Welcome to Anne's blog!

If you are new to the blog, you probably want to start at the beginning of the whole sad story. To get there, use the "Blog Archive" tool in the right column of the blog and click on "2009," and then "January 25." From there you can continue to click on each week to see the weekly entries.

I would love to hear from you! If you would like to leave a message, you can reach me at aheetderks@wcsmiami.org!

December 19, 2010 - Friends and Family . . . meet my leg.

Yes--that's right . . . I walk. I walk with two feet. Can you believe it?

A week and a half ago, I went into Eugene Silva's office (my prosthetist at Advanced Motion Control) and he started messing around with my clear acrylic test socket. He accused me (nicely) of being a "shape-shifter." This is someone who shows up with one size leg one day, and then JUST when everything is almost ready to go . . . shows up the next day with a much bigger leg than the day before! Not very nice. I guess I will be doing this for a while--changing shape. My shorter leg (I am just going to call it a "nub" from hereon in . . .) seems to change shape depending on how long I have been up during the day, or if I just took a shower, or if I wrapped my ace wrap or shrinker sock a little tight, or if I have been eating the 30 pounds of chocolate given to me by my students for Christmas.

So he heated up the test socket a little and started stretching it out in places so I could get my leg in there (loosening a few screws helped, too)! The clear socket was cool because you could literally "see" the pressure points that needed to be addressed.

I came back last Monday to try on the new (and slightly bigger) test socket (seen here). We put a nice little sock on my nub, eased it into the test socket and VOILA!--it fit like a glove. When I would put weight on it (using the little tripod stool to act as the lower leg/foot that would be attached later), I could almost imagine how it would feel to walk. Very exciting.

So, on Friday, I went in thinking that I was showing up for another fitting--but in comes Eugene with my leg! I couldn't believe it. I didn't even think to bring a right-footed shoe along--those things are buried so deep in my closet it would take weeks to find one! So funny.

Anyway--Eugene took a pair of shoes from his shop, and put them on me and my prosthetic leg. Then he proceeded to take me slowly through the whole process of putting on the prosthetic sheath, followed by various thicknesses (ply) of socks, the liner, another sock, and then the leg! There was part of me that was ready to stand up and try it right away--and another part of me that was a little scared that I might be disappointed. Good thing I stood up. At first things were a little clumsy, but we kept tweaking the angle of the foot, the height of the leg--things like that. Eventually, I was walking around the office like I owned the place. So amazing.

Since I had to give Eugene his big black shoes back before I went home, we wrapped my bare (fake) foot up so I wouldn't get it dirty on the ride home! I wanted to wear the entire prosthetic leg home because I was afraid it wouldn't fit by the time I got to our house. I could just see myself ready to show off to Doug and the girls and not be able to get the dumb thing on!

When I got home, I found the pair of sneakers I had bought a long time ago when I first fell. Dr. Carbonell had instructed me to buy a good pair because I had to be able to support my body while wearing the external fixator. That was almost 22 months ago. Now I was hauling the sneakers out again and being able to use BOTH shoes. I put the shoes on and started walking around. Walking around MY HOUSE. What a surreal experience. Doug and the girls were thrilled.

I called my parents on the way home to let them know that I was wearing a leg. The minute I hung up the phone, they must have called everyone imaginable because I was getting 4 million text messages saying, "Where are the pictures? Update your blog NOW!"

But it has taken me a few days to be ready to broadcast myself. Getting my leg has almost felt like having a new baby. You are so excited for it to come and you dream of the day you will get to take it home . . . but then you have it and it poops and cries and keeps you up all night. Even though you love it so much, you need a few days to get used to the reality of it all.

So--yes, I adore my new leg. But I have needed to be smart and take it easy. Use my crutches. Take socks on. Take socks off. Make sure I am not getting any blisters. Not freak out when it hurts one minute and feels fine the next. Figure out how to maneuver around my house. Figure out how to dress this new body. Buy new shoes.

I remember when I first had my leg amputated, my leg felt so light. When I lifted my leg, it almost felt like it could fly straight to the ceiling without any effort. Now having a leg back on me, my leg feels so heavy and clumsy. I actually weighed my prosthetic last night thinking it must weigh at least 30 pounds. It weighed 4.5 pounds--and that was with the shoe on, too!

It all just takes a little getting used to. But WOW--what a payoff. I found myself today starting to say, "Elise, can you walk for me and get the . . ."--realizing that I could now go and get it myself!! I am still using my crutches and so it is still a little cumbersome to move around--but what a difference.

I am not at the point of looking back over the last two years and saying that the journey is done. It actually feels like I am starting a new one. A journey to freedom.

There will be a lot of tweaking with my prosthetic (I will get a new one in a few months once my nub settles into its final shape), physical therapy, development of callouses, dealing with new phantom sensations, etc. etc. but it is such a relief to see that this has been a good thing. If I am walking this well after having my leg for only two days--what will happen after a week? a month? a year?

I keep saying to Doug, "I am doing good, right? This is good, right?"

And he just looks at me like I am silly and says, "Yes, this is good. This is very good."

Thank you, Lord.


So anyway--let me tell y'all about my new leg! If you want to see me in action (just be sure to tell me how small my rear end looks in the video), just click on "First Day with my New Leg!" in the side bar (to get connected to YouTube) or just watch it at the end of this entry.

My leg is basically a socket (the flesh colored tube thing), attached to a pipe (so stylish and realistic), attached to a carbon fiber foot (that you can't see because it has a fake foot and a shoe over it). I'll explain it all in a bit.

Many of you haven't seen my real leg for a while. It is amazing how well it has all healed. The scar line just gets lighter and lighter all the time. Now that my poor leg is getting stuffed into a tight socket, I can tell that it is that scar line that is the most sensitive. When I feel it burn, I know I need to back off a little.

My phantom pain is also kicking back in now that I am bearing weight. The good thing is that my neurontin (nerve pain blocker meds) works great to tone down the pins and needle feeling that can become annoying.

Anyway--when I first put on my leg, I start by putting on a sheath that helps to "wick" away moisture from my skin. Then I put on different weights of socks. Today I started with two ply of socks but by the end of the day I needed four. Finally, I put on a liner that fits into the socket. Over time, Eugene will be able to thicken specific spots on this liner to match the parts of my nub that shrink.

After that is all done, I put one more sock over the liner so it will slide right into the socket of my leg.










After I pull my pant leg down, things look pretty good! The blue pipe will eventually get filled in with foam and then the whole leg will get covered with fake skin that will match my skin color. Of course the neighbor boy said to me today, "But what about if you get a tan???"








When you take the shoe off, you can see the fake foot that covers the carbon fiber mechanism inside (also very cool--I will show you a picture later). I tried wearing a pair of my walking sandals last night and it looked good. I just need to get a pedicure on the toes. Since this is just my starter leg, everything is pretty simple. When I get my "real" leg in a few months, I will get a foot with a split toe (so I can wear flip-flop type shoes) and an adjustable heel height. I won't be wearing any stilettos any time soon, but it will allow me to wear a slightly higher heel now and then.

All in all--I feel extremely blessed.

Thanks for helping us through all this.

Love to you all--

Anne
video

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

OK--I'll just admit it . . . I am feeling a little panicky. Over the last few weeks, I have been enjoying the process of healing, sleeping, strengthening my body, and getting mentally ready for the big moment when I finally get my prosthetic. Well, that moment is now here and it is freaking me out a little.

If you read over the last two years of my blog, you can see that time and time again--things have been going well and then WHAMO--disaster. Well, everything has been going so well since my amputation surgery and I think I am starting to wonder if this has just been another prelude to disappointment. OK--now that I said it--I can easily see that this is "stinking thinking" but I can't help but get a little worried in the wee hours. We are so close to a wonderful ending and it scares me to hope for it too much. Stupid, I know.

Anyway . . . Right after my last entry, I decided to challenge myself to a little independent travel. So, I booked a non-stop flight to California to see my brother and his gorgeous family. I am telling you--it is great traveling with one foot. Everyone was killing themselves to help me with the wheelchair, cut to the front of lines, carry my bags--I even was treated to a very personal "pat-down" by a kind TSA agent. Very exciting.
I was a little nervous to travel by myself--but it ended up being wonderful. My nieces and sister-in-law are amazing and it was so fun to hang out with them for a few days.

My brother (Glenn) has picked up surfing (seen here out on his board on a very (too) calm day in Santa Cruz). Watching all those people in the water got me excited about doing new things when my body gets put back together.

While in California, I had to do some decision-making about going back to work. All along I had planned to return after Thanksgiving, but as that date was coming closer, many were encouraging me to stay home until after Christmas. Doug was very worried that I would go back, over-do it, and then possibly jeopardize the success of my transition into the prosthetic. As much as I was dying to go back, it was one of those things where I needed to listen to the wisdom of others rather than just go ahead and blaze my own trail. Amazingly enough, I went and spoke with my Principal at school and she was completely supportive of me coming back after Christmas. I feel so blessed to NOT have the added pressure of worrying about my job (even though I worry anyway).

So . . . we had some nice family time during Thanksgiving break hanging out, baking a turkey for the first time, and putting up Christmas decorations (all very low to the ground). Best of all--my Grandma came out from Chicago to spend some time with us during Thanksgiving.
She is now 90 years old, sharp as a tack, and so much fun to be around.

By the time Thanksgiving was over, I suddenly realized that things were happening!! How was I thinking I would go back to work with all these appointments?! I first went to see Dr. Hutson who looked at my X-rays (seen here first from the front and then from the side) and was thrilled to see that everything has continued to heal beautifully. I had been concerned about some pain I was having near the bone bridge but he said everything was fine. He gave me a little "talking-to" about what to expect when I start out in the prosthesis. He warned me to take it slow--to just wear it a few hours off and on through the day, and to not panic if it was uncomfortable at first. I like it when people give me warnings.

Then he wrote me a prescription for a new leg and sent me on my way!

I headed over to Eugene's office (my prosthetist) and he took a casting of my leg. It was cool how he would point to certain parts of my leg and say, "This is sore here, right?"--and sure enough--he was right!

He kept making marks on the cast and pressing in around certain joints and bones that will help in bearing my weight once I get in the socket.

He will now fill the cast with plaster to make a "replica" of my stump. He will then put a clear acrylic covering over it that will eventually become part of the socket (I think). For my next appointment, I will put my leg into the socket and we will be able to look through the clear plastic to see if everything is fitting properly.

This whole process gets me thinking about how I will be able to walk so well, get going with my family again, surprise my kids at school with my new leg, etc. etc. It all just seems too good to be true. That's when all the doubts set in again. I think I just need to remember to take it a day at a time and not rush forward. I really need to listen to and trust my surgeon, prosthetist, and physical therapist and believe that everything will work itself out in time. Breathe, girl, breathe.

Our girls are in a really good place lately. Elise just had her orchestra concert on Monday night. Can you believe there are five 4th graders who play the bass? They are all little bass-playing partners in crime up there struggling to get those instruments set up and in the right place. So funny. Elise has worked really hard and has made it to first chair. So sweet.

Annika is enjoying playing basketball and loves being part of a team. For all the miserable memories I have of my time in middle school, she seems to be eating up every minute of it. We are so proud of her.

Our hearts are heavy right now for a few of our friends. A neighbor boy who has been away at college came home with his best friend for Thanksgiving and were hit by a drunk driver. The friend was killed instantly. Robie, Jr. managed to hang on for a few days but eventually died, too. Our neighbors are--of course--stunned, heart-sick, and beyond grief. These boys were 4.0 students and stars of their school cross-country team. So sad.

Some of you might also remember that Vera's (the wife of my youngest brother, Matt) Mom was diagnosed with liver cancer right about the same time as my amputation surgery. While only 10 weeks have passed, they are having to make possible arrangements with hospice because of the rapid growth of her tumors. This has been devastating.

When we see how our friends and family are having to deal with such incredible losses, it seems silly to worry about how my new foot might fit. Who needs it. I just want to be thankful for every day.

We really and truly love all of you and continue to be blessed by the cards, words of encouragement, meals, and flowers that keep on coming. We feel overwhelmed by your love.

I will keep you posted on the making of my foot.

Love to you all--

Anne

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shhhhh . . . listen closely. Do you hear it? That is the sound of NOTHING GOING WRONG!!!

Yes--it has been over two weeks since my last (confession) entry and things are progressing so well. I still spend most of my days storing up on sleep since I should be returning to work right after Thanksgiving break. In between siestas, I plug away at my recovery. Here is what I have been up to . . .

- I met with my physiatrist (Dr. Claudia Penalba) and she is going to coordinate my care between my prosthetist, surgeon, and physical therapist. She was so amazed at how well I was recovering and had never seen such a beautiful short leg!! When checking it out she noticed that I can flex my calf muscles (not a pretty sight--kind of looks like a hot dog taking deep breaths in and out) which was a true testimony to Dr. Hutson's genius work. Technically, I really don't need my calf muscles anymore, but it demonstrated how carefully he performed my surgery. Very nice.

- I had my first evaluation at my physical therapy place (Healthsouth). They were also so pleased with my recovery and strength. Since I only have 30 PT visits covered on my insurance, we are only going to use a few visits before I get my prosthetic. In those visits, they will teach me how to desensitize my limb, continue to strengthen it (because it is definitely getting weaker from just "hanging" around), and manage phantom pain. Once I get the hang of it, I can do the exercises on my own at home. I start tomorrow.

- I am trying to rent a newer wheelchair because mine is so lame. I would like to have one that I can propel on my own so that I can use it at school (when I go back). I will only need it for a few weeks so it is no big deal. Even though it is very rickety, it managed to get me around for our annual Cancer Free Kids 5K that we participated in on Halloween weekend. Actually--I should say it was my friends who got me around by taking turns pushing me along the route. Very fun. Next year I WILL walk it on my own. :)

- To date, I have not killed anyone with my car. Left foot driving seems to suit me.

- As I have been getting out more, I am getting more and more reactions to my missing foot. Some strangers were especially impressed at the lengths I went to dress up like a pirate (with a missing peg leg) who was dressed up as a Mom dropping her daughter off at a Halloween party. Very convincing. Then, the other day I was at Panera and a man asked me if I had lost my leg in the war. I hardly knew what to say. I guess it has kind of felt like a war but I don't think it was the one he was thinking of. For those who have known of my struggles with my ankle but haven't seen me in a while--the change is a little bit of a surprise. I saw one former school Mom the other day who said, "Good grief--you are still on those crutches!? When are they ever going to get you walking again?" So I said, "Well, I still have to wait a little before I can get my foot . . ." She looked down and she just about inserted her own foot into HER mouth. She was like, "OK--I guess I missed the memo . . ." :)

The funniest reaction is when I drop by school to pick up the girls. I usually come by a little late in afternoon so there aren't a lot of kids around. However, the handful that manage to see my car pulling up will always run over to see me. Without fail--I have had the identical experience with the kids over and over. First, they hug me and say how they are so happy to see me and have been praying for me. Then (or course), they want to see the leg. If my pants are covering my limb, they want me to pull up my pant leg so they can see it. They will immediately wonder if the shrinker sock is my real skin and (when I tell them my real skin is underneath) they will BEG ME to take off the sock. When I do, they right away want to touch and squeeze and rub and massage my scars and limb. No weirdness at all. Totally fascinated. Then--when I show them that my leg bends--they say, "It looks like a thumb bending back and forth!!!" Then--no kidding--they will look at me and say, "OK--well, see you later!!!" Game over. No big deal. Kids are amazing.

- I am happy to say that I have less and less phantom pain all the time. However, it never ceases to amaze me how it will express itself sometimes. For example, we were having a little colder weather and I was finding that my feet were cold at night in bed. I would put a sock on my real foot, but my other (missing) foot would stay cold. You might think that a sock on my limb would work but it wasn't buying it. I would finally have to get up out of bed, physically tuck the end of our quilt under the mattress so I could "see" that my foot would not be hanging out uncovered and put an extra blanket down by my feet. Only then did my missing foot warm up and leave me alone so I could sleep.

- I have been meeting more and more current and future amputees when sitting in the waiting room at doctor's visits, and through my blog. I can't tell you how many people lose limbs as a result of falls, car accidents, and lawn mowers. I talked with one lady today who lost her leg because she had been hit and then dragged down the road by her neighbor's car. Her neighbor (across the street) was backing out of the driveway, hit my lady friend who was standing in her OWN driveway, and then pulled away without knowing that she had hit anyone. Horrible. Another lady lost her leg when she was very young after her father inadvertently ran over her foot with a lawn mower. And yet here we all sit in the waiting room--missing limbs and all--talking about how we feel so blessed. And we are.

- I went to see Dr. Hutson again today and got a very positive report. My X-ray already shows that the bone bridge is joining with the fibula and tibia and is looking alive!!! I will see Dr. Hutson again on December 13, after which he will most likely approve me for getting my first prosthetic! On that note, I was a little surprised today to see a number of amputees walking with a bit of a limp when using their prosthetics. It reminds me again that I need to take it slow and do everything I can to heal properly.

Anyway--in other Heetderks news . . . Doug has two mating macaws, one newly waxed car, is making corn husk dolls with 3 and 4 year old children, is looking for a new home for his turtle, and is hoping to see his female emu sitting on an egg sometime soon. Elise helped to lead worship in church on Sunday, made cupcakes for the church picnic, danced the night away at a recent birthday party, and is excited about helping me paint our doorway. Annika made the Basketball team, did all the makeup for a recent drama production at school, and manages to keep current on Facebook and with her homework despite the fact that she has been running a 102 degree fever for the last few days and eating nothing but saltine crackers and Sprite. (I sound like I am writing one of those miserable "my family is better than your family" Christmas letters.) OK--throw in a few family arguments, my newly missing hubcap, our bulging waistlines, and the fact that our TV remote somehow fell into the bathtub and I think we are good.

Love to you all!

Anne

October 29, 2010


Well, today was a big day. Not only has it officially been one month since my surgery, but I am now a LEGAL DRIVER! I at first had thought that I needed to go through occupational therapy at Baptist Hospital to become a certified left foot driver. But, after talking to an amputee friend of mine, I found out that I could order the left foot accelerator online, install it myself, and then go to the DMV to get a driver's test. So, this week, the accelerator device came in the mail and Dad made a nice base for it so it wouldn't move around at all in my car. Then, this morning, I woke up extra early at the DMV to take my driver's test.
The last time I took a driving test, I was in California, 16 years old, and driving my parents' yellow VW van (the one with the 3 foot long stick shift thing). I remember stalling out in the middle of my three point turn and having to start the van up again to complete the maneuver. So embarrassing.

Well, this morning, I was in my good old box car (the Scion xb toaster car) with (thankfully) an automatic transmission but with PEDALS REARRANGED! During the tests, I kept saying to myself, "The brake is in the middle. The brake is in the middle. The brake is in the middle." Amazingly, I passed.

The people at the DMV were positively lovely. When presenting my situation, they knew exactly what I needed to do to become legal. But more so--they were all so stunned that I was ready to start driving just one month after my surgery. They kept saying, "Your attitude is so great. You are an inspiration!" One lady said, "I woke up feeling sorry for myself this morning. When I see what you have gone through and how you are handling it so well, I just need to shut up and be grateful." Very sweet.

Anyway--Dad and I spent a lot of time together this week having lunch dates, celebrating his birthday, getting my car jazzed up, and going to doctors. It has been positively wonderful being able to spend so much time with him. I don't think I have spent this much "alone time" with my Dad since the days when he was teaching me to drive in that old VW van! He is such an incredibly giving and caring man.

I have decided to have a man named Eugene Silva to be my (lawfully wedded) prosthetist. I think that we will work well together and he was recommended highly by Dr. Hutson. Now I am looking into meeting with a physiatrist before choosing a physical therapist. This type of doctor would look at the physical medicine and rehabilitation involved in getting me back together and then help me to choose the right people to work with each of my issues (and let me tell you--I have plenty!!!) :)

I thought you might enjoy this picture of Eugene's work room where he makes the prosthetics. It is a very fun combination of medicine and art.

While I still enjoy doing the braided bread ace wrap technique to bring down the swelling in my leg, I REALLY LOVE my first new official shrinker sock. It makes my shorter leg look so nice. It feels really good to have everything squished together tightly.

I have been doing some interesting reading on phantom pain. Basically, the nerves are severed during the amputation and--despite the fact that the foot is gone--the nerves keep sending messages as if it is still there. Last week, I blacked out for a moment and found myself on the floor with major bruises on my hip and arm, a bent crutch, and a rug burn on my elbow and foot. Funny thing is--the rug burn on my foot was on my missing foot. It was as if my body knew that--if the foot HAD been there--it would have been injured during my fall. So, for about 5 days, as the rug burn was healing on my elbow, sure enough--the rug burn feeling on my foot started to slowly go away, too. So weird.

So anyway, I was reading this article that was discussing various ways to help alleviate phantom pain. One way--they said--was to redefine the feeling as a phantom "sensation" rather than "pain." When you think about it, your nerves are sensing feelings all day long--the fabric of your shirt touching your skin, the tightness of your shoe around your foot--but your brain knows that these feelings are not "dangerous" so they tune them out. They said that the nerves that were severed are sending me "danger danger" messages because no one has told them that everything is OK. My brain needs to learn to tune out these messages and learn that the nerves are kind of "crying wolf."

So--I tried what they said. At night when my pain is worse, I will consiously think to myself, "That is not pain, that is a sensation . . ." and NO KIDDING--the pain goes away. It is the weirdest thing. The only problem is that when I stop saying it to myself, the pain comes back. I experienced the same thing with the mirror therapy, too. When I see my "leg" in the mirror, the pain is relieved. But when the mirror is taken away, the pain comes back. So, I guess I just need to keep strengthening this "mental muscle" to the point that my brain will finally believe that all is well and stop responding to the messages. Time will tell.

We have been having sweet experiences this week that are helping the family feel like we are getting back into proper "alignment." Doug is so wonderful.

Anyway--we are taking part in a Cancer Free Kids walk tomorrow morning (I will be pushed in a wheelchair) and then getting the girls ready for a million Halloween parties. Should be fun.

Love to you all!

Anne

October 26, 2010

Well, hello again! When last we met, I let you know that I was going to try to join in with the rest of society and stay awake during daylight hours. That didn’t last long. The day after my appointment with Dr. Hutson, I woke up with Doug and the girls around 7:00 am and stayed awake all day until they all went to bed around 9:00 pm. It wasn’t pretty. I kept myself busy during the day visiting my prosthetist, bringing my car in for some routine maintenance, writing some thank you cards, etc. etc. However, by the time the kids came home, I was feeling very ornery and in need of some shut-eye. By the end of the evening, we all agreed that I was either going to have to move out of the house and live a solitary life watching a lot of cable TV and learning to knit, OR get at least 5 hours of sleep during the day. That night, I slept through the night and allowed myself to sleep in until about 11 am. That is now my new routine and it is keeping all of us very happy.


Dad and I went to visit my prosthetist and he taught me how to wrap my shorter leg with an ace bandage (my official shrinker sock needed to be ordered). The method of wrapping makes my leg look like a flesh colored loaf of braided bread—all for the purpose of slowly shrinking my limb. Very cool.

In my search for a prosthetist and a physical therapist, I spent a lot of time last week talking with amputees. Good grief—such happy people. Literally—any one of these people would drop everything to help me out. They have lived what I am going through right now and they are so eager to give me whatever advice I need. One guy is helping me navigate through the process of driving left footed (legally), while another woman is sharing her experience with different types of prosthetic feet. Some themes seem to come up a lot . . .

1) Most have a certain amount of regret about pushing to get into their prosthetic too soon. Everyone is encouraging me to wait until my doctor is extremely sure that my limb is ready for a prosthetic. So many of them talk about the pain, sores, and other issues they dealt with because of their insistence to get fit with their first leg. Good to know.

2) Along the same lines, they all caution me to release the feeling that you have something to prove once you get your first leg. They all felt this pressure to let everyone know that they were OK and functioning “just like before the accident” with their new leg. They all said to be sure to start off slow. Your body will thank you for it.

3) They all admit that there are struggles with being an amputee. Whether it is phantom pain, soreness at the end of the day, the stigma of being “different”, or keeping up with the maintenance of socks, liners, leg, etc.—they all quietly confide that the appearance of being “normal” does come with a certain amount of physical/emotional pain. HOWEVER, what they all share is an effervescent, absolutely unstoppable, completely contagious and inspirational LOVE OF LIFE. They are all SO GRATEFUL to be up and moving again—and so appreciative of the parts of their body that work perfectly (without assistance). It is almost as if the loss of one body part has made the other parts seem all the more precious and valuable. And that alone is reason to CELEBRATE!

It almost makes me wonder if the process of losing a limb brings you to a crossroads of either jumping in and embracing the experience—or just fading back and letting it define you. There is a woman across the street from me who is missing an arm. I have never seen her leave her house—in fact the only time I ever see her is when she takes her cat outside for a little while. I don’t know how she lost her arm, but did the experience change her? Was she always quiet and secluded? Or is she just embarrassed to be seen?

There is definitely something to going out in public with a missing limb. I am already used to getting a lot of stares because of my scooter. But the stares I get now are very different. You can almost hear the collective, “Ahhh . . .” when I move around on my crutches. It is hard to tell if people pity you, are repulsed, interested, intrigued—so you are tempted to work really hard to exude this vibe of “I am totally OK with this and am so stinking happy to be an amputee.” I think that would become tiring to keep that up forever.

So instead, I am choosing to take the perspective that the average person is good, honest, well intentioned, and a bit curious. I can remember when a woman in our church had her big toe amputated. I SO wanted to look at her feet just to see what that looked like, but I didn’t want to get caught looking. Did I pity her? No. Did I feel bad for what she had experienced to reach the point of amputation? Yes. Was I dying to really look at her foot up close? Absolutely. Once I looked, would I need to look at it again? Not really. But most of all—did I think that she was any different now from when she was a ten-toed woman? Not at all. She was still the amazingly talented, beautiful, and interesting mother of two that she was before she lost her toe. No big deal—move on.

So—I invite people to look. Be curious. And I don’t have to put on a big show that I am OK. I am OK. I am just fine—I just don’t have two feet anymore. And if people pity me, I guess I would just hope that eventually they would realize that there isn’t any need to feel pity for me. I am still the same me--just a little shorter on one side. I hope that as I transition back to going to work, driving around, being out, etc.--that I don’t lose that feeling.

My biggest inspiration is a little girl in one of my Art classes who was born without her lower arm. Believe me, when you are five, you are surrounded by other five year olds who are all too eager to point out that you are missing a left hand. But she lives life without apology. I don’t care what project we are working on; she comes up with a way to do it in her own way.

It would be so easy to say, “Oh, look at that poor little girl who has to live like that.” But what a waste of breath! Poor little girl? There is nothing poor about her. She is more amazing, more admired, more inspirational, and more beautiful simply because of having one hand. When a boy came up to her recently and said, “Your arm looks weird.”—She looked at him like he was an absolute idiot (you really should have seen her standing there with her hand on her hip) and said, “I was born this way. God made me just the way He wanted to.”

She lives this verse to the fullest: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

I may not have been created by God with one foot, but circumstances have led me to this point. I need to have the quiet confidence that I am still wonderfully made. I am not something that is gross, or repulsive, or embarrassing—just a little different. And I still believe to my core that I am already better for it.

Anyway—those are just a few things I have been thinking about.

I feel so blessed that things are just progressing along beautifully—no drama, no late-night emergencies, no draining liquids—just a nice, healing leg and a sleepy lady.

I love and appreciate all of you so much—

Anne

Monday, October 18, 2010


Howdy, friends! Dad and I took a little drive down to University of Miami again today to visit Dr. Hutson to see how the old "shorter leg" was doing. Turns out the incision site is healed and INFECTION FREE! Never thought those words would be used so often together with the mention of MY body!

I left the office with a stack full of prescriptions to get working on . . .

1) More percocet - Hardly need it.

2) Occupational Therapy for a Driving Evaluation - Hopefully I can get working on this soon so I can start to get myself around town for midnight dancing!

3) Physical Therapy - Since I have been on my scooter for so long, I need to work on strengthening my body so that it is ready to receive a prosthetic. The PT people will teach me how to de-sensitize my residual limb so that the phantom pain will hopefully calm down.

4) TENS unit - This is a nerve stimulator thing that has been proven to be very effective in decreasing phantom pain. The PT people will show me how to attach it to my body and then I will wear it regularly for a month or so (or so some of my amputee friends have told me).

5) Shrinker Sock - Right now, my residual limb looks like someone made a clean cut across my leg (funny--because that's what they did do!!). The shrinker sock will help my resi . . .

STOP RIGHT THERE!!!

OK--apparently it is really bad amputee etiquette to refer to the cut off part of your arm or leg as a "stump." So--you are supposed to call it a "residual limb." That term is way too long to say, and WAY too long to type over and over. I am resisting the idea of naming my st _ _ p because we don't know each other well enough yet. So far, I have been liking it better to refer to my legs as "shorter leg" and "longer leg" but that is getting ridiculous, too. I know that "left leg" and "right leg" will also be useless because even I have to think twice to remember which is which (also--it makes me think of the "left-over" leg and the "right"--as in "correct" leg). I am usually a problem solver but this one has me st _ _ mped. (I didn't even mean to make that joke--it just came right out of me!!!)

Anyway--where were we . . .

. . . dual limb reduce in size and become more rounded in shape. So, tomorrow I have an appointment to get fitted for a shrinker sock. Yea, progress!

Now that my shorter leg doesn't have to be in the knee immobilizer anymore, I am adjusting to life with a bending knee. Visually, I think my new leg was a little easier to look at when it was held out straight and wrapped up in medical gear. When I came home today, we all sat around the dinner table looking (with furrowed brows) at my leg going, "Hmmmmmm . . ." It just seems to be a little more obvious that there is a foot missing when it bends. Whatever--we will get used to it.

On the up side--I get to take a shower now! Hooray for hygiene!

One thing that Dr. Hutson would like for me to work on is staying awake during the day. He said that it is common for people to get their sleep patterns disrupted following amputation. Therefore, he wants me to try to sleep as much at night and then come up with things to do during the day to stay awake. Sounds positively painful.

So, rather than going straight home from my appointment (to take a nap), Dad and I went and shared a plate of stone crabs (first time for both of us!) and a grouper sandwich. What a delight! Tomorrow, Dad and I will stay busy by getting the shrinker sock and dropping my car off at the mechanic. I want to get it tuned up so it is ready to get my left-foot accelerator installed when I get the all-clear. That should keep me awake until at least noon.

I posted some st _ _ p pics in the Great Fall pics section again if you are interested.

Love to you all!

Anne

Saturday, October 16, 2010


CONFUSION ALERT!!!

Many of you mistook the picture that I posted on Friday as visual proof that I already have my prosthetic. Sorry--no fake foot until at least Christmas-time.

That is a picture of me,

wearing black leggings (on my good leg and over the brace on my shorter leg),

and Elise sticking her foot out beneath my shorter leg (while hiding behind me.)


Sorry to get you prematurely excited.

Love,

Anne

P.S. Just for a little more clarification, here is a picture we took of me today. And no--that's not a loaf of bread I have in my arms--it's my shorter leg.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Well, it is 3:24 am and I am up.

For the last week or so, I haven't felt the need to take any pain meds during the day. For some reason, I sleep like a baby during the day without noticing much pain. However, the minute the sun goes down, my nerve pain kicks in so I usually take a percocet at bedtime. Although this helps with the pain, it doesn't seem to put me in a sleepy mood (it doesn't help that I sleep all day which is most likely throwing off my clock a little). So, I just lay in bed--listening to Doug snore and thinking happy, melancholy thoughts. That is one thing I can say for percocet--it always fills me with this overwhelming sense of well-being. I just lay in bed thinking of how much I love my family, how grateful I am for good health, how rainbows are so pretty after a soft rain, that kittens are some of God's most cuddly and precious creatures . . . things like that.

So, here I am thinking about how much I love the softness of my bedsheets, AND that I am wondering if I need to change the format of my blog. I started my blog to alleviate the need for Doug to repeat information to caring and interested friends and family over and over again. Never did I think that this blog would end up telling the story of a woman falling off a ladder and ending up needing a lower leg amputation--but here we are. I am grateful for the written record of my journey--both medical and emotional. It is a blessing to be able to read back over it and see how far we have come. God has been so faithful.

The only downfall of my blog is that readers have to periodically check in to see if I have updated it recently. I have always thought that it would be nice to have another format that would send out email or text notification of updates. Well--there is and it is called Caring Bridge. Caring Bridge is a website that would allow me to have my own page that would have space for me to write my usual ramblings (called your "Journal" page)--but it would also allow you to leave comments/words of encouragement, look at pictures, etc., etc.

I have come to love the look of my blog but I can see that it might be nice to make it a little more convenient for my readers (listen to me sounding like I am writing Newsweek or something).

Anyway--if you wouldn't mind participating in my poll--I would appreciate it. See it up there in the upper right hand corner? Just take a moment to tell me what you think and I will think about what to do next week.

OK--now that I have this dealt with, I will try to go to sleep. (If I am not successful, I will simply start searching for pretty pictures secretly embedded in my popcorn ceiling.)

Love to you all,

Anne

Friday, October 15, 2010

We had a great weekend last week. First, I was able to get a haircut. Nothing like a haircut to make you feel human again. Before I left for the salon, Elise looked at me and said, "Your leg looks so normal I bet they won't even notice that your foot is gone." I said, "Oh thanks honey, but I am sure they will notice that something is missing." So--she came up with her own solution. She figured that if she walked very closely behind me that no one would know the difference.
Did we trick you? Look at this picture as proof that I have my leg back!!! (Not really--it is Elise's foot tucked behind my short leg. Pretty sneaky, huh?!?)


We also went to the park and the girls challenged Doug to a running race. After a lot of bravado that he would
easily win, Doug got his rear end whooped by his oldest daughter. Poor guy.

I have had a lot more phantom pain in my foot this week. It has kept me from sleeping at night so I sleep mostly during the day. I don't mind. It is kind of nice being awake in my house when I know that everyone is home with me--but they don't need anything from me. It is nice having a very low maintenance husband and kids.

A wonderful mother of one of my students just happens to be in charge of the physical therapy department at University of Miami. I spoke to her yesterday and she is lining me up for a whole bunch of great stuff. One, she gave me the names of some occupational therapists that work with you to get "certified" to drive with a left-foot gas pedal. This means that I will get an appliance installed in my car that will move the gas pedal from the far right to the far left. The brake will remain in the center. After OT has approved me, they will send me to the DMV for another driving evaluation. If I manage to pass without taking out any innocent bystanders, I will be completely legal to drive. That sounds great. Not cheap--but great.

She is also going to work to get me hooked up with a therapist that is trained to help amputees with phantom pain. There are a lot of different therapies that I would like to try (like the mirror therapy) that I am doing on my own because (so far) I haven't been able to find anyone that does it. Well, Teresa is setting me up with people who do. So awesome.

So many people have offered to help in gazillions of different ways. It is so wonderful that--when the need arises--I can call these people to get connected to people that can actually help me. I am so grateful.

I would love to write more but I feel another nap coming on (I sleep constantly!!!).

Love to you all, my friends.

Anne

Friday, October 8, 2010

Howdy, friends! Dad and I went to see Dr. Hutson yesterday and EVERYTHING LOOKED GREAT! Thank goodness. He saw no sign of any kind of infection and said that he would be very surprised if we encountered any infection in the future. Love those words.

So, for the next week I have been assigned to continue to keep my leg in the knee immobilizer, do my regular leg exercises, take my medications, and keep my leg elevated as much as possible. Since the incision site is not completely healed yet, we don't want to stretch out that area with any kind of swelling (if you want to see it--click the Great Fall pics link). Therefore, he doesn't want me to ever stand with my leg hanging down for a period longer than 30 minutes. Ah shucks--that sounds like I won't be able to make any meals for my family in the kitchen. What a sacrifice.

I shouldn't joke that there would be any NEED for me to cook because so many people have been bringing us food!! What a precious precious thing it is to have good meals brought to your house. And then let's talk about the desserts! All of my silly students at school know that I love frosting so they have been sure to get plenty of frosting-covered whatevers (I don't care what they are because I just eat the frosting and then throw the rest away) to our house. I may just be 600 pounds by the time I am ready for my prosthetic.

While at the doctor's office, we discussed a few interesting things to think about. First, he stressed the importance that I NOT fall on my stump. I managed to take a shower for the first time in preparation for my appointment yesterday (the world rejoiced) but it felt a little like I was on the verge of disaster. I was fine getting in, but it got a little dicey when getting out. We may have to figure out how to install some shower grab bars or maybe remodel our bathroom a bit (oh joy). Second, we talked about driving. I have been driving with my left foot for some time now and can hardly imagine driving with my right anymore. Technically, it is not illegal for me to drive left-footed, but if some yo-yo crashed into me and our accident ended up going to court . . . I am sure someone would take issue with the fact that I wasn't driving with society's foot of preference. So, I need to figure out how to get some official "OK" to drive either with my left foot, or with some sort of modification to my car. Anyone know anything about this?

My X-ray looked awesome. How nice to see an X-ray up on the light board that doesn't have smashed bone, dead cartilage, massive screws, or gelatinous tissue. There was my pretty new stump with a perfect bone bridge put in between the tibia and fibula. Looked so nice.

When I get a prosthetic, the weight being put on the bridge will cause more bone to develop around the end (Wolff's Law of Bone Growth - the more pressure that is exerted on a bone, the larger and more dense it will become). Therefore, the end will become more rounded and strong. So cool.

Last night was a bit miserable because I was experiencing new kinds of nerve pain. It felt like I was stepping down on a bed of nails just to the point that the nails would start to pierce the skin (such a pretty mental picture). I was also itching to death. My leg felt like it had been bit by an angry mob of fire ants. Last but not least, I also got a bad charley horse-type pain so I hauled out the mirror and watched the image of my foot stretching out the charley horse. Amazingly enough--the pain went away! But then when I put the mirror away, the pain came back.
My friend suggested that I start wearing mirrored pants. Yes--I can just see how those are going to sell like hotcakes in the amputee community. Bathroom remodel here we come! :)

Needless to say, I spent most of the night listening to Doug snore and patting my leg from the outside of the bandage hoping that my leg would stop itching.

Do I sound like I am complaining? NO! All is well. It is such a relief to know that if I stay up all night fighting ants, walking on nails, and sewing a permanent mirror onto my knee immobilizer--I can still catch up on my sleep by sleeping all day. Which is exactly what I did today. Hard, hard sleep from 7am to 5:30pm. Guess my body needs it.

Our life has not been without its stresses this last week. We are all in a bit of a funk figuring out our new routines and responsibilities. I think it has been a little hard at times to adjust to the limitations of life with a "one-legged mom" (heard that once this week)--but we will sort all that out. We just need to be honest with our fears, quiet resentments, and hopes--and know that we just might be nearing the end of this particular journey (could it be, Lord?). Seems a little scary to hope for--but it would be nice for us to move forward to a life with full mobility.

Whatever--we will roll with it and know that (if I hear this one more time I will hurt someone) that we will be stronger and have built up a heck of a lot of character by the time we are done.

Again--can't tell you enough how much the cards, meals, flowers, rides, and the cans of frosting have helped us through the last week.

Finally--My brother and sister-in-law, Matt and Vera, found out late last week that Vera's Mom has liver cancer. Carolyn is the coolest Mom and it grieves me that their family is having to go through this scary time. It would be such a blessing if you could raise Carolyn and the rest of the Douma family to the Lord in prayer.

We love all of you so much!

Anne

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

After sleeping all day, celebrating my Mom's birthday, and going out for a ride in my wheelchair (with Doug pushing and Elise riding beside in her roller skates), I came home and was feeling some burning nerve pain. So I tried something that I had seen on a VA hospital website as a therapy for phantom nerve pain. It was kind of fun to try and seemed to help a little. Just thought I would share some pics . . .

Here is what my legs look like while lying in bed . .











Now I am putting a mirror between my good long leg and good short leg . . .
















Ta-da! I now look like I have two good long legs! When the nerves in my short leg tell me that my foot is asleep, it seems to help if I watch the image of my missing foot moving around. I don't know if it is more of a distraction or an actual help--but I am going to keep messing around with it.

I'll let you know how my appointment goes tomorrow with Dr. Hutson.

Much love to you!

Anne


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Well--it is very late but I just felt the need to share a few things.

1) I went all day without googling anything about amputation. Sometimes it is best not knowing.

2) I slept most of the day. In the morning, I dreamt that I was going around a very artsy village--breaking into cool shops and stealing all kinds of hand-made sweaters, jewelry, cards, etc. I was so excited and then I felt so guilty so I tried to return the items and things weren't going very well. I woke up just before I was about to get arrested. I have no idea what this dream means but I'm glad that I know that I am in no condition to go around shoplifting anytime soon.

3) I was thinking tonight that it would be so nice if my appointment with Dr. Hutson on Thursday afternoon could go well. Just then, I went to open two cards--one from my incredible Grandma (she has been sending me one card every day), and one from a dear older lady in our church who is affectionately known as Grandma Hyacinth.

Grandma's card said: "His eye is on the sparrow and He cares for you."

Grandma Hyacinth's card said: "I am with you and will watch over you."

Made me feel like God was sending me a clear message that He was keeping an eye on me. Forget about the flaws of our human medical institutions--I have the Great Physician watching over me.

Love to you all, my friends--

Anne

Monday, October 4


I am still here.

It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride the last few days. We had thrilling highs, the scary lows, the waiting, the bumpy parts, but--just in the last few hours--I am feeling like this particular ride is coming to a calm end. I will just enjoy the peaceful reprieve until the next ride starts up again.

Basically, the day after they pulled out the pain pump I felt like I was having to beg for pain relief. On the one hand, I understood that they didn't want to give me too many IV meds if I needed to go home the next day, on the other hand--I was in pain and needed help! On the first day, the pain doctor wanted to treat me with neurontin--a medicine that treats nerve pain. However, on the first day following surgery while--yes--I was having nerve pain, I was also suffering major traumatic pain simply from having bone, muscle, and tissue cut and rearranged on my body! That pain could have been helped by some morphine--which the nurses didn't seem to think would help. When I really begged and pleaded for some good old narcotics, then they would reluctantly give me a little bit. Hutson later told them that they should have treated me with morphine--but that was only after I wasn't needing it as badly anymore.

The minute you have a limb amputated, you start to feel that everyone thinks that your pain is in your head. They have heard of phantom pain but don't really understand what it is or where it comes from. So when I am saying that my foot is burning (when there isn't a foot there anymore), you can tell that this person is thinking that you are imagining the pain that your foot is having way off in a dumpster somewhere. I could right away see why so many of the amputees I have spoken with prefer to talk about it as nerve pain rather than phantom pain.
Anyway, the physical therapy people forgot to come for me on Thursday, so they decided to let me stay until Saturday morning so I could have two sessions of PT before going home. It was fun to try and use my one-legged body for the first time. It was so weird to be able to feel my missing foot touch the floor when I stood straight up. You really have to spend a lot of time looking at your legs or else you get confused on what your brain is telling you. On the first day, we tried out moving with a walker.
But on Saturday, we were able to speed things up a little with crutches. That was nice.

They also gave me exercises to do three times a day to keep my leg strengthened. It is so strange to see this part of yourself moving around--but that it feels like a complete stranger. When I sit on a chair and go to set my leg up on another chair, I constantly find myself needing to pull it closer. I will see my leg coming down through the air to come to rest on the chair but it will completely miss it and end up on the floor. It is like getting a new car and needing to figure out how far you can pull into the garage without hitting the wall. I just don't know my angles yet.

We worked so hard on Saturday to get discharged, but everything was moving so slowly--and I don't just mean the help. Yes, PT didn't show up until noon, and the doctor's residents didn't come until even later. But my bowels decided that they were going to be a little late in moving, too. Before you can get discharged, they always ask for a few things: signed papers, required prescriptions, collection of personal belonging, and--oh, yea--proof that all systems are go in the bathroom. Good grief--Doug and I always knew that we knew each other well, but after one suppository, two laxatives, and TWO tries at an enema--we now can say that we know each other very deeply. When we finally had success, we were out the door and in the car before anyone could say, "Pee-U!"

The hard part has been this overall feeling that no one is really overseeing your care. Yes, there were wonderful people at Jackson, but there was no sense that they were working together as a team. Yes--Hutson may have told them to give me morphine, but if the pain management people didn't think that worked in their timeline, they did something different. The PT people didn't know if they should do exercises with or without my brace because no one had written up the order--and there didn't seem to be a way to call anyone either. So, you got this, "Well, we think this is what he would have wanted us to do . . ." kind of attitude that starts to get stressful after a while.

We have just come off of a year and a half of working so hard for things to go right--and seeing almost every step of the process go wrong. So when I finally come to the point that I am amputating my only right foot so that I can move on with my life--I NEED THIS TO GO RIGHT. I don't want to have every little person in the piece of the puzzle treat me with this attitude of, "Well, I think this is right . . ." I want people to be absolutely confident of what they are doing.

So, for example, I came home with these feelings of phantom pain so I started googling. Well, one thing led to another and I am finding that most people these days go home with a cast on their amputated limb because it has been shown to reduce swelling, increase recovery time, and help manage phantom pain. Well, here I am in a leg wrapped in gauze and an ace bandage! Why aren't I in a cast? So my mind starts to jump ahead--"Does Hutson know what he is doing? Does he do it the 'old school' way and doesn't know about this research with the cast?"

And what about these drugs I am taking for phantom pain? Why am I taking them? Aren't there different therapies I can be doing to help with this pain? Why hasn't anyone referred me to them? Am I just supposed to figure all this out by myself?

Who is in charge here? I need this to go RIGHT!

So, yea--this was all coming to a head around 2am last night, right as Doug was trying to get his lesson plans finalized because he had been in the hospital with me all week. Poor guy.

So--he was sweet as ever. Agreed that our stay in the hospital was not an experience that would build confidence in the care we were receiving. That, yes, we have been through a lot so to just tell us to go home and not worry wasn't really helpful. We like information.

Doug said that I have researched and talked with people and googled my fingers off--just to get us to the point of feeling good about amputation. I think that if we had hoped that I was just going to get to relax now that the deed has been done--I am wrong. I need to gear up for a whole new round of researching, talking, and googling to make sure that I am getting the best care and services available from this point of the process forward. A bit discouraging but probably true.

I am a little sick of the line, "You have to be your own advocate." I understand that. But at some point, can someone just show up who will do a good job and exude a confidence that lets me know that I can trust what they are saying, know that they have my best interest at heart, and that they are giving me the best care possible?
Why do I always feel like people are backing out the door before they even come in--and say just enough to have technically answered your question but not really have said anything new? Is it really that miserable to stay in a room and talk with me? Maybe I need to wear more deodorant.

So, this morning I woke up and started making phone calls. I called amputees I hadn't met before. I called recent amputees who are about a year ahead of me. I called a prosthetist. I called Dr. Hutson's office. Etc. etc. etc.

My amputee friends were very kind--all letting me know that they had been through this, too. Lots of ups and downs--I get it. A nurse from the insurance company called and--after listening to me--asked if I would benefit from joining an amputee support group. But then my Mom, Annika, and Elise came in the house and brought some life into the house. My Mom sat with me as a cried a little and then I felt better. Elise took me out on a walk with the dog in my wheelchair. Later on, the phone rang and it was Dr. Hutson. He explained why he had chosen to do the gauze wrap as opposed to the cast--made good sense. He was encouraged by my decreased level in pain. He was looking forward to my appointment with him on Thursday where he could take a look at my stitches. Yes--I will show you how to wrap the leg then. No--there is no need to see a prosthetist or PT yet--we will get to that in good time. Your job now is to recuperate and keep your leg elevated.
Recuperate and keep my leg elevated.
Recuperate and keep my leg elevated.
OK . . .

So for now, I am going to try really hard to stay away from Google, try to get outside a little so the walls don't start coming in on me, recuperate, and keep my leg elevated.

Doug went back to school today and was overwhelmed by the amount of people sending love and prayers our way. Made him feel really good.

I guess I made it through my first roller coaster ride--I'm sure it won't be the last. But happy to be safe on the other side nonetheless.

Love to all of you who helped our family this week by watching our kids, driving around from place to place, making meals, sending cards, praying in earnest, and sending love our way.

Love back at you--

Anne
P.S. When Dr. Hutson came to my hospital room to take out the drain from the wound site, I took pictures of what my leg now looks like without the bandages on. If you would like to see, go to the upper right corner and click on "Anne's Great Fall Wound Pics." Don't worry--its more interesting than gross if you ask me. :)

Thursday night, September 30

Today ended up being kind of a strange day. After they pulled out the nerve block, I feel like I was in a mental tug of war trying to discern my level of pain and how best to handle it. They haven't been real generous with pain medication so I can now tell that I need to be a little more direct in asking for help. No matter what--I made it through my first day and am now a little wiser in what to ask for tomorrow.

Whatever. The best part of the day was getting a visit from my Dad, and my friends and co-workers, Sharon and Lisa. They brought some cards that kids had made for me. They were all adorable, thoughtful, and sweet. I can tell that we should probably have a school-wide spelling test on how to spell our last name (Heettricks, Heetdreeks, Hendricks, Heaterks, etc.) . . . But one especially cracked me up.

It started as a piece of paper folded up so many times that it resembled a very unique form of origami--only to be carefully secured with about three miles of scotch tape. After spending 10 minutes just trying to open it up, I could tell that there was another wad of paper inside the package. Well--the paper was none other than $21.00 in bills. When I opened up the card, there was a beautiful watercolor painting of water and a prosthetic leg with the message, "For the water leg."

When talking with the kids on Monday, a lot of them asked if my fake leg would rust in water. I explained that I was going to have to save up some money for a special prosthetic called a "water leg" that can be used when walking in and out of water at the beach, washing a car, or going waterskiing (for example). Well, this little girl took it upon herself to get a "water leg" fund going for me. Too funny. So sweet. (Don't worry--I will get the money back to her parents as soon as I can.) :)

Anyway--I am slowly getting used to the look of my new body. I haven't had a chance to stand up yet--we will cross that bridge tomorrow. Thanks for all of the encouragement. Love to you all!

Anne

Thursday, September 30 -10:40

They just took out my nerve block pain pump so I am trying to distract myself from what might be coming. The pain management doctor was incredible. She would like to avoid putting me on the morphine and go straight to an oral pain medication so I can go home. She says that there are so many nasty germs in the hospital that I am better off getting home tomorrow. She is also going to put me on a medication called neurontin that is a medication that targets nerve pain. I know that many amputees have been helped by this medication so I am excited to try it.

Doug and I slept for 11 hours last night. I think we should vacation in the hospital more often.

The man in the room to the left of me has been screaming constantly since last night. The man on the other side of me likes to sing. Doug said that he was singing out all the things on his breakfast tray the last time he passed by. The man two doors down apparently committed a serious crime two nights ago so there are two policemen outside his door at all times. Makes me feel like I don't need to worry about my laptop sitting out in plain view. Miami's finest have got the place covered.

Just in case you are getting the impression that I am not pleased with my stay here at Jackson Memorial--let me set you straight. The staff here is LOVELY. Everyone is happy and helpful--very compassionate and willing to get what you need at a moment's notice. I had my brother on speaker on my cell phone last night when a male nurse came in. The nurse introduced himself, helped me move my rear end to make room for the pain pump, and then told me the names of the other evening nurses. He told me how well I was moving my body and did a little dance while he explained that I should keep trying to keep my body limber. When he left, I checked back with my brother to see if he was still on the phone. He said, "Gee--are you at DisneyWorld or something? Sounds like the happiest place on Earth! You have Jonny, Janet, and Jennell helping you tonight and they even dance and sing!" Yes, despite my noisy neighbors, I feel like I am in a good place.

Dr. Hutson woke us up this morning and answered our gazillion questions. He explained a bit more about how he performed the surgery. As for the nerves, he said that he isolated each one, stretched it out, and then cut it so that it would retract back into the leg. He said that this keeps the nerve endings away from the bottom of the stump. He was also pleased that he used an extra piece of the tibia that still had arteries attached to it to create the bone bridge at the base of the tibia and fibula. This would make it more likely to heal and connect with the other bones. Doug wanted to know if he spent any time going through my ankle (I think Doug would have liked to do a dissection of it just to see what a mess it was). He said that he would never have done that because it creates the possibility of introducing bacteria to the sterile part of my good leg. We thanked him for taking his time to do a great job. What a kind man.

Well, it is now 11:05 and the pain is starting to kick in. I am going to rest now.

I thank you again for all the love. Doug sat this morning and read each email to me out loud. He can hardly get through any of them without his voice cracking or starting to tear up. Such a honey.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with us.

Anne

Wednesday, September 29

All is well, my friends. All is well.

The alarm went off this morning at 4:45 so we could get to the hospital by 6:00. I anticipated having to wait, fill out forms, answer gazillions of questions, etc. etc. Boy was I wrong. After a brief wait in the waiting room, my name was called and Doug wheeled me over to the Ryder Trauma Center. In no time my IV was in, my big black boot was in the trash, my gown was on, and was being wheeled into surgery. Dr. Hutson was as sweet as ever--giving me every confidence that all would go well. And it did.

I can't get over how light my new leg is--makes me wonder how much a foot weighs. Although it is gone, I find myself protecting my foot from getting bumped or moved. When I was waking up from surgery, I had a charlie horse-type feeling in my foot--but had no way to relieve it! Even now, my foot feels like it is asleep and needs to be flexed. I keep moving my good foot just to see if it makes the feeling go away. So weird. If you think of what it feels like to have a pinched nerve, you can only imagine what your body is going through when you actually cut all the nerves for an entire leg!

I am not using any IV or oral pain meds because they put a nerve block on my leg. This little machine puts anesthetic into a major nerve down to my leg so I don't feel pain. Starting tomorrow, they will transition me to morphine and then or percocet. I am grateful to be feeling the way I do right now. Definitely feeling pain--but it is manageable. It makes me a little nervous to think that major pain might be coming but I will take that one on when it comes.

I guess my eyes were open a bit during surgery so my eyes are killing me. So grateful that my eyes are my biggest issue right now. :)

They have me on heavy duty antibiotics (Vancomycin) which makes me happy. I really don't want to deal with any infection anymore!

They have my new leg all wrapped up in a splint to keep it straight. Apparently, many people bend their leg to relieve the pain. The only problem is that this prohibits amputees from being able to fully straighten their leg later on (which becomes a problem when adjusting to the prosthetic).

Doug is the sweetest man ever. I just love having him here with me. We are just hanging out in my hospital room--talking, processing, reading emails, and feeling thankful. He and my Mom hung out during the surgery (it ended up taking 6 hours!) and had lots of time to think about the last 20 months. Time to say goodbye.

We have a tropical storm coming through right now. Elise was all excited at school today saying that it was a perfect day for me to have my leg amputated because I always love it when it rains. So sweet. She thought I would love watching the rain from my hospital room. So true.

We had a lovely evening last night. Right after school, we finished homework and then went to a nail place to get our nails done. I decided that I wanted to get a french manicure on my good foot so I could wake up to a beautiful foot. And yes--I only had to pay half price. :) After that, we went out to dinner together and then got dressed up for Annika's choir concert.
I was struck by how pretty and grown up she looked up there on stage. They started the concert by praying over me--very kind. After the concert, we drove each of the girls to a friend's house to spend the night. When I got in bed, it was weird to think that I had just spent my last day with my foot.

Everyone is knocking themselves out to help us out in any way possible. One Mom made us blueberry muffins in case we got hungry at the hospital. My students drew lovely pictures for me and even wrote little prayers for me to read. The lovely emails coming in have been so encouraging. Friends are offering to help our kids with homework and drive them from place to place. Not enough space to mention everyone--just understand that we appreciate all the love.

Our Farewell to the Foot party was very therapeutic and fun. We all raised our glasses and toasted my foot thanking it for 41 years of faithful service. I loved going through all of my photographs in preparation for the party. So amazing to see all the times I had used my ankle and didn't even think to be grateful for how well it worked. Makes me just want to be thankful for everything that works well--my hands, my good foot, my eyes. So blessed.


I met with all of my students on Monday morning to let them know what was going on. They were amazing. I thanked them for praying so faithfully for me and explained that sometimes God doesn't answer prayers in exactly the way we might expect. However, I assured them that my new "fake foot" was indeed a wonderful answer to prayer. They had lots of questions and comments:

- You have a fake foot and I have a fake tooth!
- My Mom has fake hair!
- Why can't they just get you some new bones?
- If you take a bath, will your fake leg rust?
- I saw a boy at Disney World with one real leg and one fake leg and he could walk and go on all the rides just fine.
- A lot of people get things cut off their body. My Mom had fat cut off of her belly.
- During the surgery--will you be asleep or awake?
- How will they cut it off? Do they have a big saw? Are you going to watch them do it?
- Where will they put your foot after they cut it off?
- Can you put nail polish on your fake foot?

The remarkable thing about kids is that if you treat them with respect, stay calm, and tell them the truth--they respond in kind. So many kids came back to tell me how much they loved me, that they would pray for me every day, and that they were glad that I was going to get to walk again.

We spoke to the girls tonight and they both sound good. We are so proud of them.

Doug is staying here with me in the hospital tonight. It isn't even 9:00 and he has already made his little bed out of the vinyl chair thing they have here in the room. He is freezing so the nurse keeps bringing him more and more sheets. I don't think he has ever been in bed this early. Going through the stress of watching your wife get her leg amputated must be exhausting. He took good care of me today.

We love and appreciate all of you so much. Pray that tomorrow will be a manageable day.

Anne