Sunday, November 27, 2011

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Sometimes I think to myself, will it never end? It seems I am at the beginning stages  of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

In case your are unfamiliar with carpal tunnel, I will elaborate briefly. Your carpal tunnel is located at your wrist, it creates a "tunnel" under which a major blood vessel and a large bundle of nerves travel. These nerves control the complicated movements of your hand and fingers.

Through repetitive motion, these blood vessels and nerves become inflamed, increasing their size and becoming somewhat compressed, resulting in numbness in the fingertips and thumb.

I am reasonably sure that this occurred in my right hand for several reasons. First of all, it is the repetitive motion of my hand moving the wheelchair, something I hope to lessen as time goes on and I can walk more frequently on prosthetics.

I also put a lot of pressure on the palms of my hands while walking on a walker. Additionally, I put a lot of weight on my hands and shoulders when I transfer from the wheelchair to the bed, shower, etc. And last but not least, I work out five days a week using dumbells ( no one I know).

It is not an uncommon syndrome to develop given the fact my arms, hands and shoulders are doing a lot of the work my legs used to do.

Where do we go from here? Well, Although I haven't been officially diagnosed yet, the physical and occupational therapists are pretty sure it is CTS. I will be tested for this on Wednesday. I am going to my vascular surgeon, Chad Jacob's office, just to be sure it is not a vascular related problem.

After the diagnosis I will begin guess what? more therapy. This time it will be occupational therapy, doing excercises that will "open up" the carpal tunnel.

I have already begun wearing a wrist brace per Dr. Jacob's physician assistant's advice. This brace helps keep my wrist in a straight position, this is particularily imporant during sleep. I have also googled CTS and have viewed some YouTube videos of excercises that are supposed to be beneficial. I have already begun my own therapetic regimen pending the upcoming diagnosis and occupational therapy.

I would be lying if I said all of this does not bother me. What frustrates me most  is that I have been able to maintain my independence in spite of losing both of my legs and now through some of the actions I take to remain independent,  I have developed yet another problem.

Hopefully I have caught this syndrome in it's early stages, the beginnng of which is the numbness I now experience. CTS left untreated can cause an inability to grasp and hold items (like a paintbrush or pen) and eventually causing severe pain up the entire length of your arm. The worst case scenarios result in corrective surgery.

I am definitely not going there. I believe CTS can be treated successfully through excercise and diet.

I have often felt that in a world of too much information, too often, we can get information overload. This is the case with this whole carpal tunnel thing. I don't want to focus on what can happen, I want to focus on now and what I can do  to help myself now.

I am remaining optimistic and proactive about all of this, but sometimes I think it would be nice to have a  break from my medical issues.

As we get older it becomes a game of maintenance. We try to maintain what came so easily and freely when we were younger. As has been said many times before, "it sure beats the alternative."

Another quote I like is what Cher says, "Getting old sucks."


Saturday, November 19, 2011


Some of you may not be aware of the fact that I had my hall bathroom remodeled this past summer. I had the bathtub and shower doors removed and a walk (or wheel) in shower installed, to better accomodate my disability.

I was able to have that work done through a program called HomeMod, short for Home Modification. This is a city sponsered program for persons with disabilities under the age of 60. Fortunately I qualified for the program.

Not only did they lower the floor where the tub previously resided, but they also completely retiled the floor and the shower walls. Additionally, they replaced  the vanity sink with a pedestal sink and a new mirror.

The bathroom looks fantastic and better suits my needs, adding safety, ease of accessability and beauty. What more could you ask for?

The workmanship was exemplary, the entire project was started and brought to completion, including clean up and disposal, in five days.

Mark Nobriga, the man in charge of the program, had originally come to my home to discuss at length what my remodeling needs were, with respect to my particular disability, and how the HomeMod program could be of assistance. Several weeks later after the remodeling was complete, Mark came back to my house to take pictures of the remodel.

While Mark was here he said that the HomeMod program was going to be featured on an ABC Channel 7 News segment. He then asked me if they could film my bathroom and interview me for the segment. I explained that I would be happy to participate in anything that would glorify the program and help insure it's continued success.

On November 8, Karen Tamley, Commissoner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, along with Mark Nobriga came to my house for the interview.

Karen Tamley, a wonderful lady, is in charge of all affairs concerning programs, accessability issues, and potential grievances for the disabled here in Chicago. She heads a department of the Mayor's Office specifically geared toward equality of opportunity for those who are disabled. Her position with the city and the importance of her work cannot be understated. It was an honor to have met such an accomplished woman and have her visit my home.

I know this may be confusing but there is another woman named Karen Meyer, who has been with ABC Channel 7 News for many years. Karen M. has been actively addressing the concerns and introducing programs for those with disabilities for a very long time through the news media. I have seen her on the news many times.

You can imagine my surprise when I learned it was Karen Meyer who was going to conduct the interview for an upcoming segment on Channel 7 News, promoting the HomeMod program.

First, Karen Meyer of Channel 7 interviewed Karen Tamley Commissoner. (I told you it was a little confusing with two Karens). Karen T explained to Karen M the importance of the HomeMod program. She continued to elaborate that the city of Chicago faced many challenges regarding accessability issues for the  disabled. One of the primary problems is that most residential buildings built before 1980 were vertical in structure with staircases, causing major hurtles for those with mobility related disabilites.

Listening to Karen Tamley speak made my admiration for her grow even stronger. She has devoted her entire career to helping the disabled live better, safer and easier lives, what a wonderful accomplishment.

Likewise, Karen Meyer of ABC Channel 7 News, has devoted her career to helping the disabled. She has been instramental in getting information out to the public regarding programs aimed at assisting the disabled. Karen M. through the news media, has helped countless persons with disabilities.

The entire process of filming this news segment has allowed me to meet these wonderful people, who have accomplished so much for others. It was an experience I will never forget.

I don't know the exact time and date this news segment will air onChannel 7. When I do know, rest assured I will pass that information to you either through my blog, email, facebook or the good old fashioned way, the telephone.

I have said this before but it bears repeating, "through great losses come great blessings." That statement was made to me by my friend and author, Michelle McKinney Hammond.

Meeting these three people Mark Nobriga, Karen Tamley and Karen Meyer has been one of those blessings I have received through my loss and I am truly thankful.

If  you are disabled or know of someone who is, this program HomeMod, could be of great assistance in helping  live happier and easier lives. You may contact this program through the website: to download an application.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A New Order

At a recent physical therapy appointment I was surprised to learn that Chris, my therapist, and Jason, my prosthetist, want me to try a completely new approach to learning to walk. The new procedure is called, "Short Leg Graduated Protocol" (SLGP).

Jason, a lifelong amputee himself, and a very accomplished athlete, had recently attended a seminar with other prosthetists, physical therapists, and doctors who have taught many bilateral above knee amputees to walk quite proficiently.

Short Leg Graduated Protocol (SLGP) was developed by Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP, to train bilateral transfemoral amputees (like me) to confidently ambulate within the community on full length legs. The SLGP was developed to clearly define and systemize the key elements for bilateral transfemoral amputees to achieve successful prosthetic use.

The above paragraph was taken directly from a handout given to the attendees of the aforementioned seminar called, Prosthetic Management of Multiple Limb Deficiency.

This method has helped many war veterans with limb loss regain their mobility, many of whom were taught at Walter Reed Medical Center.

What the technique involves is quite different from what I have been trying to do. Instead of continuing the  way I have been for the last five monthes on two full length prosthetics, I have now been fitted with shortened legs that do not have knees.

Over time the length of the legs will be increased and the knees will be reincorporated into the legs. The purpose of learning to walk using shorter legs is multifaceted. First of all, the closer your center of gravity is to the ground the better your balance will be, hence the shortened legs.

The idea of this SLGP program is for me to live in these legs as much as possible and become as proficient as possible at a myriad of tasks, not the least of which is learning to fall correctly and standing back up.

When I speak of shortened legs I mean shortened! It is similar to having your feet attached where your knees would normally be located minus the knee component completely. The first time I tried on the preliminary shortened legs, my appearance almost brought me to tears.

I have been 5'10" tall all of my adult life and while wearing the shortest legs I am about 4' 8" tall. Visually this was quite a dramatic and shocking change.

Since this idea was introduced to me about ten days ago, I have experienced many ever changing emotions. One of the first things Chris said to me, upon presenting this idea, was not to look at changing from the full length legs to the shortened legs as a failure.

One may ask, as I did, if it is not a failure then why are we changing the status quo (learning to walk on full length legs)? There are at least two reasons. First of all, because I was so adept at walking on one prosthetic leg and a walker within days of losing my second leg, the doctors, prosthetists, and therapists thought maybe I could walk directly on two full legs, which I have, however not as proficiently  this new program has demonstrated.

The second reason is because many feel that losing a second leg and then being put in shortened legs and introducing SLGP immediately would have been too much of a loss all at once.

Whatever the reasoning may have been, I have decicded to give SLGP a try. I could not live with myself without exhausting all the possibilities presented to me that will enable me to regain as much normalcy as possible.

I must admit that when the idea was originally presented to me I felt somewhat discouraged. I still do not have the final shortened legs. I will receive them this Tuesday and I will begin my new learning process.

I have been accused of being an "A or Z" person, looking at situations as all or nothing, disregarding the entire area inbetween. It is true I do have a tendency to overlook the middle ground. I am choosing not to do that in this particular instance. I will try living my life and learning to walk on shortened legs, but at this stage only in controlled enviroments, i.e. the therapy gym and at home alone.

I really have to stay focussed on my goal of  walking on full length legs in order to put myself through the stringent SLGP program. I know it must be difficult for you to understand the emotional and psychological affect using shortened legs  has on me.

The reason I am writing to you about all this is because I want us, you the reader, and me, the participant  to go through this procedure together.

This Shortened Leg Graduated Protocol is completely foreign to both of us. I thought by writing about this to you we could witness, figuratively, the emotional and physical changes of the next few monthes.

I know in the end I will walk better and live a more normal life, I must keep that thought in mind at all times, although that is easier said than done. As my dear friend Ruth pointed out, "it is just as easy to look at this positively as it is to look at it negatively, possibly easier."

As I have always done throughout my limb loss scenario, I will remain positive and optimisitc about my success, knowing all of you, my readers, are rooting me on, gives me strength. I thank you for that understood encouragement. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Few Kind Words

I had originally written this blog on October 25 but I left my blog notebook at the prosthetist's office, so here it is now.

I am sitting in the prosthetist's office having yet another "top" put on my left leg. It seems as though these appointments are never-ending and perhaps they will be. I have come to the conclusion that the fittings and refittings are just a part of this whole leg loss scenario and I have learned to accept and appreciate it as a part of wearing and walking on prosthetic legs.

What I would like to address is something I experienced yesterday (which was really two weeks ago now).
I was going to my usual Monday morning physical therapy appointment and when I wheeled past the glass doors into the reception area, another waiting patient said to me, "you are amazing." I thanked her and it was then I realized she had seen me at previous appointments.

As my therapy continued with my beloved Chris, everything was going reasonably well. After walking with the walker, we decided we were going to practice walking a few steps backward on the Canadian crutches. The previous week, I came as close as I ever had to falling, while attempting to walk backward and sit down. Both Chris and I were surprised that I had such difficulty walking a few steps backward.

As I was walking past the same patient who had complimented me earlier, she asked me if I "worked out?" I said that I did. She commented to her therapist, David, that she could tell I worked out because of how strong I appeared. She went on to say that her physical problems paled in comparision to mine. She continued to say that she had never seen such determination and again she thought I was amazing.

I thanked her for her comments and told her how good she made me feel. Actually those positive comments she gave me set the mood for my entire day.

It is astounding how far a few kind words can go in making someone feel good about themselves. Receiving positive feedback from others has an  uplifting and longlasting affect on the person who is the object of kind words. I have believed for quite some time that passing along a compliment or two to another makes that person and you feel better. It is a win win situation.

Why then are people so hesitant to compliment others? It doesn't cost anything and the potential benefits are incalculable. I have always tried to applaud the good works or deeds of others through my words because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of a compliment.

It is kind of like telling someone you love them, people don't tell each other how they really feel because often times, they think the other person already knows how they feel; that is not always the case.

A few kind words can go along way in making another person feel better and generally have a brighter outlook on their day and even their lives.

Steve has told me on numerous occasions that he feels people are very guarded with respect to being open about their lives. He feels when you are too open about your life you make yourself vulnerable to others. It is this vulnerability that prevent people from complimenting others. Sometimes individuals are concerned that their kind words may be misconstrued, as a "come on" or otherwise misunderstood, consequently they say nothing. I say, "who cares." I cannot be any other way than what I am. I do not live my life in secrecy as this blogs attests. I am pretty much an open book, what you see and hear from me is pretty much genuine and true.

If I like your outfit, I will tell you, if your hair looks good, I will tell you, if I am proud and thankful you are a part of my life, you will already know it because I have already told you so.

If we could all pay more attention to trying to be kind with not only our words but also our actions the world would be a better place. I have been trying to do my part for a long time and I will continue to do so.

Please join me in making our world a more pleasant place to live. By the way I have I told you lately how happy I am that you take the time to read my blog? Your participation in my life, in and of itself makes me happy, thank you.