I strode with confidence toward my leg guy (prosthetist) and stopped in front of him to list my demands.
“I’d like a custom liner for my left leg to match the right one. Do you think I’d be eligible for new sockets because these sleeves keep sliding and the suction isn’t so great and I’d like to look into having fancy schmancy covers for my legs that have toes. Toes! My legs look like Grandma legs and I’m just over it. With the pantyhose and the lumpy ankles…”
I waved my hands around to make my point and I finished with a flourish, “Let’s look into this!” I offered a winning smile. The smile of my 8 year old that will get her way no matter what, this is not negotiable. And then I remembered I’m a grown-up. I pushed my shoulders back, “What do we need to do to make this happen?”
I didn’t plan on becoming an amputee. On my list of ‘things I want to be when I grow up’ under astronaut, nurse or teacher it didn’t say ‘person with missing limbs’. I remember being in awe of Terry Fox as a child. He was and is a national hero. In our schools, on TV, at home we honored this young man who ran across our country with his artificial leg to raise money for cancer research. He had guts, heart. As a seven year old I wondered if I could be like him – did I have guts like that?
Our schools do a Terry Fox run annually and last year I decided to join my daughter for the run, but we walked. As we did our laps around the field Annie informed her friend, who walked with us, “Do you know my mom’s an amputee? She has fake legs. Two of them!”
Her friend nodded and smiled.
Annie took a deep breath. I could see she was about to launch into how it all began. I whispered to her, “It’s okay. We don’t need to get into this now. Let’s keep walking.”
Do you know what’s weird about being an amputee? Almost everything. And, after a while, almost nothing.
Becoming an amputee was shocking, devastating. I woke up to a nightmare, to the message that my life would never be the same. “You’ve lost your right leg, Heidi. And it looks like you will lose your left leg, too.” Dreams of what I would be went up in smoke and I entered a new world of fittings, castings, new terminology and disability. I fought with my identity. Who am I haunted me with every careful step I took in my prosthetic legs.
And now, now I’ve been able to speak on behalf of the burn fund, on behalf of burn survivors to various groups and organizations, to stand in front of many people and say, you can do this. You can get to the other side. I get to share my story to further research and help raise money for people like me. Beyond that I get to live my life and it’s an ordinary one with extraordinary circumstances and moments. I could say to my seven year old self, “You have the guts.”
Thirty years later I walked around a field holding my daughter’s hand as we honored a national hero. And I’m grateful.
It’s about a youngish couple who travel to Paris for business and are forced to face the illusion that a life different from their own might be better. It’s a movie by Woody Allen starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams and it is a delight!