Suddenly, I am just one of the gang.
But here at the Amputee Coalition National Conference, those with 4 limbs are in the background. It’s the ones without who really shine.
I learn new tricks at every turn. The next 3 mornings start with YOGA. Mats go on the floor; bolsters and blocks, under our bodies. Prostheses and wheelchairs are pushed aside. When I first tried yoga as an amputee, I found more frustration than peace. But here, we build slowly, focus on individual differences. Like magic, I find balance, patience, and hope. By the third session, I decide to try a "regular" yoga class when I get home.
|Don't try this at home!|
Ronnie demonstrates how to use my prosthetic side as a pivot to move across the rocks. He says the short leg will keep me close to the wall and give me more control. He's right!
|Austin, a below-knee amputee|
from Oregon, climbs too.
The conference overflows with speakers, workshops, and clinics. I can’t take notes fast enough. I want to soak it in, talk to everybody, savor each word, and do EVERYTHING!
|Kinda says it all :)|
|With Byron from Ottobock|
I volunteer for a DNA study sponsored by Walter Reed. They’re searching for genetic factors that influence phantom pain. I donate a few tubes of blood and tell them about the phantom sensations I’ve had – Ankle Blades and the Stone Sandal, lightning bolts, burning, and itching. They've all become more manageable over time, yet they still linger. Just another part of life as an amputee.
Wait a minute. I'm wearing one, too!
At this conference, there's so much ABILITY, disability disappears!
On the final afternoon, U.S. Army Colonel Greg Gadson speaks. Injured by an IED in Iraq, he is now a bilateral above-knee amputee who walks using two bionic Power Knees. (Coincidentally, he's also an army colleague of my surgeon, Dr. B!)
I want to take it all home in a souvenir bag.
|With Carla and Amy --|
I'll wear heels too :)
|Zack and Berni|
|Elena and Ariel|
We're so close, it seems impossible we met just days ago!
The music and dancing goes on and on. No one wants to break the magic spell.
But the next morning, Mom and I pack up and check out. I take one last trip across the hotel lobby. The tiles aren't as shiny without the glint of metal. The space feels lifeless and sad, like an empty stage.
A handful of vacationing families check in at the front desk. Limbs intact.
This girl doesn’t budge.
Oh well. Who wants to be ORDINARY anyway?
To all my friends from the conference – Kelly, Hector, Amy, Priscilla, Mike, Carla, Jennifer, Doug, Ronnie, Austin, Tommy, Lisa, Pierre, Zack and Berni, Elana and Ariel, Arnold and Mo, DeeDee and Peter, Kurt, Mary, and Emma... Thank you for inspiring me in a way I will never forget! Can't wait to see you all again in 2015!