By Deborah H. Anderson
“Do you see where the break is?” … The surgeon asks. Pointing to the x-ray, I look at the diagonal line of a femur once shattered in two places, now fused into solid bone. “Yes”, I tell him, nodding my head.
“Now look at the other leg,” he continues, “See how the spike (or did he say spindle?) of that prosthetic comes down to below where the break is on the other leg?” I nod again. “It’s tricky because I have found a device with a shorter spindle, but if it’s too long I will have to drill into the bone”
I pick up the thread of the conversation. “I know that may shatter the bone, and then you have to wrap it in wire and glue it all together.”
“It’s risky,” he says, finishing his thought.
“Doctor, every advance I’ve had in life has been because I was willing to take a risk. Many risks. Big risks. It’s the only way I’ve been able to stay pieces-together and walking.”
He looks at me thoughtfully. “OK,” he says gently, almost effortlessly. “I’ll do it”
At the age of nine, my body took a 3,000-pound Oldsmobile doing 90 mph at a direct hit, shoving a rear-mounted engine into my back and up and over my legs, pinning them under the rear seat. When people stare at me walking with my floppy right foot, or if am using my cane or trekking poles, or if I am in a wheelchair being pushed through the airport, I think to myself, “You have no idea how much joy I feel with every step, or every transfer.” So do not feel sorry for me. I am a living, breathing, moving miracle. And I’m hoping that soon I’m going to get another one.
If I had any frustration with able-bodied people, it is that they are not grateful enough for what they can do with ease. Some of you do not have to watch your feet and where they are placed when you move them. You do not have to argue with a ferry dock worker about being placed near the car deck bathroom. Your shoes are both the same size, fitting comfortably. You can dash. You can pivot. You can walk on tip toes. You can take staying healthy for granted.
Spur of the moment and spontaneous are options for you because you do not have to measure your steps or energy. You can stick to a plan A with no back-up plan needed.
On the other hand, maybe you miss the profound awareness of what a gift ease or speed is, or even the very daily experience of being alive, upright, and taking nourishment, as my friend Roy used to say.
I cherish that part of my consciousness.
I have no idea what the outcome of this next surgery will be. There are no guarantees. The idea that it might give me a little more mobility is worth living in suspense for, and planning accordingly.
If there is something you can do that others cannot, consider stewarding that capacity well. Use your ability for good. Be consciously grateful. Then stretch your understanding a little and remember capacity or ability does not make you better or more whole. They are responsibilities with which to create good.
I am not less whole because my legs are a continuous work in progress or cosmetically challenged. I am whole because I have a grateful heart. Today, I am grateful for a surgeon who is willing to take a risk with me. I’ll keep you posted about the outcome.