While I live I'll Grow by Aussie
True Story Contest contest entry
It was a beautiful day in October 1982 as I readied myself to go to rehabilitation. After three months in hospital, so good to breathe fresh air instead of hospital air-conditioning.
I was sick of being in a wheelchair, looking forward to being fitted with my first temporary leg. My insides felt like jelly. Not knowing what to expect from a rehab service.
The taxi pulled up outside the hospital and I wheeled into the rehab section, a very large area greeted me with lots of people exercising and being helped back from accidents and so forth.
I waited until my personal occupational therapist came over and made me feel more comfortable. I did feel out of place because I was a nurse before my accident. I found it hard to accept help when I was the caregiver most of my adult life. Now at age thirty-seven, broken but not down and out.
Because of the severe damage to my left-leg, I needed to lift weights (literally.) Needed to get as much movement in my poor damaged knee (which was fractured in the accident) To get as much strength back in my thigh muscles (which were ripped off the knee and then sewn back down, plus very painful skin - grafts. More painful than the amputation.
My occupational therapist set me a daily routine to strengthen my leg, or what was left of it, "looks like a shark ripped your leg off," one jolly, fat, rude man shouted at me. Ha, Ha, said I. Didn't show the real feelings, like crying. Tough cookie, that's me (not really.)
And so the days rolled by as I lifted three - pound weights on my stump, so tiring. I was focused in getting that first leg fitted. A big guy sat in his wheelchair in the sun, smoking the day away. He had had both legs amputated through diabetes and of course, smoking.
I got talking with him and eventually got him to join me with the weight lifting. He wasn't young but admitted he would like to at least stand up again.
Both of us worked together from eight in the morning until lunch was served. When he stopped lifting I would dig him in the ribs and we would have a race to see how many lifts we could do. I did feel sorry that he had no legs, but hey, I wanted to see him walk, albeit small steps.
Meanwhile, my carer drove me down to the city to a German limb maker with a reputation of being the best to deal with damaged legs.
He took one look at my stump (my tummy was doing flips) and said, "Holy crap! That sure is a badly damaged stump."
"He rubbed his bearded chin and said "have worked with badly damaged limbs most of my life, we will fit you with a temporary leg after I take a plaster cast.'' And so a new life journey began.
He went ahead and made that cast, attached it to a carbon pole with a rubber foot. I was ecstatic!
Meanwhile, back in rehab, my weight-lifting partner was ready for both limbs to be fitted.
The whole rehab room went deathly quiet - with help he was standing!
You do get attached to people with the same disability as yourself. And finally, I was walking slowly and still broke the cast from over- doing the baby-walks!
That, my friends were the first steps to a new life as a disabled person. Thirty-seven years have passed since I was fitted with a prosthesis, over that period I have had twenty-eight legs! No, we don't keep one leg, we have to replace them though wear and tear and stump shrinkage. If you wear false teeth, you will understand the constant changes with your gum shrinkage.
It was emotionally draining knowing I couldn't go back to nursing. Still, God knows our needs and I was able to sit and work with disabled children. I did counselling with new amputee's and hospital visits to those waiting amputation of limbs. Some were terrified, some resigned and others wanting to know my story, just seeing me walk was inspirational to their own futures'.
Since being an amputee, I have traveled the World, swum off the back of a boat. Rode horses and loved my life just as it should be. Lots of hurdles, doing stuff another way, and now I am still wearing yet another new leg. I am seventy-four in September, my memories still come pouring back and I wouldn't change a thing. My motto is "Life is an adventure,
Laugh and the world laughs with you - cry and you cry alone. Thanks for reading my true story.
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