What was going to be a single blog post about a few stories of triumph has turned into a mini project. A few strong individuals are trusting me with their stories of struggle and victory and I couldn’t be more honored to share them with you. I’m doing this to bring awareness, to show you that you are never alone and to remind you and them how beautiful you are even after the struggle.
Check out Lesley Vivienne Oklahoma Family & Birth Photographer post about Empower.
“There’s beauty is all imperfections”
You are never really prepared for traumatic events to happen in your life. So at 19 becoming an amputee was the last thing I thought would happen. I was a full time college student studying to be a nurse, working as a CNA at the hospital, and enjoying my new life of independence. I remember the day of my car accident so vividly, what I wore that day, how I spent the day and I have went back a million times wondering how I could have done it all differently.
I left my job at 11:00 pm that night, decided to go with some friends and only 42 minutes after getting in the vehicle we hit a fence. I often hear people say that your brain blocks out traumatic events, however I remember every single second right after it. I didn’t realize I was hurt until I tried to get out and that’s when I realized my left leg was pinned. I looked over to see a pole going through the middle of the backseat and thinking to myself that had I been a few inches over it would have went through my chest. I’m not really sure how long I was pinned, just that I was in worse shape than I thought if it required them to cut me out of the vehicle. I still never imagined what it would eventually lead to though.
The first few days after the wreck were a blur. I do remember looking down and seeing that my left foot was purple and my toenails were bright pink. The next clear image I have is of the doctor coming in and telling me and my family that their attempts to save my leg were unsuccessful and they would have to amputate. I sat there crying, screaming and begging them to just let me die. I look back now and I can’t imagine now as a mother hearing your child say this, it shatters my heart. The initial amputation took place on December 13th, 3 days after the accident. I then underwent 8 more surgeries in a month and a half due to complications with the threat of having to amputate above the knee if the last surgery didn’t solve the issues. Being able to keep your knee is huge for prosthetic fittings and quality of life. The physical pain was sometimes unbearable but the emotional pain of looking down and seeing only one foot is something I can’t put into words. There was something about seeing the sheet on the bed lay flat over where my leg should have been that stuck with me. Sure, the hospital tried to have people who had prosthetics come talk to me but I left with no way of knowing how to cope. The positive to being so stubborn was that I was back up and walking 6 weeks after my last surgery but this downside was that I never dealt mentally or emotionally to what had happened to me. I hated my first prosthetic, they couldn’t cosmetically cover it, so here I lost my leg and it replaced was with a metal pole. It was months of physical therapy, learning how to walk all over again. I quickly started to go back to life just as I had before the accident. I was back in school and working again as a CNA but I was a mess! In my mind if I could do go back to where I was prior then I wouldn’t have to cope with it, somehow it wasn’t real. So instead of coping I numbed the pain of it all. I was so angry, bitter, and just not very much fun to be around. I pushed people away as I was so angry that I was dealing with this and here everyone else didn’t have to. One of my biggest mistakes when I look back now is never seeking any counseling to help me learn to deal with it all. I continued for years to pretend things were ok. I spent years dreading summers, invites to the lake, never wearing shorts, and finding myself in terrible relationships after being told by someone that nobody would ever love me again. It’s hard for me to look back accept how I treated people and the choices I continued to make. I have to say that the 6 years after the accident were the hardest.
It will 14 years since the accident this December and I am happy to say that life is so good. It’s more than good really, it’s something I don’t take for granted. I enjoy and find beauty in the little things of life and it’s little things that I miss the most, wearing flips flops, being able to just slide shoes on and off, the feeling of sand and grass on both feet, being able to sit comfortably Indian style and just being able to go get any type of shoes that I want. It has helped me become a person who understands that things truly can be worse. I celebrate 11 years this month of being a nurse, after so many telling me I would never be able to meet the physical demand of the profession. I recently purchased my own home, have a job where I get to be a part of helping others feel beautiful, and I have surrounded myself with people who make me want to be a better person. I have sought counseling over the years to help me cope, I have turned to my faith more for comfort and understanding, but most importantly I became a mommy. This 3 year old precious baby girl is what saved me and she doesn’t even realize it. I spent 10 years never wearing shorts out because I hated the stares of being different, 10 years of trying so hard to hide something that has ultimately made me such a better person. I made a decision when I had Ellie that I wanted her to know it was ok to be different, it was ok to go out and have people stare but know that many aren’t being mean, just curious. To take it as an opportunity to help them understand. I promised myself that I would never let my insecurities affect her. She doesn’t even realize it but she is the reason I am now comfortable in my own skin, even if part of it is man made. To her, having a mommy with a leg that has to be put on and looks slightly different is normal. So normal that she likes to take limbs off her babies, which makes me laugh. It’s honestly the sweetest thing when she tries to hand it to me because she is getting impatient with me getting out of bed. I will spend the rest of my life with hurdles of having blisters, needing crutches at times, and just having to sometimes adjust to certain situations and while those times can get me easily frustrated I always try to remind myself to be thankful for all the good things.
People often say to me “I don’t know how you did it” and I used to reply with “I just did what anyone else would do in this situation” but I now know that’s not true. I have always been someone who when I want something, I go for it. I didn’t get to this place alone, I would have never have gotten this far without my mom, dad, sister, and brother in law. They never left my side from the first of many days in the hospital, celebrating my first steps again, to cheering me on through every step. They have been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today and I will forever be grateful. I have an amazing team at Scott Sabolich who knows my life is busy and they always get me fitted with prosthetics quickly that allow me to continue doing what I love. This journey hasn’t been without many tears and frustrations but it’s been a journey that I have become so thankful for. Everyone copes and deals with traumatic events in their life differently and I’ve learned that no way is wrong, because without those dark times I would never be able to fully appreciate the great and small things in life. I’m thankful it was my left leg so I didn’t have to learn to drive again, that I can walk into a store and carry things out without being on crutches, overall that I have a pretty normal life with just minor adjustments to get my days started. The only regret is that I didn’t get this tattoo on my left leg instead of my right, I hate this tattoo. I try to imagine what life would be like had I not gotten in the car that night and I can’t imagine it would be as good as it is now, so when I saw an opportunity to share my story and put it out for all to see I knew I had to do it or I never would. It has been on my bucket list to have my story and photos shared, to finally show all of me. I guess I felt like by doing so it was the final step in my healing. I have hope my story can reach out and help someone who is an amputee see that life after an amputation is still worth living, that it does get better. I want to say thank you to all who have helped me along the way, kept me laughing about it, sat and cried with me, and just stood by me through it all. Not one of you have ever gone unnoticed and know that I am eternally grateful for you.