Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Seventh Ampu-versary

Today marks seven years since I left the ranks of the "ten-toed freaks," as my gimp friends from ski-camp taught me to say. (smiley face!)

I didn't have a bonfire this year, or a Leg Party to commemorate the original spontaneous celebration with a few close friends. (No party, and I mean NONE, is as insane as carousing while burning your leg in effigy two nights before your above-knee amputation. 

The surgery in 2007 was the culmination of six months of lobbying doctors to cut off my fused, worn-out leg, ten years of increasing pain and decreasing mobility, and a grand total of thirty-one years fearing what would happen to my weird stiff knee. It was agony to tackle the decision; it was cathartic to have to tell my story over and over and over in a medical setting:
Osteomyelitis, a gruesome and excruciating bone infection at age thirteen in 1975 and 1976, untreated because my parents were Christian Scientists; an auto-fused knee I could limp on,  denial of the whole nightmare, and a mindset that made me tackle every challenge that came my way, from race horses to my own riding stable in a barn I built myself. And finally, after intensive therapy, supportive friendships, and time, the self-knowledge to make this choice. 

It was a hard sell to the specialists, but they came around. It's a decision I've never regretted.

My goal for this next year of amputee-hood is to be more active. The ski week in January was the first time I hung out with other amps and folks legally blind or in wheelchairs. We traveled in a pack of 'chairs and crutches, made terrible jokes and got raucous in restaurants.  I felt like a horse finally running with the herd. 

It made me realize that, from all those years when I was so determined not to let my stiff leg prevent me from trying ANYTHING, I sailed into amputee-world with the same attitude: Dammit, I'll do it myself!!   ...But it's limited me. It's stopped me short from some activities.

At what I continue to think of as "ski camp" last month--and at Greek Peak every weekend--adaptive skiing is a whole culture of wonderful people working together. It is assumed you (I) need help; it is offered generously and matter-of-factly, along with encouragement and praise. It turned on a light in my head; it softened me up and helped me relax. Reminded me to trust. Ask. And reach out.

I want to ski. This summer I want to try an adaptive bicycle, a recumbent hand-powered one, to see if I like it. There are programs out there, opportunities I want to try. And I'm going to start riding my horse again this spring. It's been a few years, but now Laredo's at a local barn where there are rings, pens--and friends who want me to doff my leg, climb up on the fence and hop on my mare. 

It's taken me a few years. But I'm starting to hit my one-legged stride. 


  1. yay! soon you'll be competing in the para-olympics with Heath Calhoun!

    1. HA! First I've got to conquer the bunny slope.

  2. Our friend Ed Riker just sent this web address to me after a post I did this morning on Facebook, and I couldn't be happier that he did. I am now one day shy of my 5 week ampu-versary, and I love that phrase!!!! I too had to find the right Dr that would listen to me as far as having this leg taken off to BETTER MY LIFE. NYC was the place, and Dr S. Robert Rozbruch was the man at the "Hospital For Special Surgeries". He knew how much it was going to change my life and it already has. I can't wait for tomorrow, only because it's going to be another GREAT DAY. I get my first prosthetic in one week, and I can't wait. Thanks for the inspiration you added to what I already HAD within my heart. Blessings to you, Randy Smith