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UPS AND DOWNS by Carolyn McKinzie, LPN, RBKA

What has brought you to this point has, undoubtedly, been one of the biggest life challenges you have ever faced. Either from trauma, birth defect or chronic illness, being an amputee has its ups and downs. Initially, it may seem like there are many more “downs” than “ups”. This is normal and it will get better!

My right below-knee amputation was the result of an auto accident when I was 32. I would undergo several surgeries to try and repair the damage done from the crushing injury to my lower leg. There were infections, hardware exchanges and bone grafts. But despite all of those, I would lose it anyway.

It would end up being the best thing for me, but there are still some down days. Not all the time, but once and awhile. I used to fight those moods and tell myself I needed to stay positive. One day I realized that I had earned the right to have an occasional “poor me” day. I had been through so much that, in the end, didn’t matter. It had all been for nothing and that’s just hard to swallow.

There are certain dates that cause me to be temporarily depressed, the anniversary of the original accident, the date of my amputation and even some of the surgeries in between. This time of year is especially hard. My accident was October 24, 1998. I start thinking about it and re-living it every year in September. It’s hard not to and I know it’s not emotionally healthy to go back there, but that’s just the way it is. The key is to not get stuck there.

This isn’t how I pictured my life. In all of my plans for the future, I hadn’t anticipated becoming disabled at any point. I wish I could just get up and go to work every day and have the type of life I wanted. The reality is that I sometimes battle a sore on my residual leg, there are times that I can’t work and I can’t always do the social activities I want.

But then I remind myself how lucky I am to be here at all. The accident was very serious and left me with a fractured skull, all of my ribs were broken, both lungs partially collapsed and both legs crushed. Yet, here I am. Living by myself, able to do all of the things I need to do and with a job. I don’t live in pain every day like I did before my amputation. I have a lot of family close by and many loyal friends I can call on at any time if I need help with something. I am truly blessed.

Just as we spend time thinking about the low points, we need to acknowledge and give ourselves credit for the small wins and accomplishments that happen every day. It may seem silly, but for some of us just getting through the grocery store is like climbing a mountain. A stroll to the mailbox may be considered a daily outing for some and take every ounce of energy they have.

Always remember there will be down days, but if EVERY day is a down day don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. As I once read, “it’s okay to not be okay”. You’ve been through a lot but you are never alone and you’ve come too far to give up now!

Carolyn McKinzie, LPN, RBKA

November, 2014

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