Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Summer Leg Glitches
Summer’s on the horizon. It means the kids have blow-off-school fever. It means switching my dinner menus from warm soups and casseroles to cold sandwiches and anything that doesn’t use the stove. It also means different leg issues for those of us who get around with the help of some bionics.
It is a pleasure to finally wear shorts. It’s so much easier to fiddle with my leg, when I need adjustments, when I don’t have to pull down my pants to do it. Of course I get more looks as I walk by. I don’t mind. I have to accept the fact that most of the population has two flesh covered legs. When people notice I have a black metal ankle, they tend to do the classic double take. I do the same thing when I see other amputees. Curious minds want to figure it out.
My daughter and I were in Target the other day, contemplating which graduation plates to buy, when a little girl, about the age of five, came around the corner and suddenly noticed my leg. I say ‘suddenly’ because she did a full abrupt screeching stop as her eyes locked in on my hardware and instantly she squatted down to get a better view. Little kids seem to notice it the most, since their eye level hits most people at the knees to begin with.
She was about six feet away from us and I pretended not to see her. Parents sometimes get embarrassed at their child’s curiosity and I wanted this child to be able to look all she wanted before her mom caught on to her. She left momentarily but returned with her little brother in tow. She resumed her original squatting position, this time with her mini-me next to her, and all she said to him, as she quickly pointed, was “look…”
By then we had made our decision, filled our cart with plates and napkins adorned with caps and gowns, and we moved on to the next item on our list. Little girl and her brother went back to their mom (I assume) and probably spent the rest of their time in Target discussing the ins and outs of what they had seen. It’s all just a part of summer for me.
Another new issue I face involves my time at the gym. I don’t want to be too graphic here, but I want you to understand the difference between me and you, when it comes to sweating during a work-out. I bring a towel to wipe my face, when I am pedaling away on the stationary bike. But once my time is up, and it’s time to walk to the locker rooms, I have a slight problem.
In the course of all that pedaling, my stump has been sweating. It slowly fills up the rubber sock I wear between my hard leg shell and my skin. As I step off the bike, I step into a sock full of ‘water’. I literally squish with every step I take to the locker rooms. It’s like walking on a waterbed, but just on your left side. My limp is pronounced, and not from pain, as most people probably think. But because I am slurping with every forward step.
Once I get to the locker rooms and can take off that rubber sock, dump out its contents, and wipe down my leg, I am back to normal. The walk to the car is comfortable again. So if you see me at the gym, after my work out, and see how much I’m limping, don’t think I’m in pain. Just know I’m doing a radical leg- filled- with -sweat dance.
Warm weather also brings with it more outdoor activities. When free time rolls around we are always on the lookout for new places to explore. Two weekends ago we hiked an incredible trail that led to a waterfall. As long as the hills don’t get too steep, I do okay on these hikes. But sometimes I can be slow. I have to watch my feet when I hike. My foot does not respond to uneven terrain like a real foot does and I have to see what’s coming before I step out, to make any necessary adjustments. This slows me down but also makes me miss the scenery, if I’m not careful. So not only do I hike like a turtle, I stop a lot along the way, to just look around and take in the scenery.
Slow hiking can drive young, healthy teen sons crazy. They like to move forward, see what’s next. So a few years ago my oldest son christened himself my ‘accelerator’. He walks next to me and I grab his bent elbow, using him much like a walking stick. But better. He’s a walking stick with a motor. As he picks up his pace, it’s like having a motor pull me down the trail. It works great. His strong legs love the work out and I get an instant boost for my pace. With the stability of him on my right side, I can actually look around as we hike, and enjoy the view like everyone else.
It worked especially well last weekend. We were in Burlington Vermont, watching my brother in law run a marathon. If you’ve ever watched a marathon, you know that the runners aren’t the only ones getting exercise. You find a spot along the race course, then wait for him to come by. You yell and scream and hold up signs of encouragement. Then after he passes, you rush over to the next spot he might pass by and do it all again.
We saw our runner five times in the course of his race. Which meant we huffed it up and down streets and up and down hills. Sometimes we circled back and walked back to the same spots we’d just come from. In the end, it was a LOT of walking. But I did fine.
Between my recent work at the gym on the treadmills and my built in accelerator, we got to each spot in plenty of time. There was only one time, in the middle of the day, that I got a bit nervous. We headed down a LONG hill and I was fully aware that with every step I took down, we’d be climbing right back up once we saw our runner.
But my accelerator came through. He bent his arm at the elbow and stuck it out for me. I happily grabbed his bent forearm, and we were off. In a flash we were at the top of that big hill. I was amazed. No panting, no struggle. The only downside is that my handy dandy accelerator has plans to leave me for college in just over a year. Guess I’ll have to start training his brothers soon, in this art of acceleration.
I’ll end this before it gets too long. I just thought you might like a peek inside my world. I still love this leg that lets me do all I want to do in a day. But life with an artificial leg can have its own glitches. It’s all about adapting and moving forward.
Sometimes with a little help from a strong teenage son.