Monday, October 29, 2012


If you are not happy with the way things are now, you will never be happy. Happiness can be elusive, something you are always seeking but somehow never finding. It is easy to find things to be unhappy about, your looks, your finances, your weight, your lack of accomplishment, the list is endless.

I have had people say to me that they are amazed at how happy I seem to be. Usually I answer by saying, "Really?" Do you think so?

My friend Steve said to me yesterday that are so many people who have lives that seem to be less troubled than yours and yet they seem to be more unhappy than he says I appear to be.

Certainly we all have varying degrees of happiness depending on what is going on in our lives at any particular moment. I do try to be a happy person most of the time. I tend to shy away from thoughts of self-pity and of focussing on what I do not have or have lost.

Things are the way they are. We can only do the best that we can given the circumstances in which  we find ourselves. For me, happiness is not that difficult to achieve. I make a conscious effort to be happy about the good in my life.

Currently I am happy about finding a roommate after an exhaustive five month search. Even though my new roommate, Drew, will only be here for six months, it will give me much needed financial relief, that makes me happy.

I am happy to have such a beautiful condo and I am thrilled that despite the loss of both of my legs I am able to live independently.

What brings me the greatest happiness is the love and support I receive from my family and friends.  My life would be so much different if I didn't have a family who I knew I can count on to always be here for me.

I have written many times about the importance of friendship in my life. I do not think the quality I find in my life would be nearly as fulfilling and satisfying without the continued support of my friends.

Anyone could easily find reasons not to be happy and wallow in a pit of how awful their lives are, I choose not to do that, even though with the loss of my legs it would very easy to do.

I want to be a happy person and so I seek and find reasons to be happy. When this whole leg loss nightmare reared it's ugly head, I knew I could be aimed toward a life of difficulty, self-pity and potential unhappiness.

Granted, my life has had its share of difficulty but somehow I have always had a flame of hope that has continued to flicker.

No one is ever happy 100% of the time, but we do have some control of our personal happiness.

Do I think some people are predisposed to being happier than others? Possibly, there do seem to be individuals who see the positive aspect of situations more readily than others. However, I think  we could all invest time in trying to be more positive about our lives.

Some people have told me that I live in a PollyAnna world, seeing the world through rose colored glasses. It is true I have a tendency to see the good in people and situations, if I can.

As I have demonstrated through the writing of this blog over the past nearly two years, I also feel discouragement, impatience, disappointment, and host of other negative emotions. What I try not to do is get locked into those emotions foe an extended period of time.

I feel that if I want to deal successfully with being a bilateral transfemerol amputee, I must continue down a path that is optimistic, always searching for and finding a little bit of happiness along the way.

If that is being a PollyAnna than so be it, I am happy to fulfill that role....I think it beats the alternative.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Utilizing All of Your "Tools"

When I was at the prosthetist's office a couple of weeks ago, Jason, my prosthetist, and I were having a discussion and we wound up talking about how amputees sometimes end up using all of their various walking aids to help them accomplish whatever is needed at that time to get the job done.

For example, I use my long legs when I drive, I walk with my walker and long legs from my wheelchair to my car and get in. When I climb stairs, I use my short legs because climbing stairs in my long legs is not possible for me at this time.

If I have to cover a long distance or if time and  or fatigue enter the picture, I resort to using my wheelchair.

For a long time I felt as if I needed to use only one "tool," namely my short legs, and as a consequence of that feeling, I began to have guilt about not utilizing them as much as perhaps I should.

The fact of the matter is, as it turns out, that it is the combination of the canes, the walker, the shortlegs, the long legs and the wheelchair that seem to enable me to do the most various of tasks, choosing the appropriate tools suited to the appropriate job at hand.

As stated previously, this whole life as an amputee is an ever-evolving event. As time goes by, we as amputees, figure out what works best for each of us as individuals and also what means of ambulation we will use.

I feel blessed to have at my disposal all of the tools I need to accomplish most things I set out to do. I think this realization, which has taken a long time to arrive, has taught me that there is no right or wrong way to accomplishment, which then allows me to continue down my path to autonomy.

Last week I stained the balcony deck of the condo unit above mine. I knew I would not be able to do it in my long, and sometimes cumbersome, legs, nor would I be able to use my wheelchair, except as a means to get upstairs.

I donned my short legs and sat on the balcony deck and did my work. That seemingly simple job, staining a small deck, gave me a real feeling of accomplishment, in addition to earning a little money.

Sometimes what should have been a simple realization can take a long time to manifest itself. My ephipheny of sorts, was that using all of the tools available to me to accomplish various things is the simplest and most efficient way to live my life.

Let me make just one qualifying statement regarding my new realization, that is: just because I choose to use my short legs or wheelchair or whaever to accomplish a certain task, does not preclude me from continuing to try to improve my usage of the long legs and never give up on my goal of walking proficiently on them.

If you are new to this whole "life as an amputee" world it would behoove you to broaden your horizons and realize there is no right or wrong way to accomplishment.

Whatever means you use to reach a particular goal is perfectly fine. Don't get caught up in the method you used to complete a task, as I did, but rather, rejoice in the fact you dared to do something and you got it done.

It is certainly better to utilize whatever means that are necessary to perpetuate self-sufficiency than it is to do nothing at all and become dependant on others for everything. At least, that is the way I see it.

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Monday, October 8, 2012


I was recently reading an article in the magazine "In Motion" a publication produced by the Amputee Coalition, about the statistics of employment with regard to amputees.

I found the statistics interesting because I felt as if my situation was an unusual one. As it turns out only 20% of wheelchair and walker users are employed. Think about that, 80% of persons in wheelchairs or those who use walkers are unemployed, a staggering statistic.

It has not been easy for me to try to earn extra income. Needless to say I cannot do the interior decorative painting I used to do and enjoyed doing so much. Imagine yourself suddenly unable to do a job you have trained so hard to do through education or actual experience and then not being able to do it any longer.

Occasionally I am able to sell some of my artwork and I feel blessed to be able to at least contribute a little to my income through my artisitic ability.

When you lose one limb, even above the knee, and if you were able to keep one natural leg intact, your life isn't nearly as dramatically impacted as when you lose both legs, especially both legs above the knee.

I have discussed in past blog posts the repercussions of bilateral above knee amputation. It is not easy to forestall feelings of guilt about your inability to remain financially independent, the toll it takes on your income and the emotional impact of it on your psyche.

The degree of difficulty you may find depends on many contributing factors surrounding your limb loss.

One consideration to take into account is what it was that lead to your disability. If you lost a limb(s) through a traumatic incident like an accident or an act of war, chances are after the long and arduous recovery period, the rest of your body may recover almost fully.

Contrast that scenario with limb loss attained through the progression of disease, such as diabetes or vascular issues. Those persons may never fully recover physically to the same degree that an individual who sustained traumatic injury was able to recover. However the psycohological impact of traumatic injury I feel is greater than loss through disease.

Those who have suffered limb loss through disease may have compromised blood flow throughout other areas of their body  and have to deal with  the actual degenerative nature of the disease as it progresses.

As we know my leg losses were through vascular issues, namely chronic blood clots resulting in poor blood flow to my legs and feet. These factors may have contributed to my compromised ability to walk again especially with regard to endurance.

My main point is that your capacity to seek and find employment is dependent upon many factors.

Another consideration is the age at which you lost your limbs, assuming they were not a congenitial disorder. The earlier in your life you have lost a limb, a sad and unfortunate happenstance at any age, can work to your advantage at least slightly because you are younger,  presumably stronger and can adapt more readily to change.

Additionally, when you are young you can adapt your future vocation and educational level based on your disability, seeking education and or training that take into account what you are physically capable of doing.

When you suffer limb loss later in life, adjustment isn't as easy and there is not as much time to seek and fulfill further education to help you develop new skills more adapted to your disability.

I hope this does not come across to my readers as excuses for not trying to do your best in all circumstances. I am simply trying to point out factors and situations you may not have considered previously.

For me it has been a soul searching mission to try to figure out at age 55 (in three weeks) what I can and will do in my future to stay actively seeking ways to sustain my own well being. I am constantly searching for creative new ways of making money and will continue to do so.

Currently I make a meager contribution with my artwork, which could get better, and I am actively seeking a roommate to help contribute to my household income.

Tomorrow I am staining the balcony of my upstairs neighbor, not a lot of money, but it helps. Staining the balcony shouldn't be that difficult for me, after all few people are closer to the ground than I am wearing my short legs.

By the way having a sense of humor about your situation isn't a bad idea either.

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