I’ve been talking for the last few years about wanting to take a break in life to be able to attend some type of conference that being an amputee, or being involved in the amputee world, is the common focus of the event. So when I got the phone call from Ottobock asking me to join them at their booth as a C-Leg patient model for the Amputee Coalition National conference in Orlando, FL; you can guess I jumped at the opportunity. I have been to smaller scale, and local nonprofit events held to support amputees in the past, but that was the extent of it.
Talking With Strangers At The Airport On My Way to the Conference
I headed out to the airport on a Thursday after work on the way to the ACA conference in Florida from my home in Minneapolis. Typically when flying I will make it easy for security and myself by just rocking a pair of shorts or a dress. In my mind it makes the process that much quicker. As I walked the zigzag line to make my way to security I felt eyeballs staring at me and lots of them. Usually this isn’t even something I notice at all anymore, especially because I kind of draw attention to my C-Leg, with the fancy cover I rock! It was just an odd thing to notice. I walked the long haul to my gate only to realize there was, of course a few hours, flight delay. So I found a nice little spot away from everyone and started getting some work done.
Shortly after sitting down I noticed a man in a pilot uniform take a seat not too far from me. Within a few minutes he was very openly asking about my leg, what happened to me and everything under the sun. Lucky for him and me, I am an open book. After about ten minutes of chatting, the guy in the next row over got up to come over and ask if he could join our conversation because he heard about the “interesting prosthetic talk we were having…” and how can you pass up on that? So he sits down across from us. We continue where we left off in talking about phantom pains, C-Legs, and life experience.
It couldn’t have been another ten minutes before the guy to the right of us two rows over, got up and walked over to us. He looked at me and asked if I would mind if he joined our conversation because he heard us talking was intrigued by our conversation about prosthetics and my story. I literally burst out laughing because I thought someone was maybe messing with me. But I welcomed him to the convo as I did the first guy. It sounds cheesy but I really appreciate the opportunity to teach someone something that they maybe didn’t know before our conversation. I’m a big people watcher and love learning new things from other people with very different experienced than me. Next thing I know they are boarding the plane and it has been three hours or so of talking about everything with total strangers.
A three hour random conversation, with three random strangers, was the most interesting and insightful conversation that I have had with people in a long time.
Our conversation was a friendly reminder to me that I am on the right track. One of them looked at me and asked how I got to the place I am? He asked me how I am doing so well mentally and physically. I told him that really I never would have thought that I would do as well as I am doing, but that I have amazing support system in many ways. I told him truthfully I believe that just about everyone would bounce back the way I have if they had an amputation. He looked at me a little crazy. I explained that you have to make it work because what other option is there? To let your life be consumed with ill will towards something that you cannot change? That resonated in my mind as I met each amazing person during the ACA conference that weekend.
Arriving at the Amputee Coalition National Conference
When I finally made it to the conference, I was a bit overwhelmed walking in, not in a bad way, but in a “this is crazy awesome” kinda way! Clearly I realized it was a convention for amputees, but it was great to see so many of us at once in the same place. It really was mind blowing to look around and think that there are so many of us there for the same reason, and that we all have had such different paths in getting here. Andrew who was an upper limb patient model at the Ottobock booth also was awesome, innovative and incredibly inspirational in what he is doing to improve his life as an upper limb amputee.
I met all different kinds of amputees and heard some unbelievable stories, but I must say one of my very favorite things about attending was going into the women’s discussion. I felt a little strange because I was a bit unsure of how the conversation might go. I sat in the discussion and just listened at first as I was a few minutes late getting there. I think listening to the conversation and what was on minds of other women, of all ages and are amputees as well, was exactly what I needed. I was surprised to hear how different individual thoughts were, yet the same as a group.
No offense guys, but I think I am so used to hearing a man’s opinion, it was very refreshing to hear the voices of some ladies talking about being amputees and the things that come along with being a woman amputee! I was really able to appreciate the conversation as it was really open and emotional for some, but it was a good healthy, funny and positive discussion by the end. I would highly recommend getting involved with any women’s organizations/discussions whenever possible. I couldn’t have realized that the women’s discussion that day ignited the fire within me. I left there wanting to build some stronger connections and relationships with the women in my life already. And soon after I realized or that is what got the ball rolling.
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If you or someone you know is a new amputee, Ottobock has a great resource page for you here.