Friday, February 5, 2010

Ups and Downs of Plastic and Titanium

I have recently realized that I don't write much about being an amputee on this blog. It is so much a part of my life, yet so little of it, since I generally get around pretty well.

But it occurred to me that I have a unique experience, living this life as a mom with one leg, so I am going to make more of an effort to share with you the little quirks that you might not experience, if you are living with two legs.

I like to dwell on the positive things in life but sometimes I need to share more of the struggles too. Just so you can understand a bit more what an amputee life is all about.

For instance, I use a shower chair, which makes the tub pretty crowded for my two legged family members. So not only do we have the usual 'discussions' in our house, about which way the toilet paper should roll, and whose job it is to put the toilet seat down, but we also have never really agreed about who should put the chair back when it's getting in the way of regular bathroom traffic. The person who stumbled over it? The person who last used it? (me). Just like the other issues, it usually just comes down to mom caving in and doing it. (I have to give him credit, Jeff is also good about moving it back, it's mainly the kids who think it's invisible, even if they've just tripped over it)

I only take off my leg at night, when I'm getting ready for bed. So I have to be strategic in the bedtime hours. I can't just 'hop up' to do some last minute chore that didn't come to mind until I was perched in bed. I either con one of the kids into it, hint like crazy until Jeff does it, or let it wait until morning. (most likely)

Putting my leg on is easy, and doesnt take that long, but it's just not convenient for a quick errand. I would equate it, in time and effort, to putting on your tennis shoes. So imagine that you are in bed and you remember you forgot to write that appointment on the calendar so you want to just pop over to the office and jot it down. Before you can do that, you have to put both shoes on, then tie them. (then untie them and take them both off when you get back to bed) Not a problem, just not worth the effort for a small chore.

Even getting up to go to the bathroom in the night is a gamble. When you wake up and realize you 'kinda' need to go, but are not desperate, if you knew you'd have to put on both shoes then tie them, would you do it?

One of the truly negative consequences of my limb situation happened this morning. At 5:30 a.m. I'd had yet another night with no sleep. On my third night of dealing with a nasty case of strep throat, I had hoped I could finally get a good nights sleep, since I'd started antibiotics the previous afternoon. No such luck. Another endless night of waking up every time I had to swallow. Another night of rolling around, never finding a comfortable spot, watching the numbers on the clock click by.

By 5 a.m. I realized I needed to go to the bathroom. Might as well, I thought, since I was awake anyway. I sat up, tried to moan quietly so I wouldn't disturb poor hubby's last minutes of sleep, then sat for a few minutes with my head in my hands, so frustrated that I still felt so crappy.

I swung my legs over the side of the bed, went through the motions of putting on my leg, then stumbled through the room to the bathroom. More quiet moaning with head in hands, as I did my business.

I stumbled back to bed, trying to be optimistic that I could get at least a half hour more of sleep before the day began. I reached down and pushed the button that, in normal situations, would release my leg out of the socket. Nothing moved. My leg was stuck on my body.

Having no energy or patience to deal with it, my first response was to just fall back on my pillows and sob. All I'd wanted to do was go potty and get back to bed. Ten steps, max, to the toilet and back. Not a big deal for most people. And on most days, not a big deal for me.

But for some reason, this morning, it became a big deal, because I could not get my leg off.

You might wonder why I didn't just sleep in my leg. I could have. And in my mental state, I probably should have. But it feels really confining when I'm in bed, not to mention it has a shoe on my fake foot so it catches the covers in an awful way. It's like you going to bed in hiking boots.

I hated to bother Jeff. I'd disturbed him enough in the past days of moaning and illness and although he's a very patient man, I don't like to bother him if I don't have to.

Of course he woke up and saw me struggling. Without one complaint he got up and came around to help me fix the problem. In the dark. At 5:30 a.m., on a cold NY winter morning.

I have to be honest. When he traipsed off through the living room to get my purse (which contains my leg repair tools) I let myself cry. Quietly sob a few times, then wipe my tears before he came back in the room. I knew it was just frustration. I was so tired. Bone tired. I was so irritated with being sick. I was so mad about not being able to eat for days on end, or feed my family, for that matter. The one night I had hoped to finally sleep had not come to fruition. Oh, and I am pretty confident I've been having what my doc calls 'pre-premenopausal' symptoms, so some hormones could have been playing a role.

But I have to be honest, it was one of the few times I got frustrated about having an artificial leg. I wanted, for just one day, to be able to get up and go to the bathroom without having to worry about my leg getting stuck.

The problem resolved itself pretty quickly but I'm afraid Jeff lost his last hour of sleep. He's a gem. He never complained. It's a part of his life as much as it's a part of mine. He deals with the consequences as much as I do at times.

So there you have it. One of the glitches I live with because I have an artificial leg. The next time you get up to take a quick tinkle in the night, and pad back to bed in your easy, sock covered tootsies, think of me. And appreciate the gift of having two feet.

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