Monday, December 26, 2011

Ending 2011

I am at my sister Rhonda's house for the Christmas Holidays. This is the first time I have celebrated Christmas at Rhonda's since the loss of my second leg. Last year as you recall I was actually in the hospital during the Christmas holidays having just lost my left leg. The previous year I still had my left leg but while I was home I started having problems which resulted in an emergency trip to a hospital in Indianapolis. The year before that I had lost my right leg and was unable to go home to Indianapolis and Rhonda and her family brought Christmas to my house as a surprise.

Needless to say I am thankful to have a medically problem free Christmas celebration this year. I guess the day after Christmas my thoughts are turning toward this upcoming new year, what goals I will set and what I hope to accomplish in 2012.

I have recently talked about the short leg program I am currently undertaking, thus far I have made some strides (figuratively). At physical therapy I have been learning how to fall properly
and get back up from a fall. I know it may sound strange to speak about falling properly, but there are ways in which to fall that can help prevent serious injury to your face and head. It is surprising to me that learning to get back up onto these shortened legs from the ground is fairly easy, maybe it is because I am not that far from the ground to begin with.

I feel that after these holidays have passed it is time to really focus on learning to walk proficiently and undertake household chores and the like while wearing the "baby legs." As I have already mentioned, this graduated short leg protocol dictates that before the legs can be lengthened, the prosthetist and therapist will determine that I have reached the highest level of skill possible on the shortest leg length and I will then ready to move up to a longer length of legs.

Based on what I have experienced thus far, I don't think this will be as quick as I has originally hoped. This entire leg loss experience has been wrought with the usual complications of getting the legs to fit properly and comfortably, the short leg procedure has demonstrated already it's share of problems.

Visualization and a willingness to succeed are qualities I will invoke to assist me in achieving my goal. I know that it really doesn't matter how long it takes to achieve a goal, what really matters is reaching the summit and the self satisfaction I derive from my accomplishments. However, I hope to move on to a longer length within the next four to six months if not sooner, time will tell.

Life is always full of ups and downs, twists and turns, fear of the unknown and if we are going to grow as human beings we have to learn to go with life's flow. Part of the flow is learning to take the situations that are  beyond our control and use them as life lessons. Imparting the knowledge we have gained through our life lessons to others and being receptive to knowledge given by others to us through their experiences.

As a new year is upon us, I look forward to a year of hope, happiness, prosperity, accomplishment and joy, all of these wishes I impart to you.

By the way I got a book from my younger sister, Delpha, called, "Writing the Memoir, From Truth to Art" by Judith Barrington, thus has begun the research into how I will write a book. A great way to start a new year....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

One Year Later

On Wednesday December 8, 2010 I had just returned from a ten day Caribbean cruise with my friend, Shawn, his sister Lisa and her husband Dan. I worked out everyday at the gym on the ship, I was tan, fit and happy.

I was excited to get back to my regular routine of working out at Cheetah  Gym, and seeing my friends, while at the same time anticipating the holidays with my sister, Rhonda, her family and all the joy that it brings.

Before I embarked on the cruise I had gone to Rush University Medical Center to have a blood flow test, conducted as a precautionary measure to help alleviate any worry that I would have any vascular issues while at sea or portside in a foreign country.

Fortunately the test found the blood flow through the remaining left leg and foot satisfactory, that finding gave me the green light I needed to go forward with the cruise.

Bear in mind I  had undergone quite a lot of problems with my left leg earlier in the year 2010 and in the latter part of 2009. During the course of 2009-2010 I had three vein by-passes, one bout with compartment syndrome, and tests too numerous to mention.

Of course since the loss of my right leg in July 2008, I had entertained thoughts about the possibility of losing my remaining left leg (who wouldn't?). These thoughts gave me pause. I never dwelled on the thought of losing my left leg because such thoughts I felt were unhealthy and counterproductive. However, I wouldn't be human if had not considered the possibility of losing my one remaining leg.

I remember disclosing the thought to my friend, Ruth, that I didn't know if I could carry on, if I lost my left leg. I felt that life would be too difficult and I would have no quality of life left.

On Saturday December 18, 2010 I went to Cheetah Gym at 7:00 am as I did every Saturday that I was physically able. I did my usual ninety minute workout, hugged my friend Rick good bye, as I always did, then took the elevator downstairs. I bumped into another friend of mine, Carl, we talked for a few minutes and I was on my merry way.

I was by the locker room when I finished the conversation with Carl, I walked about sixty feet to an area with couches, computers and the entrance doors. By the time I had walked that sixty feet something dramatic and forever life altering had occurred.

The blood clots I had experienced in the past and have spoken of often,  I describe as a water faucet being turned on or being turned off. At first the water (my blood) is flowing, like the turned on faucet and then the faucet is turned off (an occlusion or clot) and the flow stops.

One of the most insidious things about blood clots is their unpredictability, one moment you are fine, the next you are in a dire situation.

I suppose it is human nature to teeter on the brink of denial, especially if you have medical issues.

I knew when I sat on the couch near the entrance to Cheetah Gym, I was experiencing a blood clot, after all I had many similar  physical symptoms on numerous previous occasions. In that sixty foot walk from the locker room area to the front of the gym, a blood clot had solidified, significantly, if not completely, compromising the blood flow to the lower part of my left leg and foot.

It took about thirty minutes for sufficient blood flow to be established before I was able to walk to my car and drive home. I knew in my heart of hearts I was in deep trouble. I immediately dove into the pool of denial.

I prayed to God to not let it be true. I am no stranger to God or to prayer, I do not use prayer only in times of trouble. I prayed and pray regularily not only for help but also to give thanks. My prayers of praise and gratitude to God for the blessings bestowed upon me were and are a part of my everyday life.

The rest of that Saturday I tried to believe that I was mistaken about this blood clot. I knew I wasn't mistaken but you want it to be imaginary, a self deducing miscalculation. You may deny something all you want and wish it to be untrue, but the physical truth is there to be felt and seen whether you want it to be or not.

I was afraid to remove my shoe and sock, out of the fear of what I would find. Sure enough when I did look at my naked foot, it was as cold as ice and as white as snow. The sight of that frightful paleness and the feel of that coldness hits you in the pit of your stomach.

Tears began to stream down my face. I realized that something I had hoped would never happen, had in fact, happened.

I spent the rest of that long day and sleepless night lying in bed with my left leg draped over the side with a heating pad trying to warm my cold semi-lifeless foot and leg.

Of course this feeling of denial is superseded by the pain of muscles starved for their life sustaining blood. It is an achiness difficult to describe in words and about as uncomfortable as is possible. The relentless coldness, numbness, lack of color and utter helplessness I felt, led me to call my assistant to drive me to the hospital emergency room, early Sunday morning December 19.

The rest is  bit of a blur. I know they were obiviously unable to save my leg. A complete collapse of all the bypasses had occurred.

I had contacted one of my sisters, Rhonda, either before I left for the hospital or after I arrived to inform her of the occurance. I waited because I did not want to alarm her unecessarily.

I am not sure of the exact day or date of the amputation of my left leg, somewhere a day or two before Christmas 2010.

You may be thinking why is he recalling all of this? Well, tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the beginning of the end of my left leg. Monumental events that occur in our lives leave indelible scars that shape our present circumstances and our present day outlook.

This blog,, came about as a result of losing my left leg in December 2010. I always strive to be honest about what has happened to me. I thought the recollection of what led me to where I am today, would help you understand me, what I have overcome, and where my life is.

Please don't think I write these things to evoke sympathy or as a way of fishing for compliments about my ability to overcome adversity.

My hope is that these words will help someone, anyone, realize we as human beings and with God's help, have the ability and strength to carry on.

If my words reach someone who is feeling the same helplessness I felt or grappling with hopelessness, I want my words to be a beacon of  hope for them or for you.

As The Bible says, and I am paraphrasing, "a lamp is not lit to be hidden under a basket, but to be placed on a lampstand to bring light to the entire room." My interpretation is that if my experiences can be of service and or comfort to another I am going to share them and perhaps make someone see things from a different perspective.  

I feel privileged to be in a position to tell my story and share my words with others and there by be a small glimmer of light and hope to someone else's future.

I think the drastic manifestation of my complete leg loss was meant to bring me here to share my story and to help my fellow man live better, more hopeful and thankful lives.

I hope this path I walk, this blog I write and this life I live, brings love, hope and compassion to you and to our world.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Finding a Creative Outlet

Art has kept me sane. I have found that throughout all of my medical ordeals it has been my passion for creating art that has helped keep me on track.

When I paint or draw or even contemplate my next art creation those processes help  me to release negativity, frustration and boredom. When you are in a situation similar to mine, keeping your hands and mind busy with constructive endeavors help to eliminate stress.

While focussing on creating a painting for example, my mind is preoccupied with what I will do, how I will do it, and then the actual creation of my art. If I did not create creations my mind might want to wander into dangerous territories like self pity, worry, anger, frustration and the like.

I have always been interested in artisitic types of things, drawing, painting, or anything that involved creativity. I am so thankful I have that type of mind, a mind that looks for and seeks to create beauty.

If you are disabled or become disabled it is particularily important that you seek out for yourself a passion of some sort. That passion could be just about anything, reading, cooking, music, putting together model airplanes, sewing, it doesn't matter. What really matters is that you find something that interests you in your life and pursue it.

For me, art is almost a spiritual experience. I get lost in my artwork, creating it, improving it and analyzing it. It is hard, if not imossible, to worry about the problems in your life while you are focussed on your passion, be it art or something else. It is this concentration of  focus in areas that bring you joy, that become a healthy escape from sometimes unpleasant life circumstances.

I remember my beloved best friend, Kevin, and how he always complained to me he didn't have any hobbies. I never understood that about him. Unfortunately, he was unable to develop a mindset that enabled him to see that he had great people skills and an ability to make people laugh. He could have become a comedian if he had worked at it. He was also a great cook, but he never pushed himself in that area. His lack of focus in a particular area of his life caused him much frusrtation and self critizing, leaving him with unfounded feelings of worthliness and failure.

As you may know, before the loss of my legs I used  to be an interior decorative painter. I created faux finishes, murals, gold leafing, and a myriad of wall and ceiling treatments. Naturally after the leg loss, I am physically unable to continue doing such demanding types of work. Fortunately while working as a decorative painter, and even before then, I drew and painted on paper and canvas. After I was unable to work at such a physical level, I still had my canvas painting to fall back on.

Without my art I  would not be in such a good psychological state, with respect to my outlook, in essence, my art has greatly enhanced, if not saved my life.

Lately I started a small business creating 12" X 12" paintings on canvas that feature children and baby's names. It brings me such joy to create these "mini murals" on canvas. It is reminscient of when I created full room size murals for children's rooms and nursuries, but on a much smaller and more managable scale.

Creativity in all of it's forms, I believe is a gift from God and through God. Your creative outlet whether it is visual art, music, writing or whatever it may be, is an outlet by which we as human beings can funnel our energy to an area that not only benefits us as an individual but to society as a whole.

It was by suggestion of my nephew, Justin, I started writing this blog. What has happened is I have discovered another creative release for myself, writing. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting my thoughts together and voicing them through the writing of this blog. It has not only improved my writing (some readers have told me) but has been a cathartic valve releasing what could have become pent up frustration, while at the same time giving me the opportunity to analyze myself and my thought processes, and finally, perhaps saying something meaningful and benefical to others at the same time.

I had a bumper sticker one time that said, "Everyone is an Artist." I believe that is a true statement. Everyone has some type of creativity, the secret is to learn to tap into it and let it bring you joy,  the elusive joy everyone is always seeking.

The writing of this blog segment has been part of my creative release valve for today and I thank you for participating in that joy with me.

By the way if you want to see some of those mini paintings I mentioned earlier, you may want to check out my website: I hope you like what you see. Bye for now.