Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Cool Folks You Meet...

A few weeks ago, my daughter asked:  "Mommy, is it fun being an amputee?"   After chuckling for a moment with a raised eyebrow in utter disbelief that she'd ask such a question, I gathered my thoughts and replied:  "Um...I wouldn't exactly call it fun.  But I guess there are parts that are:  You get to pick out the kind of foot you want, you can pick out cool patterns to laminate into your socket, and oh....we get to meet so many really interesting people."    "Yeah....that's what I mean."  Jade said... "It's neat to meet all kinds of cool people who do such amazing things."   

So I have pondered that comment frequently......and, when I'm in a space where I'm frustrated for some reason (which happens a lot, believe me)  I think about all of the awesome relationships and experiences I am collecting.   Pretty damn cool.  

DWTS' and snowboarding paralympian, Amy Purdy,
Accomplished para- climber, Ronnie Dickson, and
Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates
I am down at Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates this week for a new socket (I am the "incredible shrinking woman" least in my prosthetic socket.).  It just so-happened that Amy Purdy (from Dancing With the Stars) was also here yesterday and today having some adjustments done.   We ended up having some cool discussions about keeping a positive attitude, how to walk around on the toes of a swim-foot, and expectations with limb-shrinkage as a BK amputee.   She really is quite the lady, with lots of interesting developments on the of them, writing a book.   The casual atmosphere at POA is great for just sitting around and chatting about all kinds of things, which is really important.
Ronnie Dickson works at POA as a prosthetist, and is also an awesome climber.   He's an AK (above-knee) amputee who I had connected with initially when looking for information about climbing in a prosthesis.  As I began to share my various prosthetic frustrations with him, he encouraged me to come to POA because of the incredible work they do in an expedited fashion, as well as their great track-record with highly active and tough-to-fit amputees.    When I got to POA and began to meet all of the people, the energy was palpable.    Dozens of amputees, all with amazing stories.....some with prosthetics, some crutching or wheeling around, hanging out in the same space just getting to know each other.   A "bonus" is the fact that a lot of the prosthetists at POA are themselves, they get it.  A healthy, good-natured banter abounds, and folks are constantly sharing about how they love their jobs.    It's the atmosphere their CEO, Stan has created and fostered....and really works.
It has been very neat to see a lot of the researching and efforts I put time into while recovering, finally coming to fruition (I was the research-demon on the net while on bedrest!  I guess while my body was laid-up, the brain worked overtime).   The Trauma Survivor's Network has partnered with Froedtert Hospital, and a peer support visitation / support program is being implemented.  We currently have four very cool survivors of trauma on-board (me being one of them) who will finish up training this summer and launch the program within the month.   Pretty exciting!   We are starting up a climbing program in partnership with Adventure Rock and Adaptive Adventures, and will have a climbing wall at the Milwaukee Adaptive Sports and Recreation Expo on July 26th.  I've connected up with the folks at Paradox Sports in CO for some good advice on starting a climbing program in our area as well.   We are lucky to have the support of the Director of Clinical Services in the Physical Therapy Dept. at Carroll University, who has decided to weave-in the idea of educating her students in the power of using adaptive sports and recreation as part of the rehabilitation process (I had the pleasure of sharing [through the lens of understanding recovery to be a "mind/body/spirit" experience] with her graduate class last month, and will again in the fall.)  Luckily, these students will learn first-hand the power of connecting through physical activity and adventure sports. 
In all of these experiences I have met the most interesting, colorful, fascinating people, and the experience has been so enriching.   
So, when I grumble about how frustrating it is to have undergone 2+ years of atrophy and various levels of deconditioning, how I miss the ease at which I used to get out of bed in the morning, or how I hate to pour sweat out of my liner (which happens in the summer....pretty gross), I pause to remember that I'm part of an awesome group of soulful survivors, which is pretty cool.