Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Sixteen Things, Part Two

Angry Birds and Amputations.  Give me a second, it'll make sense.

It's been a week since the first post in this series.  The idea was, now that I've cut my leg off, come up with things I miss, I love, I hate, and things I cannot wait to do with my new life.  Part two is all about what's awesome with this amputation.  

We're now sitting at three weeks since the operation.  And guys, seriously?  This is still too easy.  And before we dive into the five things I'm loving, I wanted to understand why this amputation seems so easy.  Because I am telling you that an amputation below the knee and the first level of Angry Birds are equally challenging.  Actually, if I recall, it took multiple bird slings before I got to the next level.  

So that means I am wrong!  Angry Birds, level one, is more difficult than an amputation.

Also, as a side note, just throwing this out there, this guy made a video on how to beat level one of Angry Birds.  It's a whole production, too.  It isn't just a five second video of a guy saying, "slingshot the bird."

Why have the last three weeks seemed easy?  It all comes from the last three and half years of surgeries, recoveries, setbacks, and pain.  It was some of the hardest stuff my wife and I have had to endure.  And it culminated in one of the easiest decisions I've ever made in my life.  

Anyone that goes through this experience will be emotionally prepared for an amputation.  Salvage makes no sense when you have pain and no function.  And after a moment of clarity, as I wrote in the first part of this series, I improved my diet and found out what a gym was.  That hard work better prepared me to handle the physical demands today of working out with only one leg.

No wonder it all seems so easy.  We need to make a video on how to beat the first level of an amputation.  We just need to remember there are more challenging levels to come.

But I am totally owning level one.

She loves me, she loves me not.

Five Things I'm Loving

The last three weeks have been some of the happiest moments I've had since my accident, and not all of it is drug induced.  If this recovery has a plateau or ceiling, I'm not seeing it.  I'm back in control of my life.  And I'm loving it.

Perfectly calm, dude.

1. Bye-Bye Stress

The great thing about sitting at home with all of my attention on healing has been a dramatic reduction of stress from my life.  I'm not working.  I'm not sitting in DC traffic with an average commute of 34.5 minutes (2nd highest in the United States behind New York).  I'm not worrying about anything except healing.  And though I have managed to develop some anxiety over it, I'm growing more comfortable with my healing progress every day.  I'm perfectly calm, dude.  And, of course, I have Brooke to thank for much of this.  She took family medical leave to be home with me every day since my surgery.

It's been nice to be without stress.  It's given me space to re-prioritize what's important to me in life.  One day we're all going to wake up and wonder where did the time go?  How'd it go by so fast?  Stress will do that to you.  It diverts your attention.  I'm glad I don't have it.

2. Copious Amounts of Sleeping

I don't have a bed time.  I don't set my alarm.  I sleep like a teenager.  Like it's my job.  I've been working out hard every day since I started physical therapy at home.  Those workouts and the massive trauma to my leg has slapped the sleep button in my brain.  And in spite of the phantom pain, I've put in some serious hours on the pillow.  It's allowed my body to repair what's left of my leg.  It's prepared me for walking possibly two weeks ahead of schedule.  In fact, after I finish writing this blog post, I'm going to sleep.  And it's going to be awesome.

3. Exercise Enthusiasm

I've never looked forward to a visit to the gym.  But recently I've started seeing the gains in my core, legs, and upper body.  I'm doing things I thought would destroy my lower back only a few months ago.  My back has never been stronger.  No more back pain.  I'm leaving the gym in an exhausted sweaty heap  a sign of a good workout.  With my physical therapist I've pushed my body into the best shape it's ever been in.

On one leg.

The enthusiasm I'm developing for working out is absolutely critical to the long term success of a below-knee amputation.  I have to stay lean for the rest of my life.  If I don't, the amputation will work against me.  It will become harder for me to bear my heavier body weight.  An amputation will become no better than a bad ankle.

And as a side benefit, the exercise reduces stress.

4. Thinking About What I Will Do

I cannot stop thinking about what I'm going to do once I've got a leg.  I think about walks with Brooke and Spunky.  I envision late night walks on the National Mall to see the monuments at night.  I wonder what it's like to walk more than a few blocks without dying of ankle pain.  I can't remember what it's like to stand at a bar and not worry about finding a seat ASAP.  I dream about sprinting to catch a metro train just as the bell rings to signal it's leaving.  I'm always thinking about what I can add to my list of things I cannot wait to do.  It's constantly growing.

When I'm not sleeping, I obsessively think about what I'll do with two good legs.

Kickball league, anyone?

5. No More Ankle Pain

I'm not in pain.  My ankle does not hurt.  I don't have an ankle.  I haven't crawled to the bathroom on all fours because my ankle hurt so bad from standing earlier in the day.  I haven't gone to bed icing my ankle.  I haven't gotten up the next day and feared the first few stiff steps of the day.  I couldn't tell you where my canes are.  I'm actually beginning to forget what it felt like.  The ankle pain.  I remember it was bad.  But I haven't felt it in almost a month.

One of the pain management doctors I consulted before my amputation told me I shouldn't get the amputation to treat pain.  Let's ignore the fact he was forgetting I also lacked function.  I'm starting to think he was wrong, at least in my case.  He tried to scare me with discussions of phantom pain.  And to a certain extent, that did scare me.  Phantom pain is definitely real.  And many amputees go on to experience pain from a previous traumatic injury that led to the amputation.

I didn't get the amputation to treat my pain.  I got it to get back function.  To get back my life.  It's just turning out that it may also have helped me with my pain.  And that's freaking awesome.


  1. Had to laugh at the Angry Birds analogy (not being a gamer myself, but knowing that Scott is addicted to it. Angry Birds is his psychological "man cave".)

    Something that I realized about working out (which I didn't expect) was the amazing support I get from folks asking how things are going, AND the major encouragement from the "regulars."

    And I'm sure you inspire folks, which is way cool! A kickball league would be awesome :)

  2. Just wanteed to let u know I do go on a computer.... on occasion.... I've read most of your recent postings... Thinking about you and Brooke...U both r awesome... Yeah FMLA... Love, Mary Ann

  3. I love this post the most. Way to be awesome, friend.