When I lost my left leg I had an overwhelming feeling of dread. It's not like breaking your arm or having surgery to repair a hip. It's gone and it isn't coming back. I've had people pray for me. That's nice but I have never, ever heard of an amputee growing a limb back. It would be nice to wake up and see my leg there but it's not something I'm banking on.
I went through a lot of things when I lost my leg. Depression, anger, frustration and the overwhelming feeling that I'd never, ever be a "whole" person again. The first time I stood up in the parallel bars with my prosthetic on I cried. That was when I knew I could beat this. It took a lot of work and physical therapy but I've got closure and consider myself lucky because no matter how bad a day I am having, there is someone out there that has it worse.
A lot of people ask me what it's like to be an amputee. If you want to know what the pain is like, spend about four hours walking around with one shoe on and one shoe off. The shooting, burning pain you feel in your lower back that spreads up to your shoulder blades is a taste of what happens when your stump shrinks up or swells and knocks your back out of alignment.
The phantom pains can be unbearable. It feels like my leg and foot are still there and the pains can vary from a stinging to a throbbing or it can just feel itchy. Now, stop and think about that. If you have an itch, you scratch it but when you have nothing there to scratch it presents a little bit of a problem. Even though it will be five years in September, when my foot or leg itches I will –out of habit – reach down and scratch it.
I have a great sense of humor about it. You have to. Several of the people that were in the rehabilitation hospital with me at the same time killed themselves because they couldn't deal with the pain, depression or lack of mobility. I can do anything two legged people can except play hopscotch and Moon Walk. Swimming is a little odd though because I can't swim a straight line, I tend to go in a large oval. But hey, it beats being dead or being a double amputee.
One of the hardest things to deal with are the stump humpers. They are the people who are attracted to amputees or those who wish that they were amputees. They often get clumped into the same "amputee fetish" but they are different.
Acrotomophilia: Sexual attraction to amputees
Apotemnophilia: Wanting to become an amputee
Why anyone would want to become an amputee still puzzles me; lopping off a perfectly healthy limb just seems moronic. I have been approached many times asking about my limb and if I enjoy "stump worship". To me that's just a little on the creepy side of things. Men have asked if they can rub peanut butter on it and lick it off, others have asked if they could massage it with baby oil. Sorry, my stump isn't something that I rent out for your carnal pleasures.
Being an amputee means wet grass, gavels and twigs are the enemy. I have gotten my prosthetic leg stuck in revolving doors, under the seat in front of me on the train and bus and have had bomb sniffing dogs go absolutely nuts when I walk past them. Why? There is a metal compound inside the pylon that is used for making bombs. Even going to the airport is a chore because I know I am going to get questioned about setting off the metal detector. Now, I am usually wearing cargo shorts and my leg is in plain view. You can see it. Why would you ask me if I have change or keys in my pocket? I know they are doing their job but when they want to take it apart to inspect it I have to draw a line in the sand. If they take it apart it voids the warranty on it and unless they are going to fork out 16K for another leg, they aren't taking it apart.
It's almost impossible to describe what it's like to be an amputee; there are good days and there are bad days. If you've every been on crutches and have lost your balance but not fallen – that's something that happens to me about ten times a day. Wind. Oh, how I loathe thee. Because I have no ankle movement for stability I often look like a mime doings the "walk against the wind" routine. But I take it all in stride. I could be an angry and bitter person but "it" happened for a reason. But I do admit, I'm still terrified of being outside when there's a storm. I'm sort of like a mobile lightening rod.
So count your blessings and when things get a little hectic or overwhelming just remember that things pass, everything happens for a reason and there is always someone out there that has it worse than you.