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.

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