That Awkward Moment When…

The sometimes awkward moments in life can become a bit more awkward when living with limb loss…

For Limb Loss Awareness Month I thought I would share some rather interesting and funny situations that I have encountered over my years living with limb loss. We all have them, our funny and awkward moments. But if you are someone who lives with limb loss I believe that, well… we tend to have our funny and awkward moments a bit more often than others. To me, Limb Loss Awareness Month is all about bringing an understanding to the community, friends, family and strangers in any way that you choose. For me, I hope to offer some awareness into my lifestyle –what I experience and how I deal with my experiences.

I have always believed that being able to laugh at yourself is important to surviving life. After the loss of my leg I really learned just how true that is. There seems to be more day-to-day “situations” in which humor is necessary to make it through the day. I mean from trips and falls, to funny leg noises, to just about anything you can imagine… Really, the list is endless. Here are my top most memorable/awkward experiences revolving around limb loss. Truly the list could go on and on, but I have tried to select a few that might shed some light on what amputees experience on a regular basis.Kate

1.       One afternoon I was doing some shopping at the grocery store with a friend (she pushed the cart and I was on crutches). I noticed a young boy, I would say no older than 5. He was of course taking inventory of my crutches and my missing leg. It was clearly something he was not familiar with; you could read the thoughts going through his head by the expression on his face. He looked so perplexed as to where my leg was. He kept moving his head up and down as though I was hiding my missing leg. I smiled cautiously since I didn’t want him to get upset or feel bad; as well as offering that same “it’s okay” smile to his mother who was obviously uncomfortable that he was staring at me.

Within a few seconds the little guy burst into tears and started screaming! I felt awful, thinking that he was so confused or upset at my missing leg. His mother’s face was turning red and then the little boy yelled, “That’s not fair!!! I waaant only one leg!!!” And the tears were pouring down his face! I felt bad, but couldn’t help but crack up because I never thought in a millions years that was what was going to come out of his mouth. His mom looked over shamefully at me and quickly steered the cart away from me. I smiled as big as I could and told her that it was really okay and there was no need for her to be embarrassed because that was the funniest thing I had heard yet. Not sure if she would agree with that!

2.       The awkward moment when the suction pump on your leg starts going off (to regain a better connection) in a dead silent room such as a meeting or classroom. Usually I can play cool and look around like everyone else does and pretend I don’t know where the noise is coming from. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) when there are only a few people in the room it isn’t as easy ignore because the vacuum/suction noise is obviously coming from you. It does double as a good ice breaker sometimes.  Or it brings up some really interesting and educational conversations!

3.       The super awesome power of human curiosity. I fully understand that it is human nature to want to learn more and ask questions to people who live different lifestyles. I really think that curiosity doesn’t kill the cat, rather curiosity gives longevity to the life to the cat. We can all learn something from others that we don’t know and asking questions is a great way to do that. However, assumptive questions are not the best way to go about it. Being asked such things as, “You must never leave your house because you are afraid of what people will think of you because you don’t have a leg, right?” Well no actually I DO leave the house and I am not worried about what other people will think. I mean I am talking to you in a public place right now so how does your logic make any sense? C’mon ladies and gentlemen, both young and old, THINK about what and how you are asking a question before you ask it! Not everyone will be as polite as I am 😉

4.       The infamous drive thru or delivery question: I see your crutches, how did you hurt your knee? Do I crush your world and embarrass the heck out of you right now, or do I do the nice thing and go with the flow since I will most likely never see you again? Hmm, depends on the day and my mood. Nope, I don’t have a leg. Or, No I didn’t hurt my ankle, but I did hurt my knee which is what caused to me have my leg amputated.  I mean there are a few perks of that being asked when a heavy delivery is being dropped off… “Oh ma’am where can I bring this package for you? I see that you hurt your knee, what can I do to help?” In ways this can make your life momentarily easier!

5.       When I was recovering and first beginning to get comfortable walking with a prosthesis, I thought it would be a good idea to get back into the hospitality industry. I figured that it would help my recovery to have a job which forced me to stand or walk around for 3/4th of my shift. So I started working at the front desk of a hotel. It was a late shift and I was standing at the front desk, welcoming guests who were coming back from a night out. A large group was coming through the front doors towards where I was standing. I tried to reposition my footing by crossing my one foot over the other, but it caused me to physically bump into the edge of the desk with my socket bouncing off the surface. I knew that it was about to be a disaster. I could see it playing out in slow motion in my head. As my socket hit the desk and I bounced backward and sideways, I literally plummeted to the right. I was like a tree that was just chopped down and someone needed to yell ‘Timber!’. Because my knee doesn’t have any give to the right or left, there was nothing left to do but flop on the floor. Thank goodness I wasn’t physically hurt, but my ego sure was. It was one of my first really clumsy falls since I lost my leg, and of course it would be in front of a group of people I didn’t know (who happened to be attractive business men). I could feel my face growing red as I pulled myself up off the floor behind the front desk. I popped up and wanted to run out of there, although that was not an option!

Before I could say anything, one of the men began to ask if I was okay. As I tried to answer him or even figure out where to begin my explanation, another man asked me a question that flipped the roles in a way he didn’t know he did. He asked me in a very sarcastic and rude way if I noticed the giant hole behind the desk or was I blind and not able to see it? He thought he was pretty funny even though he was the only one laughing. Little did he realize that I was learning how to use a prosthetic leg! Most cases I would have never tried to explain why that happened because it doesn’t matter. But this guy thought he was being pretty cute, so I thought it might be a good learning lesson for him. I politely responded by telling him that no, I didn’t see a giant hole because there wasn’t one. I sarcastically thanked him for calling me out about my fall and for checking to see if I was okay. I then assured him that I was happy my first fall with my new prosthetic leg was one that didn’t physically hurt too badly and that only it was my ego that was a bit bruised! I smiled nicely and walked away as his jaw dropped and his buddies chuckled. Insert foot into mouth much, dude? Geez, maybe next time he will rethink his process… well hopefully.

6.       One thing I have to do on a regular basis is charge my C-Leg. I usually charge it daily, just like my cell phone. One of the last things I do at night is check to make sure my C-Leg is plugged in and charging. I put my leg in the same spot in my house to charge it daily because it is part of my routine. A little over a month ago I had a million things going on (still do) which causes me to be a little scatter brained sometimes. I was finishing up for the night and preparing for work and school the next day. I was lining up lunch, paperwork, etc. I went in my room to make sure that I plugged my leg in like I do every night. I got to my room and saw that my leg wasn’t where it always is! I panicked!! My heart started racing and I freaked out asking myself what the heck I did with my leg!?

I was going around the house looking for it. It took me a few minutes to realize that, yup… I was still wearing my C-Leg, (yes, a few minutes… sad, I know). So it wasn’t charging because I was using it! I probably should have realized that I wasn’t going around the house on crutches but I didn’t. People always ask me if using a prosthesis is something I think about all day every day or if it is something that you get used to. For me it is something I am used to and I don’t think about it all of the time. I am always aware of it, but it is not my main focus.

I want to add a little disclosure to this blog that these are all real life examples of things that I personally have experienced at least once in the last five years. Often after hearing the same questions or statements, I have to have fun and joke around, otherwise I would drive myself crazy. I believe in figuring out your own way to deal with things — this is what has worked best for me.  If I can help even one person have a better understanding of what those living with limb loss go through, then I am satisfied.Kate 2


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