This weekend marks my fifth anniversary as an above-knee amputee. It's sort of a personal New Year, both end and beginning. My amputation was definitely both an end (of years living with a knee that fused itself when I was a teenager, during a horrific untreated bone disease) and the beginning of mylife as an amputee. I chose this road open-eyed;. The bone diease (osteomyelitis) just happened to me.
My parents were devout Christian Scientists at the time; we lived near Boston, headquarters of Christian Science. Back in the 1970's, Massachusetts law protected the rights of parents to choose "spiritual treatment" over medicine for children. My parents believed my only chance was a healing through prayer. I spent a hellish year and a half in bed and a wheelchair. But I survived.
The previous photo of the girl bareback on her horse is me at thirteen, Novmber 1975, with my crazy appaloosa mare, Flicka. My father took the picture about two weeks before my knee suddenly--viciously--swelled without warning one night. I'd lived in my legs. I'd run hurdles on the jr high track team. I'd ridden since I was six years old. My last day running was in late November 1975. It was a good day.
In the thirty-six years since that photo was taken, I've had a wonderful life. Even with a fused leg I was able to do almost everything with horses that I'd hoped including training, teaching, competing in low-level hors trials and riding racehorses. I've always written about horses, and for the past eight years I've finally begun to wrestle with my life on paper. I'm here tonight to begin a conversation (one-sided so far, though I'm hoping you'll join in) about three aspects of my life:
1. Horses: I've never been able to separate myself from horses, physically or emotionally. They have taught me to forgive and to be a better human. I can't stop keeping them. I've still got two and a half out in my pasture right now, unless you count the mini as a whole horse...
2. Religion: I left Christian Science in 1994. I am an atheist. Now, January 2012, 38 states in the US still permit parents to opt out of medical treatment for children on religious grounds. (Five states have religious defenses to crimes including manslaughter and murder.) I am just beginning to speak out against this privilege . It's personal.
3. Motion, physical activity, movement: This is the essence of who I am which has been facilitated by horses all these years, and held back by the limitations that are the legacy (pun intended!) of my untreated bone disease. My remaining leg is failing. My knee grinds bone on bone and my limited insurance, which paid for my prosthesis, for which I am grateful, just refused a much more inexpensive knee brace for my suffering, 80-yr-old's-equivalent knee.
These three issues are the triangle that stabilizes and limits me, galvanizes and spurs me on.
More to follow. Be well.