Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pain and Gain

In August, it will be five years since I became—officially and forevermore—an amputee. My, my, my, how time flies. The sorry saga seems like only yesterday in one respect, but also an awfully long time ago.

I’m happy to report that the excruciating physical pain I knew for a spell is a distant memory. Fortunately, we have to be in the clutches of physical pain to appreciate its unyielding sway over our every move and every thought. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Mere recollections of what once was will not and cannot resurrect the genuine article. Our incredible recuperative powers won’t allow it. Occasionally, though, phantom pains in the night starkly remind me of what once was. These intermittent jolts stab hard into the ether—at a foot that’s no longer there. A relation once said to me, “That must make you feel good.” She honestly believed this unusual strain of pain in my missing body part would somehow make me feel whole again. She was wrong.

Adjusting to my new life and new perspective in these ensuing five years, I’ve learned quite a few things about myself and others, too. Some of what I’ve uncovered is significant, I suppose, but most of my discoveries have been rather trivial. That's life. When I was released from the hospital sans a portion of my right leg—and awaiting a prosthetic—I was inundated with reading materials concerning my new limb-challenged existence. Initially, I reasoned that losing an arm was obviously preferable to losing a leg. I thought then that being able to get up and go—when I wanted to and where I wanted to—trumped all else. At that time, there was little debate in my mind what amputation—if given this Hobson’s choice—I would select.

Flash forward five years and I’m of a completely different mindset. Once I received my new knee and acclimated to the hustle and bustle of everyday living, I saw that I was able to do just about everything I did before, albeit a lot slower and more awkwardly in most instances. And as a writer who uses his hands in his daily grind, what the heck was I thinking anyway? I also read many stories of upper-limb amputees and their travails. On a regular basis, they are confronted with many more trials than I am. The mere act of getting dressed with one arm is a layered affair, if you will. Eating. Shopping. Hammering a nail. The good news for all of us is that prosthetic technology is getting better and better. And I surmise that most of those who have lost part of an upper limb wouldn’t swap their disability for mine.

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