Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Don't Believe Everything You Hear

I have been following the results of a series of questions posed by a woman on a website called, "Empowering Amputees." These questions were about what people experienced through their limb loss.

The results were varied and the attitudes of the respondees ranged from optimistic to down right bitter. I would say the overridding common responses were that people should not believe all that they are told with regard to what they will be able to achieve after the loss of a limb. Often times thay can achieve much more than what they were originally told.

It should come as no surprise that the amputee is as successful in their attempt to "overcome" their disability as their particular attitude, willingness to work, and their experiences with various heathcare professionals, especially, the prosthetist and physical therapist.

I was surprised by the number of amputees in the survey  that had experienced problems with their prosthetic limbs and or their prosthetist. Granted, we will all have problems with our prosthetics and  some will have difficulty with their prosthetist. Perhaps we should not look at them as problems, but rather  a new reality. Learning to accept your new prosthetics, learning how to use them, and realizing it will take time to get the right fit and build up a tolerance to wearing them, is now a part of your life, don't look at it as a problem, just reality.

What I have learned throughout my ordeal is that prosthetic limbs are like a car engine, it needs to have adjustments made periodically, like rotating the tires or changing the oil. The job of a  prosthetist is a daunting one, trying to mimic the natural abilities of  natural legs or arms using a mechanical device.

I learned early on that you need to establish a good relationship with your prosthetist, if that is unattainable, you need to find a new prosthetist. A good healthy bond between you and your prosthetist is essential, after all they may be a critical deciding factor in your success, and more likely than not, be a part of your life as an amputee.

I remember when I first started dealing with a prosthetist, I felt I was complaining to them about every little thing, I felt I was being a nuisance. This could not be farther from the truth. A prosthetist can only be as good a problem solver as you are in your ability to explain what you are feeling when you wear your prosthetic limb.

A prosthetist can't read your mind nor can they try to fix something unless they  know a problems exists and what the problem is.

The degree of your limb loss can and does vary greatly among amputees. I know from personal experience that being a bilateral transfemoral amputee is much more difficult than having lost only one of your legs or being a below the knee amputee. Having a knee component on at least one leg or being a below knee amputee puts you at a great advantage over someone who has neither knee component, be thankful for that.

Several of the participants in this survey, I spoke of earlier, explained that they were told they would not be able to do this or that. The fact of the a matter it depends on each individual. Some may have thought that I, being a bilateral above knee amputee, would never be able to sustain myself, maintain an independant  living environment and live alone, and yet I have.

You learn new ways to do old things. You find ways to shower, to drive, to use the bathroom, cook, do laundry, etc. Your ability to be creative in approaching new ways to do things you used  do easily, is critical. Don't assume you can't do it, instead figure out a way to do it,  but do it differently, while at the same time still accomplishing the task. Of course some things will be impossible, but more are possible than are not possible, and that has to be your mindset, if you are going to be successful.

Having a correct attitude, being creative, working toward achievable goals, and establishing a good relationship with the healthcare workers you deal with, will make your life as an amputee, a little easier and hopefully, a lot happier.


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