all of you in advance for your continued interest and I look forward to writing more very soon.

Friday, April 8, 2011


 Comparison, why do we do that to ourselves? Making comparisons between yourself and others is unfair. It is unfair to yourself and to the other individual.
  Why do we all try to compare ourselves to others? If you think you will fair better than the person you're comparing yourself to, then perhaps you are looking to boost your ego, make yourself feel better about yourself. Is that fair to the other person? Do you know what background and hardships they may have faced to arrive at where they are?
  Like everyone, I find myself making comparisons all the time. In an ideal world we, the population, would know that comparing ourself to others is a form of judgment. We all know that judging another based soley on our limited knowledge of that person is unfair and wrong. Instead of making comparisons between ourselves and others, maybe we should be focussing on the uniqueness of ourselves and the uniqueness of others.
  I'm smarter than they are, I'm prettier than she is, I'm stronger than he is, I've accomplished more than they have, and on and on it goes. The converse of that can also be problematic. I wish I were that strong, I wish I were that pretty,  I wish I had accomplished as much as they have and so forth. These frames of mind carried to the extreme can lead to envy.
  All we can do for ourselves is always try to do our best, given our limited resources. Strive to be the best that you can be, given your unique circumstances.
  I am by no means an authority on this subject, this is just an observence, that was pointed out to me by my best friend. He thought I should touch upon this subject in my blog, obviously I agree. As I thought about what to write, I realized just how often I make comparisons, myself to others and others to myself. It would be advantageous to all if we stopped and realized what a disservice we are doing to ourselves and others.
  Whenever we start down the road to comparison, we should stop, realize what we are doing and change the way we look at ourselves and others. Everyone is different, that is what being an individual actually means.
  Instead of looking at another with envy, I try to look at them with admiration. Look how hard they have worked to become so strong, if being strong is important to you. How do I become stronger? Look how intelligent they are, perhaps if I read more, spend time and energy educating myself I can become more knowledgeable also.
  Comparing apples to oranges, excuse my being trite, is obviously a fruitless endevour (excuse the pun). If  I were to compare what a person who has two natural  God given legs to myself, a person who has lost both of their legs, how would I compare? I wouldn't. It is rediculous to even make such a comparsion. Instead, I look to those who are in my similar situation, and with admiration of their accomplishments, strive to do better for myself. How did they get to where they are? How can I improve myself?
  Further, it is also not a good idea to compare yourself now with how you used to be. Circumstances change. Learning how to deal with change is one of life's challenges. Certainly things  have dramatically changed for me in last few years. Looking back on how I used to be, what I used to be able to do and comparing it to my circumstances now is being unfair to myself. Instead I try to be the best I can be NOW.
  A very spiritual person whose opinion I value greatly, wrote to me in one of her emails, "out of great loss come great blessings."  I like that statement and I feel it is true.
  Dr. Wayne Dyer, author and life coach, says, "when we change the way we look at things, things we look  at change." To me that has been a profound and true proclamation.
  We should acknowledge accomplishment for what it is. Doing the best that we can do, not comparing ourselves, then and now, but rather we should look at others with respect, admiration and love. It will be of great benefit to us and others.
 I wonder if someone else could have written this more eloquently? Oops, is that a comparison?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"It Takes a Village"

  Like that famous quote by Hillary Clinton, "It takes a village to raise a child." It takes a village to do a lot of things. When I look back over the last two and a half years, I begin to realize just how many people have been involved in my life and helped me to get where I am today.
  At first, being  the independent  and autonomous person I always prided myself in being, it was difficult  for me to accept help from others. Believe me when you are forced, by a medical catastrophe, to accept help you have a decision to make. Do I try to do all that needs to be done alone or do I do the sensible, logical and sometimes easier method of solving my medical issues by allowing others to help me? This assistance doesn't just come from medical professionals, help financially through monetary contributions from family and friends, state and federal assistance and most importantly emotional support ,are all needed.
  Early on, after losing my right leg, I knew I would not allow this loss to define me as a person. I would not allow myself to become bitter, jaded or sad. I didn't want that for myself and I knew that being bitter, jaded, and feeling sorry for myself would isolate me from those whom I love.
  By not accepting my situation, not seeing it for what it is, would create a wall around myself, a wall I was unwilling to build. It has taken a long time for me to realize that those who help me do so because they want to contribute to my well being. My family, friends and a myriad of professionals have given so much to me and enriched my life immeasurably. It has been tough for me intially to accept all the help that has been offered. Part of the reason it has been so tough is that I know it is impossible to ever repay all of the help that has been given to me through the loss of now, both of my legs.
  If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a loss as great as I have, do yourself a favor, allow and accept help from others. Your family, friends, and professional contacts want you to be as successful in overcoming your adversity, what ever it may be, as you want for yourself.
  It has taken tremendous focus and determination for me to get as far as I have and I still have a ways to go.  As overwhelming  as it may seem at times, I always try to keep my eye on the ball, set attainable goals and strive to reach them. It would have been virtually  impossible to have accomplished what I have so  far, without a lot of help, support, and encouragement from others. It is important to me that I acknowledge the wonderful assistance, in all it's forms, I have received from others. I try to show my gratitude to those who have made my life, a life of grace, dignity, quality and purpose.
 I was at a prosthetist's appointment the other day, there were five professionals there to assist and explain things to me. There were two of my regular prothetists, both of whom I admire and respect, two gentlemen from the company that manufactures and distributes the computerized knees I have been blessed to receive, and an observer from Japan.
 We all worked together in harmony for a common purpose, to help me regain my mobility through the proper use of both of my prosthetic limbs. This was a two hour appointment of instruction, observation, demonstration, and helpful critiquing. As I was leaving the meeting, I said to my primary prosthetist, it takes a village to learn how to walk.
  Upon further reflection of what had occurred at the appointment, I was touched in a way that is hard to explain. Some may say they were just doing their jobs, but in my opinion you would be wrong. They did much more than just their jobs, they gave me encouragement, hope and self-satisfaction, something you cannot put a price on.
  So you see, allowing others into your life, those who seek to help you, greatly enriches your experience and ultimately your life.
  I am grateful beyond measure to everyone who has helped me in any way and I will continue to have those feelings.
  The appointment the other day is just one example of people working in tandem to achieve a common goal, fortunately that goal was me. There are a host of other examples of aid I have received in various forms and at various times.
  Hillary was right, "it does take a village," a village I am thankful to be a member of, now and always.