Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Sixteen Things, Part One

This ends in a brain freeze or a melted mess.

We're two weeks out from my below-knee amputation.  It's supposed to be a life changing event.  But up to this point it's felt more like a routine tonsillectomy without all the ice cream  seriously, where is all of the amputation ice cream?

Since we've said our goodbyes and cut my leg off, I've had an opportunity to contemplate, ruminate, and other words that mean think about the permanent changes you get with the loss of a limb (I could have also gone with brainstorm, ponder, or even muse).

I enjoy brainstorming while taking opiates.  And I also enjoy lists.  I've classified my amputation pondering  my amputee ponders  into four categories.  

The four categories are as follows:

  • Things I'm Going To Miss
  • Things I'm Loving
  • Things I'm Hating
  • Things I Cannot Wait To Do

As I was writing down my musings, I realized how ambitious this thing had become.  I'm a slow methodical writer and even slower meticulous editor.  To buy me some time (I started writing this eight hours ago), I've broken this whole concept up into a four part series  a first for this blog.  Four parts for each of the four lists.

But don't allow yourself to think I'm planning ahead here.  I walked several blocks into this post before I realized I was lost.  Here's part one.

Five Things I'm Going To Miss

In the last few weeks I've been longing for some things that I'll never do for the rest of my life (a phrase I now find myself using a lot).  Walking in sand may have shown up here if it wasn't for our good friends bringing us a box of sand to the leg's going away party.  Here are five things I'll miss.

1. Quick Showers

I no longer stand in the shower.  With my previous surgeries, we'ed a temporary shower chair and threw it away once one of my external fixators was removed.  But our last purchase was not temporary.  If I really wanted to stand with a below-knee amputation, there are expensive shower legs, but hygiene is an issue.  My residual limb must stay clean and infection free.  Shower legs cover it up.  And insurance has a hard time seeing these special purpose legs as medically necessary  another phrase I'll end up using a lot for the rest of my life.

Travelling is also complicated.  Specifically, hotels (or motels, if you're my Mom).  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, hotels built after 1993 are required to provide a small percentage of rooms with roll-in showers.  The roll-ins provide handheld showerheads but may or may not have a bench.  

One leg, plus no shower chair, plus no handheld showerhead adds up to a bad idea.  The days of convenient travel or waking up late for work and jumping in the shower are gone. 

2. Laziness and Eating Bad/Awesome Food

There's nothing I loved more than a lazy Sunday.  Sitting on the couch.  Interneting and ESPN-ing.  Somewhere between the end of the second and beginning of the third Sports Center I'd decide to investigate the refrigerator situation for some Chinese food, a leftover reminder of a detour I'd taken while returning home from last night's bad decisions.

With my amputation, I cannot afford lazy Sundays.  And let's be honest, I couldn't afford to spend almost every night of my life as if it were a lazy Sunday.  This cost me days living on Earth.  That's slightly more expensive than leftover Chinese food or a good burger.

This is a dramatization, of course.  Before you get upset, Mom and Dad, I didn't actually live like this (after around 2008).  What I'm trying to say is I ate poorly and I rarely exercised.

Moments of clarity: Aaron Hernandez is on my keeper league team.

Like everyone else, I've had moments of clarity before.  They never lasted long.  Laziness is easy.  But earlier this year, I had one of these moments, and it wasn't just a realize-and-forget-it moment.  I acted.  Along with my awesome wife, we revamped our diet.  After I lost some weight, I added regular gym visits.  Over five months I dropped 27 lbs  225 to 198.  

I've told this story a few times already.  And I don't want to wear it out by repeating it.  But I've never told you why I really changed my life five months before my amputation.

It was a test.

I wanted to prove to myself I was serious about my decision to remove my right leg below the knee for the rest of my life.  If I couldn't make such a small change to become healthy, then I clearly wasn't ready for the hard work, pain, and emotional challenges shipped with an amputation package.

I never doubted my decision.  I just doubted whether I'd be responsible for my decision.

3. Dominating the Dance Floor

I love weddings.  The artisan dinner menu, assigned seating, the nuptials  the pomp and circumstance of it all, really  it's all butterflies and warm fuzziness.  But after the newlyweds dance, and Mom and Dad finish warming up the dance floor with their son and daughter, it's time for this snowboarder to shred in his suit and dress shoes.  This is why I love weddings.

Granted, most of my moves these days are above the waist, though I did whip out an awesome push-up move at my most recent booking.  I used to rely heavily on my elbows, but my moves have matured.  I've got the lasso, the elaborate two-shooters-blow-the-smoke-and-holster move (something I've featured on not one, but two different stadium jumbotrons), and a bow and arrow.  While that sounds like a complete repertoire, I used to have more in my satchel.

My accident and amputation may very well put an end to my razzle/dazzle days.

Fortunately some of the epicness has been recorded for all of history to remember on YouTube.  A talented friend of mine, Jonathan Pierce, choreographed an intricate Riverdance-style caper where I exhibited my moves as one of the three main dancers  all for a football pep rally.  At the 18 second mark you'll see a picture of me on the right.  That's me as we march out to the center of the court.  Jonathan's impossible to miss.  He's the main event.

We worked hard on this dance for several weeks.  I remember wearing ankle braces on both feet after a few days just to keep up with Jonathan.  That man is a machine.  But in all seriousness, I'm not going to miss dancing.  I just wanted to show you this video.

4. Crossing My Legs

Just one of many leg crossing techniques.

This one is very simple but so satisfying.  Do me a favor.  During a typical day, count how many times you cross your legs.  I did it all the time, usually when I was trying to relax and take it easy.  I'd even cross my legs at my ankles in bed when falling asleep.

Right over left.  It was a huge source of comfort for me.

5. The Last Three Years

I had my accident in February 2010, a few days before my 28th birthday.  Much of the last three years was spent recovering, crutching around in a bear trap, or walking in pain.  It was difficult to be a good friend and a good husband.  My ankle kept me anchored at home on my butt.

I stopped going to several annual trips with some good friends.  I stopped answering text messages and phone calls because I was tired of having to decline on account of my arthritis.  I ended up missing out on many opportunities to enjoy my awesome friendships.  This was a big contributing factor to my decision to get an amputation.

And while I'll always miss those chances to be with friends and loved ones, I still wouldn't change anything.  Snowboarding into a tree ended up strengthening my marriage with my amazing wife, Brooke.  It happened only two years after we got married and added additional stress to our relationship.  It obviously continues to do so, I depend on her for so much right now.  But we somehow ended up in a better place because of all of this.

I owe Brooke so much.  Like, at least 40 bucks.

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