Sunday, August 22, 2010

What's next?

I am part of a group called the Amputee Empowerment Partners and all that we do is sit down with people who are facing amputation or just after the surgery and listen to their worries, questions, fears and stories. I feel so strongly about this work for many reasons, I think it helps people heal with hope instead of doubt, I think it shows people what is possible, and I think that it gives people something to strive for.

I was asked this week to visit a woman who three months ago was jogging in Iran on the sidewalk and was in a hit and run accident that took both of her legs above the knee. She has family here and they brought her over so that she could get the best care and prosthetics possible. She is currently using a wheelchair and is concerned about the months ahead of her and learning to walk again. In her home country, if you become an amputee (I was told) you basically have to be home bound because people don't get prosthetics and if you use a wheelchair you can't get around because there are no cut outs in the sidewalks. So, people become trapped in their homes.

She didn't have a concept of people successfully living full lives without limbs.

I walked up to the building where we were to meet and as soon as I got to the door, I saw her and her whole face lit up. We sat down and talked for quite sometime, she asked me about how I do different things in my life, like showering and cooking and just getting around.

It made me realize how lucky I am to not have to think about those things on a daily basis, when was the last time you worried about how you were going to get to your kitchen?

We also talked about how she sees herself now with all that has happened to her. She has to do some personal image revisions and get to a place of "Ok, this is what is, what do I choose to do with it?". This is, I think, the hardest part. I have met so many amputees in my time as a patient advocate and there really are lots of types but many fall into two categories , the 'shell shocked - I don't want to be seen - let me be' type and then there is the 'that sucked but I want to get on with my life now' type. Don't get me wrong, depression is totally normal in these cases but when you can get to the place of 'what's next?' then you know that you are on the right path.

She is getting there, she wants to walk again and to stand next to her husband. She wants to feel 'normal' again.

When I left the visit I realized that I might get more out of these visits then the patients do. I get to drive home, talk about my day with my amazing husband, enjoy dinner, and relax in our beautiful apartment.

I can choose to think 'what's next?' instead of worrying about all my daily life stuff.

Now this is all well and good but maybe you are asking yourself what this has to do with you? It has a lot to do with you.

What type of person are you? When faced with troubles in your own experience how do you choose to face them? This woman is, through no fault of her own, having to learn EVERYTHING over again and doing it with bravery instead of blame or self pity.

Could you do the same?


  1. I LOVE THIS!! great job, insights my friend.
    Natty xxxx

  2. This is what makes me excited to go to work everyday. You think it makes you stronger, you are right. I am gratefull every minute.

  3. AWESOME Katy! I just came out of a patient's room, who last week was faced with the possibility of having an amputation. Her surgery was successful, but I think your words will be an inspiration for her future. I'm printing it out and sharing it with her right now. You are a blessing.

  4. As a paraplegic, I also feel that inspiration is my aspiration. I go to a weekly spinal cord injury support group at Northridge Hospital where newly injured and old timers get a chance to talk about their issues and trade tips on navigating the rocky road of living life using a chair as Jay does. Thanks for your inspiring words.

  5. Great story, Katy! You've been at "thrive" for a long time - where you use your experiences to help others.

  6. you inspire me every day katy! your spirit is infectious and I love you so much!