Friday, January 16, 2009



This past Tuesday I met with an amputee at a local rehab center. The patient is a 46 year old woman who is staying in the room next door to my Great Aunt (who is there to recover from her own recent medical issues). The woman had lost one leg below the knee in June as a result of severe infection and her other leg is going to be amputated next week. The second amputation will also be below the knee. At this point, she is very afraid.

We talked for a while about her fears. Fear of not being able to walk on two prosthetics, fear of falling, fear of complications, and fear of how much this is going to change her life. She already has one prosthetic and has had difficulty walking with it. However, she's had problems with the leg that is about to be amputated since she got her first prosthetic. I was quick to point out that her issues with that leg probably have made it harder to walk with the one prosthetic that she has.

Her fears were all too familiar. When I first learned that my legs were gone I couldn't imagine being able to walk again. Then, when I got my first set of legs I was afraid of falling with every step I took. Indeed, I fell at least once a week with that set of legs! That fear can be paralyzing. There were many times that I wanted to give up, and I probably would have if not for the support of everyone around me.

As we talked I tried to point out that, at least physically speaking, she is in a much better position than I am. She will have both of her knees, so her mobility should be far better than mine. We talked about the fact that she will fall and that because she has her knees she will be able to get up much easier than me. Her knees will also allow her to climb stairs and maneuver other obstacles almost as easily as she did before.

We also talked about driving, modifications to the home, and other issues that she will now have to face. I gave her some information about the resources that are out there to help. Regardless of the fact that she still has her knees she will still have many challenges. Becoming an amputee changes your life in numerous ways. Everything that was once easy becomes far more difficult, which is extremely frustrating.

I would have loved to tell her that once she gets through this difficult period the fear will go away, but that's simply not true. The fact is that I still have to overcome fear every time I leave the house. As much as I love driving I'm scared every time I see another driver do something stupid that I'm going to be in another accident. Whenever I go someplace new, or do something that I haven't done since the accident I'm afraid that something will go wrong. I'm afraid that I won't be able to walk as far as I need to, or that I'll injure myself in some way. I don't think too far into the future because I'm afraid of what I'll have to deal with as I get older.

The point is to not let that fear take hold. To not let it become a paralyzing force in life. Yes, I face those fears almost everyday, but I use that fear to ensure that I think everything through and that I'm careful about how I approach the unknown. For me, my fear is a challenge to push through as opposed to a reason to stop living.

Hi Jeremy,

Lilla and I were very pleased to hear of this special coincidence---going to visit one lady and finding another that you could help. We both think this lady will believe "one who has walked the walk" (no pun intended) more than a doctor or even a therapist. We are pleased that you seize such opportunities to "talk the talk". We know it is small compensation but it is a beneficial positive that has come out of you misfortune. We are very proud of you.

Harry and Lilla
Nicely written -and a good reminder to not let fears stop me, but to deal with them like you do. Thanks for sharing!
There's a heck of alot of us I would bet who have a lot less fear because of what you've been through Jeremy- Matt
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