Deep Thoughts From Your Fellow Amputee

Your life WILL change – like, it will change dramatically and you will be a new person. You will hate it at first, because you will go through struggles and tough times. But it will be worth it. When you look back at your life, you’ll appreciate those struggles because they made you who you are today.

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Gifs Courtesy of popsugar.com.au

 

Kids will stare. Much to their parents’ embarrassment, children are welcomingly tactless. They often stare open-mouthed before pointing out the obvious. Most of the time, I smile and reassure them that I am aware that I have robot legs and offer to give them a detailed look at my prosthetics. Despite it being extremely annoying, it is also a good way to educate others about amputees, because we amputees are awesome!

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Gifs Courtesy of buzzfeed.com

 

You can’t park where you want. A blue badge is not a privilege to undermine every parking law invented. Indeed, I am aware of parking regulations. It annoys me when people misuse disabled parking bays to the point of advocating for severe prosecution. On the flip side, I know I sometimes frustrate others. I’ve received more than my fair share of angry glances from people as I walk to my car with my prosthetic legs hidden by pants. As a rule, I try to walk without a limp to prove that amputation doesn’t define me, which gives them even more reason to misunderstand my use of the blue badge.

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Gifs Courtesy of imgur.com

 

New opportunities everywhere. Losing a limb means you are likely to get involved with organizations founded to help those in similar situations. Grab those helping hands, as every opportunity quickly leads to another. You never know where these opportunities can lead you or who you might meet along the way.

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Gifs Courtesy of xclusivetouch.com.uk

 

This brings me on to the last and by far the most important thought:

There’s life beyond injury. Losing a leg or an arm leads to a life that can be worse in many ways, because now you’ll have difficulty in doing many simple tasks. However, I prefer to concentrate on all the ways it is better and all the amazing things I’ve done and still can do despite my missing limbs. Forget about better or worse. Life is just ‘different’ and that’s really important to me. There is life beyond injury. You just have to grab it in any way you can. Don’t get me wrong, though. If I had the chance to redo my life again, I would love to be born “normal” and live the life that most people get to experience. But we don’t get to redo our lives, so I will stick to navigating my amputee journey and continue enjoying its peaks and valleys.

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Gifs Courtesy of reddit.com

 

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4 Things to Consider When You’re a Pregnant Amputee Mommy

Guys, I am so excited for this time of my life, because I am growing a little human inside of me. My weekly pregnancy update from Preggers suggests that he or she is now the size of a sweet potato, and probably just as a delicious! LOL!

IMG_6026-EditBut, I am an amputee, which means I could face some additional challenges that non-amputees don’t have to deal with. Luckily, with proper planning including the tips below, I can continue to live a healthy, active life throughout my pregnancy.

Prosthesis Fit. This is perhaps the biggest challenge pregnant amputees face! A woman’s weight will change drastically throughout her pregnancy, and as we all know, weight fluctuation does affect how your prosthesis fits. I already have gained 3-4 pounds, and I am feeling that my above-the-knee amputee leg is getting a tad bigger.

While you will need to visit your prosthetist to have adjustments made, there are a few things you can do to maintain a healthy weight. There’s a very popular myth that pregnant women should be eating for two. In fact, a woman will only need an additional 300 calories a day to grow her little one!

Another thing to consider is the type of exercise you do. Doing something gentle will fight fatigue, back pain and will help you from gaining too much weight. Activities such as swimming and walking are excellent for you and your body. Gentle exercise can also help prepare your body for labor.

Regular Visits. Since the fit of your prostheses will change during the pregnancy, make sure that you schedule regular visits with your prosthetist. This is especially true during the second and third trimesters, when you’ll experience more swelling in your limbs. Your prosthetist may even create a temporary socket to accommodate dramatic changes.

If you are an above-the-knee amputee like myself, then you will need even more modifications than others. This is due to the presence of more soft tissue in your residual limb.

During Labor. One thing you will need to decide is whether you will wear your prosthesis during labor. Walking a little during the early part of labor can speed up dilation, and it could give you the support you need to bear down while giving birth. I haven’t decided yet what I plan to do, but I have already given it some thought.

After birth. Your weight will again change drastically after you give birth, especially if you breastfeed! It may be hard to make visits to your prosthetist once you’re caring for a little one, so there may be times when you are using crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Invest in a baby sling so you can still carry your baby while using them. I am going to take advantage of my hubby as my baby carrier! 😉 And by the way, it is totally okay to rely on others, especially while you are still recovering yourself!

Remember, your amputation does not affect your ability to give birth to a healthy child. While you may face some physical challenges that other women don’t have during pregnancy, that doesn’t change your ability to be a good mommy!

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Back To School Tips For Parents of Amputee Kiddos

All across the United States, kids and families are gearing up for the new school year. If you don’t believe me, check your FB feed! Kiddos are excited to see old and new friends, meet their new teachers, and of course enter the new grade – well, for the most part.

 

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However, when it comes to child amputees, this time of the year can be a little stressful and it may require a unique set of preparations. So here are some basic reminders for parents to ensure that your amputee kiddos have a smooth Back to School, too!

 

Visit your child’s prosthetist!

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Photo Courtesy of bostonoandp.com

 

As we always say, kids grow up so fast! That is why it is important that you make an appointment with your child’s prosthetist a few weeks before school starts. This appointment is to verify that child’s prosthesis fits well and is comfortable before the school year starts. During this time, your prosthetist can go over helpful tips with you and your child for back to school preparation. Remember to be open and ask questions of your prosthetist, especially if they have been with your child at every stage during their rehabilitation. Don’t forget to stock up on new prosthetic socks and pack an extra in your child’s backpack to ensure they are prepared for any shrinking of the limb.

 

Talk to your child!

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It is important that you sit down with your child and ask questions about their emotional and physical state. Are they physically ready to go back to school? Are they emotionally ready to see their classmates? Are they comfortable with their body image? Make sure you give your child talking points about their prosthesis, so they can feel confident, which will allow them to be social, comfortable, and able to educate their peers about their prosthesis.

 

Can your child stand out too much?

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Photo Courtesy of walesonline.co.uk

 

But what if your child feels like they stand out and not in a good way? As a parent, you have to make sure your child understands that everyone is different—some people have glasses, some have freckles, and some have curly hair. It’s these differences that make people special. Even if your child performs daily tasks differently, make sure they understand that this does not make them less valuable.

 

Education is key!

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Photo Courtesy of charlotteobserver.com

 

Usually, a new school year means your child will have a new teacher that might not understand ins and outs of amputation. Make sure you take the time to educate the teacher and staff on your child’s prosthesis, and that they are comfortable enough to answer questions other children may have. There’s nothing wrong with educating the teachers and kids about the prostheses. It will only help the amputee child with confidence in himself and understanding and acceptance from others.

 

Bullying and discrimination!

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Photo Courtesy of makeameme.org

 

Finally, the ugly topic of bullying. Let your child know that it is never okay if they are bullied or made fun of because of their disability. That leads me to mention another topic – be an advocate for your child. Speak up for them if you feel they are not receiving the care he or she needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including work, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.  Remember to include your son or daughter in different clubs and after-school activities. The school year is about learning and continuing to grow with new experiences, including educating your child and their peers about disability and acceptance.

Continue watching those FB posts of kids going back to school. And remember, we are all in this together. We are here to lift our kids up, help them have good experiences, and grow into adults they will someday become. Happy Back To School 2018!

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Product Spotlight: Knit-Rite Knee Interface

Have you ever had to wear a knee brace?  If so, you’ve probably been faced with a difficult dilemma.  Do you wear your brace under your pants and risk irritating your skin or over your pants and tackle the bunching and bulky uncomfortableness?  What you really need is a knee interface.

Knee Interfaces from Knit-Rite are worn snug against the skin under a knee brace.  The interface works as a comfortable and protective barrier between the brace and your skin, preventing and protecting from abrasions caused from the brace.  Knee Interfaces can also be worn alone – without a knee brace – for comfort or skin protection.

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Unlike many knee sleeves, the Knit-Rite Knee Interfaces are easy to put on and take off.  The products contain multi-directional stretch designed to allow a wide range of activities.  This 4-way stretch moves with your body during any activities without inhibiting any type of activity or movement. Our knee interfaces allow good circulation and are not as bulky as a neoprene garment.  The interfaces can also easily be worn under clothing.

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Our knee interfaces provide supportive compression, which will help to reduce any pain or swelling in the leg and knee.

Knit-Rite knee interfaces contain 30-40mmHg of gradient compression at a 50% stretch.

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Knee interfaces are available in a variety of options.  Color options include black, white and grey.  Sizing is measured in inches and includes 6, 7, 8 and 9.  Two lengths are available, also – a shorter 18 inch length and a longer 20 inch length.  Finally, you can choose either a straight or tapered sleeve.

Knit-Rite, Inc. Knee Interfaces can be purchased on Amazon!  Search for Knee Interface or click here!

How To Regain Confidence As An Amputee?

Today, let’s discuss this wonderful word called confidence!

 

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Photo Courtesy of giphy.com

 

Why? Well, because lately, I’ve been asked about confidence a lot, by both amputees and non-amputees. I imagine this is because others see me as a confident individual. But, I want to share with you that it has not always been that way. It took a lot of hard work and soul-searching to get to where I am today. And, guess what?! I still have my “off” days.

As a kid, growing up in a boarding school where I was the only kid with prosthetic legs, I was bullied and made fun of a lot because of my disability. I remember always wearing pants so that nobody would know that I wear two prosthetic legs. I didn’t want people to know. I didn’t want people to ask me questions – though I still don’t like questions. Most importantly, I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me because I hated pity. It made me feel weak and worthless.

Becoming more confident was a journey for me, and this journey continues today. Below are some of the tips that have helped me along my journey to become more confident. I want to preface this by saying what worked for me may not work for everyone. But, I still want to share my own experiences in hopes they can help someone else.

I hope some of these tips help you to become more confident with yourself. If not, please do not become discouraged, because I know everyone can become more confident in time.

 

Stay positive!

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Photo Courtesy of wanna-joke.com

 

Negative thoughts are toxic, overwhelming, and can really be a harm to your confidence. As tough as it may be, the best way to fight negativity is with persistent positivity. Restructuring negative thoughts into positive thoughts can be a great help. I’ve found that assuming the best of a situation greatly affects how I feel about it. For example, if I catch someone staring at me, I assume they think my prosthetic legs are cool, rather than assuming they think they’re “weird.” More than likely, they are curious and find prosthetics interesting anyway.

However, if a negative thought does enter your mind, pause and try to replace it with a positive one. If you are unable to do so in the moment, allow yourself time to cool off and relax before revisiting the thought. Try writing the negative thought onto a piece of paper and writing a positive thought next to it. Sometimes it is difficult to think with positivity, especially in the moment. But, once you get into a habit, it becomes much easier.

 

Set Goals.

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Photo Courtesy of yourdost.com

Achieving something that challenges you can be a huge confidence booster. Challenges don’t have to be physical. Maybe you just want to eat healthier or be able to speak in front of a group. Just remember, bigger goals can be accomplished by meeting smaller goals. A challenge doesn’t even have to appear challenging. It could simply be trying something new.

A big challenge for me was running. I physically couldn’t run, because I don’t have legs. But, once I received my running blades, I learned that I loved it. Now I realized that I can set running goals and possibly achieve them. Running a marathon isn’t easy. But several years ago, I set this big goal. It took me two years to achieve it, but what matters is that I did it. I finished it. This goal definitely boosted my confidence as an athlete and reminded me that if I really want something, I just have to work hard and trust the process, even if it will takes many years!

Don’t worry about others’ opinions.

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Photo Courtesy of giphy.com

 

This is a big one for me, and I still struggle with it. I had to put it into my mind that others’ opinions simply do not matter when it comes to my wellbeing. For years, I was afraid to wear shorts because I feared what people would think when they saw my prosthetic legs. I finally started wearing shorts, and I found that over time it became much easier to not care if I noticed someone staring at me.

Currently, I do not care what others think when they look at my legs, but I do find myself caring what others think of my personality. At this point in my life, however, I must remind myself that I am who I am. I will not change myself to please others, because that would cause me to sacrifice part of my core being. Letting go of worries about what others think about me is liberating.

 

Celebrate small things.

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Photo Courtesy of vinepair.com

 

Really, you’ve made it this far in life, and that is fantastic! Life deserves little celebrations. There’s no need to do anything big. You could simply decide to buy a muffin with your coffee to celebrate completing a project at home or work. Your celebration could even be a mental pat on the back for crossing something off of your to-do list. Speaking of to-do lists, feeling like you have accomplished something can give your self-esteem a boost. It can be as simple as making a to-do list that includes items like “wash hair” and “put dirty dishes in the dishwasher.” At the end of the day, it just feels nice to have accomplished something, even if that something is just crossing “put on pants” from your list. Now go have a glass of wine as a celebration! LOL

It’s ok to have bad days.

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Photo Courtesy of buzzfeed.com

 

No one can be fully confident 100% of the time. Some days are more difficult than others, and sometimes setbacks arise which make life difficult. Do not beat yourself up if you are having a bad day. Instead, try to find a way to salvage the day. Sometimes the “bad” times last longer than you would like, but trying your best to pull yourself out of a funk is the best thing you can possibly do.

One final point to consider is that everyone is different! While the above tips have been helpful for me, they may not be helpful for everyone. What works for one person, does not always work for others. The best thing to do to become more confident is to simply try!

 

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Photo Courtesy of gifpal.com

 

Do not give up. The journey to becoming more confident is a cross-country marathon, not a sprint. It will take time and there will be obstacles, but eventually you will succeed.

I am confident that you’ll find confidence. It’s out there, go get it (with a glass of wine.)

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Job Interview Tips for Amputees

Starting a new career or returning to your old one* after an extended absence can be a terrifying proposition for anybody. Trying to find your way back into the “groove” of the hustle and bustle of the working world takes time and effort. When you’re returning to work after an amputation, these fears are multiplied. You may have the added stress of introducing the world to the “new” you.

The first step for many amputees returning to the job market is the interview. The American’s with Disabilities Act states that you do not have to reveal any disability during your interview, and it is illegal for the interviewer to ask about disabilities. I didn’t know this when I went for my first interview. I walked in and immediately told the interviewing panel that I was an amputee, but it wouldn’t affect my ability to function.

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Photo Courtesy of Haley Sedlacek & Kelsie Bailes

 

So… here are some basic tips for a job interview:

  1. Dress up for the job. First impression is always a winner!
  2. Be calm and poised. Speak slow and clear.
  3. Remember, you don’t have to reveal your disability.
  4. Know what questions can and cannot be asked during the interview. Check out the Equal Employment Opportunity Center for resources on job interviews as a person with a disability.
  5. Once you have a job offer, it is acceptable to ask about how you can perform the job with or without accommodations.
  6. You can ask for reasonable accommodation, but depending on the size of the company or the stress it places on the company, accommodations can be denied.
  7. Most importantly, be confident.

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Photo Courtesy of motivation.media.com

 

I look at it this way. I’m a part of an elite group – one that makes up approximately 0.63% of the population of the United States. We are survivors. We have survived life missing a limb – no matter if it’s congenital, a medical condition, or a trauma. So, when you walk into your interview, you are already far ahead of the rest of the applicants. You have proven that you can endure more than 99.37% of the rest of the United States. You can’t put that on a resume, but you can walk in with the knowledge that you’re stronger than the rest. Keep your head held high and your shoulders back. Answer every question with authority, and turn negatives into positives. Finally, start your interview with introductions and small talk, and leave the same way you walked in. Follow this advice, regardless if you think you aced the interview or bombed it.

Good luck!

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*See FMLA guidelines for handling situations where you are returning to work following an absence from work after an injury.

Couples Goals – Our First Triathlon!

Guys! I did my first official triathlon just last weekend! Okay, well, I didn’t do it completely by myself. My husband John was kind enough to be my teammate and we did it together! #couplesgoals

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The 34th Annual Open Options Shawnee Mission Triathlon and Duathlon occurred at Shawnee Mission Park in Lenexa, Kansas and took athletes throughout the most visited park in the state that serves as a 1,250-acre urban refuge. Additionally, the course joined the Mill Creek Streamway Trail offering asphalt pathways snaking along the stream and through hillside forests.

With a Short Triathlon Course, a Long Triathlon Course, and a Duathlon Course, there was something for every athlete ranging in experience from the first-timer to the seasoned veteran.

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This Triathlon was more than just a competition. It is also a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and resources for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the greater Kansas City area. How cool is that? 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first one, and I absolutely loved it! John and I chose the Short Triathlon Course. It consisted of a 500-meter open water swim, a 9-mile hilly bike ride and a 3.1-mile run. I did the swimming and running, and John did the biking part of the course.

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Because it was our first time, I didn’t push myself much, (maybe that’s why we didn’t place 😉 ) because I wanted to enjoy this race and come back next year with this experience and wonderful memory. …And we are definitely coming back. We both were very pleased with everyone at the race. Whether it was people helping me get into and out of the water, volunteers or staff – it was perfect!

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Thank you to everyone at the Shawnee Mission Triathlon for a memorable experience! We look forward to starting our training, improving our results, and possibly placing next year!

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