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!

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!


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