When the doctors first told me that they were gonna have to amputate my arm, my family and I, we pretty much all agreed that we weren't gonna let this stop me.
He said, "there is nothing that is going to replace your hand, but we will provide you with as many tools so you can function as normally as you can function." and that was a very good message to me, because I said, "I'm ready. I'm ready to do this."
Right from the beginning, I just decided I can do it. I can do whatever I want to do, and I'm not gonna waste my time feeling sorry for myself. I'm gonna spend that time learning how to do things differently and doing things I want to do.
Immediately after my amputation, I had a lot of phantom pain.
I could feel my hand, the hand that was amputated, and it was in a very, very tight, tight fist.
I've dealt with less of it as time goes on.
Your brain is still communicating with this arm that isn't there. I think that's very interesting.
The prosthetist is a very important person in the whole team.
He took a casting of my residual limb and then used that to build my prosthesis.
The prosthetist has to be with you all the way and say, "how is it working for you?" and if it's not working well for you, "what can we do to make it work better?" It takes some time, but it's well worth it.
My prosthetic device is an artificial arm with a hand, and then I have a mechanical elbow, and it comes up over my shoulder, the plastic part does. And I have a strap that goes around my neck and under my arm. With my shoulders, I can open and close my hand to some extent and pick up things.
I've had a whole assortment of terminal devices that go on the end of my arm. The nice thing about the one that I use every day is that it has a large surface area for gripping. And I can also adjust how tight it grips. The hook is like my workhorse. It's rugged, and it's simple. It works great for whether I'm fishing or hunting, splitting wood, or if I'm just tinkering with really small tasks. I always love it when I'm out and about and this little kid goes up and tugs on his mom or dad's pant leg, and he goes, "look, look, there's captain hook." And the parents will scold him, and I'll look at him, and I'll go, "arr." And it just makes the kid's day.
I'm on my third major prostheses. It's not uncommon for me to perhaps change in the middle of the day. I mean, it only takes just a couple of minutes, and then I'm ready to go to my next task. I learned that the company that manufactures all this prosthetic stuff, they were coming out with a new hand. It has a movable, powered thumb, so it can provide you with multiple different grips for gripping things. Plus it looks extremely cosmetic.
The occupational therapist was extremely helpful. She gave me the positive attitude that, "no matter what, you can do it. We just have to meet each problem as it comes along and say, well, how can I do this differently?" I went to my computer, and I thought, "I'm not gonna be able to type like I used to type." But I type with one hand now. Like anything else, it just takes practice, and your speed will come back.
I was very right hand dominant. all my life, my left hand has just been the pusher. It's been the holder, so I had to have a little chat with my left hand and say, "hey, we're gonna transfer all these skills that my right hand did, and I'm gonna expect you to kind of do that." And so my left hand has done just fine. The brain's ability to transfer is remarkable.
I always loved hunting and target shooting. Right away from the beginning, I figured, "I still want to do this. I'm gonna find a way." We took some parachute cord and put a little loop on it that I could grab with my prosthesis, and I could then have more control of the gun. I was able to modify the pump on my shotgun, and that way, I was able to chamber new shells into it.
I can do whatever I want to do. We had them install a steering knob on the steering wheel. There are three switches right below it. One is for the directional turn signals. one is for the headlights, and the other for the windshield wipers. I can drive and be independent again. That was a big thing for me.
There were people, including my family, that were watching carefully to see how I'd adapt to boating. I had to figure out a way to run the throttles, so I crafted a device. Owning a reasonably large boat is like owning a second home. There's always lots of things to do on it. It clearly is a labor of love.
I didn't really start fly-fishing until I got to college and took this class and learned how to tie flies. I like fly-fishing because it allows me to escape. I can go find a hidden stretch of river and get away from civilization for even just for an hour.
We started going to the stores in town that had adaptive equipment all kind of devices out there. You'd be surprised what they have. I have a can opener that you only have to use one hand. It opens it for you. The thing I use the most is my cutting board. It has two supports in the back that hold, like, an apple or anything I want to slice. The needlepoint frame that I have has an arm that goes down and a piece that goes under my legs, and I can do my needlepoint just fine that way. It's been interesting, and it's been a challenge and a learning experience. I don't find my handicap that serious, actually.
I don't feel handicapped at all, to be honest. I just happen to be a little changed now.
Anybody who tells me I can't do something, it's like an automatic challenge. There's nothing that should stop me. No matter what, there's a way you can get to the top.
I describe my amputation as a combination of a journey and at times a real adventure.