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Heather Mills - Amputee Forum

New to the forum and new to life with one hand

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Hello everyone,

I've been reluctant to post because sharing can be scary, but my wife has finally convinced me I need to reach out and talk with other amputees. It's been almost a year and I'm still suffering from anxiety, so any insight or thoughts and ideas are appreciated. Who knows maybe I can even return the favor to someone someday!

First a little bit about me. I'm a 36 year old husband and father to two amazing little girls, Adrie who is 4 and Darby who is 7. Darby is partially deaf and was born with spina bifida. But besides her hearing aids and wheelchair, she's a loving and energetic little spitfire who goes to mainstream elementary and is performing at the top of her class, against all of her doctors predictions. I bring this up becuase it would seem that working so hard to raise a daughter with a disability would have helped me cope more with the loss of my hand, but it really hasnt as much as I wish it did.

My amputation is not even from an interesting story but rather a small cut I got on my hand working in the yard. A month of fighting an infection and multiple failed attempts to save it and my right hand was amputated on July 2 of last year. For those of you here who know the doctor lingo it is called a wrist disarticulation and I still have the bone at the end of my wrist. They couldn't safely keep enough of my palm to preserve the hand bending function but they told me doing a wrist disarc would provide a much better stump that wouldn't hurt as much and  be more durable to use without without a prosthetic than higher up my arm. I had to have some minor skin stretching and a graft to make it work but I think I'm glad they did it.

Well I know every case is different and that I shouldn't judge myself against other people, but it feels like I've made slower than normal progress on geting back to a new normal in life, even though my wife and family think I'm doing great. Part of my reservation posting here is that there are others who don't have any arms or legs at all and I feel like just missing a hand is such are little problem of what could be much bigger, so I hope I don't offend anyone.

What is funny is I've met both leg and a arm amputees in a support group I went to for a bit and a lot of people missing arms wished it was their leg, and a lot of people missing a leg wished it was an arm. I wish it was neither! But i guess it's all persective.

My right hand was my dominant hand so I'm learning to do new things everyday. I'm finally getting OK at writing to where you can actually read it haha. The one thing that has suprised me is that I have actually gotten fairly good at typing which has been good for my job. I found using the small bump of my wrist bone on the sides of my stump works well for hitting a key. I am a big tinkerer and handyman so I have had a lot of frustrating days and choice words for trying to learn how to use tools again.

I do feel blessed that Darby has enough hearing ability combine with lip reading skills that she doesn't use sign language, although she an we were all taught it as until recently her speaking was pretty hard to understand unless you knew her, so she has signed before in school and its a good backup for her in the future. Her hearing was just a congenital defect so we are told it shouldn't get worse until she is elderly just like everyone else. Hopefully by then if I'm still around she will understand why I stink at it ; )

I went back to work after beingnoff for about 3 months. I am an engineer who also does sales calls and meetings with customers so this has been one of the biggest anxiety issues for me. Anyone in the business world will know a handshake means everyhting and is something I can no longer do. I have had a mix of weird looks and awakward moments where people don't know what to do. Ive had waves, a pat on the back, a high five and even one lady who just grabbed my arm stump and then just froze out of fear. I dont blame them as i would not know what to do either but it still makes me just want to hide from the world. One guy just went in for a left hand shake and it was great. He later told me his dad was born with one hand which explains the good greeting he had towords me. Since then I've tried to confidently make the first move to shake with my left and it's helped my anxiety some. If there is any silver lining in all of it it's that people remember me at meetings and that's good for sales call backs!

The one last thing thats more of a question to you all is using a prosthetic. I was made a prosthetic hand a couple months ago but I just hate it. It's just a solid fake arm that does nothing but look like a shiny weird copy of my left arm. Depsite my selfcousious about my looks I just can't get myself to use it and I find that having the touch sensation on the end of my arm is way better and more useful than a silly extension that I can't feel through. Am I crazy? I feel like I'm getting pressure from all angles to wear it but I just don't like it. I was told because my stump is so long that I can't get an electric hand but I've since seen otherwise online. I don't know.

So anyway I apologize for my ramblings. I look forward to hopefully hearing from some of you and maybe even my story will help someone else which i think would really make me feel realy good. I know life will go on and I'm still me but it's just hard to convince myself sometimes. It's funny that a 7 year old has been the biggest giver of advice to me so far but it's true. I just can't convince myself of the things I tell her! The other day I told her how proud I was of her, and she told me she was proud of me! Best feeling a father could ever imagine. 



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Hi, Kevin...welcome to our odd little world, where you can rest assured that your reactions and feelings are completely normal.  Now I'm a leg amputee, so I hope you get some responses from upper extremity amps, just because they'll have more useful tips for you.  But until then.......

First of all, there is NO reason for you to wear a strictly cosmetic prosthetic hand, unless YOU feel that it would be convenient in a specific situation.  You're being quite logical in realizing that having a stump that can feel things beats a plastic hand that just "hangs there."  the majority of the arm amps I know either don't wear a prosthesis at all or wear a truly functional prosthetic with either biomechanical hand or hook (or interchangeable "tools") when they need to do something specific.  While there has been a lot of progress in arm prosthetics, I understand that they can still be quite heavy to wear and many folks wear them only when truly needed.  So just BE YOURSELF...OK?

It sounds like you're beginning to get the right idea about things like business greetings....yeah, just thrust out your left hand and get on with life.  Believe it or not, most folks will appreciate you giving them a visual "cue" to respond to...you're right when you say that they just don't now how to proceed, and you taking the initiative will put them at ease.  Go for it and keep at it until it feels truly natural to you.

Your missing right hand is just as valid as an amputee who is missing "more" then you.  You're entitled to feel frustrated, to celebrate new accomplishments, and to just want to "talk" with other folks who understand the ins and outs of being an amputee.  So again, you''re perfectly normal on that front.  You're "one of us": an average, everyday person who's learning to live an average life in unusual circumstances.  Don't expect to have a "deadline" on learning to be the "perfect" amputee...you're likely to keep encountering periodic challenges that need new solutions at many points in your life.  The ""challenges" just become less frequent as you start building your set of ways to deal with them.

So take a deep breath, take a look at the way your daughter just takes her situation as it comes, and realize that this is truly the only option out there...just LIVE.  The rest will come with time.

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Hi, I am not an arm amputee, but to me sounds like you are adjusting well--Congratulations!!!!

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Are you going to meeting in July? Love to room with you.

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Hi, BethMarie -

I'm actually not sure if I'm going yet.  It would probably be a good idea, as I've been through a major revision surgery (just over a year ago) and we're still working out tweaks on my leg...talking to some other amps and providers could be helpful.  But I've also been caught up in planning and arranging three (yes, three) milestone family birthdays in the last six months, so I've been waiting on my taxes to see what my finances look like before registering for the conference.  Are you set for registration and room now?  I'd love to room with you again if I can go!

My tax stuff has all arrived and I'm planing on trying to get them filed sometime this week.  I'll PM you and let you know ASAP if I'm going to be there.

Okay, Kevin, sorry about the "kidnapping"...you can have your thread back now!  We were talking about the Amputee Coalition educational conference, which is happening in Tucson, AZ this summer.  It's generally a great experience, if you're interested!

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