Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Amputee Reawakening

In early January 2007, the prosthetic that I had been wearing through rough kitchen work three years in a row was finally breaking down. The padding and "skin" had fallen off leaving the terminatoresque metal pole for a calf and the ankle joint had long since broken and was dangling, dangerously close to falling off. My brother was visiting me in Djibouti for New Year's, so I bought the two of us some cheap tickets to Dubai for a long weekend. I would also use the opportunity to meet a contact I had made throught the American hospital there, to fit for a new prosthetic.

We had a great weekend, skiing indoors, going to fun restaurants and 4x4ing out in the Arabian desert. And I found a guy to build me a new leg. Because of time and cash constraints, I walked out of the clinic with a 10 year old fashioned leg, heavy and oversized...but new. It was, I assumed, the best I could ask for. It was strange feeling, but ok the day I got it. As we landed back in Djibouti that evening, I picked up my carry on bags and an intense pain filled my stump. After limping back home, I got to my room and took it off. The bottom of the stump felt as if it had been sandpapered, leaving a red and bloody mess. But, as stubborn as I can be with pain, I put it back on the next morning for my 12 hour shift in the kitchen.
I suffered on this painful prosthetic for the nex 15 months, pretending it wasn't as bad as it really was, not being able to run or even walk for more than a few thousand yards at a time.

I moved to Philadelphia in October 2008, and started working as a chef at Sofitel with the same prosthetic. I didn't tour the city, didn't want to go out, and became seriously depressed...something I stubbornly never discussed with loved ones, dreading attention and sympathy. Finally, after a new insurance plan, I fit for a new, high tech one in April of 2009. It was absolutely amazing. It felt like I was running on air with carbon graphite parts, and a high-intensity refelexive ankle joint. After getting home with it, I threw on a pair of shorts, and ran down the parkway Rocky style to the art museum and back. It felt like I had an angel on my shoulder. My spirit was lifted. for the first time, I went to see the liberty bell and began to take walks with my finacee in the evenings. I also started walking to church on Sundays, which has changed my life immensely over the past year.

Sometimes we allow things to progress to a self-destructive level, affecting not only ourselves but our faiths, people around us, and denying ourselves true opportunities for advancement, spritiually or whatever. I believe suffering helps one grow, but one needs to realize there is a light at the end. We learn incredible things about ourselves from the light, but even more on the path to reach it.


1 comment:

  1. You wore the Dubai leg for way too long. The insurance issues the Amputee Coalition of America talks so much about are real for everyone who has to justify the need for a new leg.

    I'm glad the emotional relief was as immediate as the physical relief.