All posts by Peggy Chenoweth

I am a soon-to-be middle aged below knee amputee. I am also the Mommy to a very active little boy, and expecting my second child. I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. I’ve lost my leg, but certainly not my courage and love of life!

Clean(er) Hands

With the excitement of Halloween behind us (although unfortunately still all too present in the decorations I have yet to put away), my mind is already beginning to look forward.  I love this time of year. The crisp air outside draws me inside, next to our already busy fireplace.  Unfortunately the confinement of everybody indoors also provides the perfect storm for germ sharing.

As a former teacher myself who is now married to one, I have learned to fully appreciate the little germ factories commonly referred to as classrooms. Although I am sure all of his high school students were taught the same hygiene that we are currently emphasizing with our son, I’ve sadly realized that the skills are often forgotten when the teenage years hit. We can’t safeguard all of the students in my husband’s class, but I can do my best to keep my family healthy!

This year keeping the house as virus free as possible is a priority.  Our baby was born prematurely and, although he is healthy and thriving, we know that his little immune system continues to be compromised. I am declaring war against germs in order to keep him safe!

With all of the advances that are being made in the medical community, the best defense against colds and the flu remains as simple as hand washing. In order to take hand washing to the next level, I have invested in Lysol’s No-Touch Hand Soap Dispensers. My son’s love of gadgets, and my hope that the novelty of an automatic soap dispenser would encourage hygiene habits, was my initial motivation for making the purchase. However, once I installed the batteries (which were included-yea!), I knew that I had made a good purchase.

The correct amount of soap is dispensed whenever the hand is cupped and held under the dispenser. I love that nobody has to touch anything before washing their hands. I shutter to think about the germs that might have been lying in wait on top of my traditional soap pumps!

Not only does this provide hands-free access to soap, but the amount of soap that is dispensed is perfect. My overzealous 8 year old has a propensity for over pumping, resulting in both a waste of soap and a horrible, gummy mess on my vanities.  I never had to use cleaner when washing my sink because I could just dab up everything he missed when washing his hands.

I liked my hands-free soap dispenser so much that I ordered two more so that I could have one next to every sink in my house. I know it won’t provide a complete barrier against colds and the flu, but it certainly makes washing hands easier.  I don’t know about you, but in my house easier often means that it will be done!

Patchwork Pants

Despite having the same level of amputation, amputees can struggle with very different issues. Socket fit, components and phantom limb pain are all issues that greatly impact an individual’s emotional and physical well-being. While the big issues are dependent upon a number of variables, many times the smaller aggravations tend to be universal.

I have been an amputee for 11 years and have had the opportunity to meet thousands of individuals living with a prosthesis. Although we all lead very different lives, most of the time we end up talking about the common frustrations we all share. With colder weather approaching and longer pants being pulled out of the back of closets and drawers, another universal annoyance is starting to materialize.

A lower extremity amputee can have the prosthesis covered under pants and can walk with a flawless gait. Despite being completely concealed, those who know where to look can easily discern prosthesis use. The proof is in the trouser fabric, in particular the tiny little holes and tears that form where the socket pulls against the pant fabric around the knee.

I have ruined more jeans and dress pants than I care to admit because of my prosthesis. The constant pulling of the fabric against the top of the socket wears down the fibers until they are completely destroyed. Bending and sitting speeds up the breakdown and causes the holes to develop sooner. Being a Mom, I bend and squat a lot!

For years I just accepted the little holes as an amputee aggravation. Obviously not particularly versed in my home-economics skills from patcheshigh school, it never occurred to me that an ounce of prevention could stave off the issue. It wasn’t until I was with a group of amputee friends, engaging in one of our sharing sessions, that I learned of an embarrassingly easy solution.

After I buy a new pair of pants, the first thing I do when I get home is reinforce the knees by applying a thin iron on patch on the inside of each leg. The patches are thin and quickly lose their stiffness after a wash or two. I don’t concern myself with matching fabric color, or even ironing the patch on neatly, because it is applied to the inside of the pant leg. Nobody sees that it is there, silently taking the blunt of the socket abuse and saving my jeans and dress pants.

It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of my holey pant legs, I would have to agree. Spending a few minutes prepping the inside knee with a patch has stopped all of the annoying little rips and holes from developing. I guess I should have paid attention in Home-Ec!

Slow Cooker Cooking

I love all seasons, but there is something extra special about the change from hot to cool weather that leaves me feeling refreshed and excited. Digging the warm sweaters out from the back of my closet, sitting around the fire pit with friends on a Saturday night and finding the slow cooker out from under the cabinet abyss are all hallmarks of the season. I realize that in a few months I will be complaining about the cold and yearning for Spring, but in this moment I am loving the chilly mornings.

During the Fall and Winter, our grill is allowed a rest as I rely heavily upon my slow cooker. As a busy working Mom, I appreciate that I can throw ingredients into a bowl in the morning and magically it morphs into a delicious concoction by dinner. The smells wafting through the house throughout the day feel welcoming and inviting when I return home after an especially long and exhausting afternoon of meetings.

My slow cooker simplifies dinner, which is one stress I am happy to relinquish. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook. There is something wonderful about combining ingredients and creating something both delicious and satisfying for my family.  Unfortunately having to do it every night has turned an enjoyable and relaxing activity into a chore. I am sure that my love of cooking would return if I didn’t have to do it every night!

Although I am healed from my re-amputation, I continue to struggle with bad leg moments. I remain cognizant of my movements, especially after I’ve been on my feet running around all day. By the time I am fixing dinner, my leg is usually starting to ache. The fact that I can do all of the prep work for dinner in the morning, while I am still feeling good, has been extremely beneficial.

In my opinion, the slow cooker is a valuable tool for every home cook. However, it wasn’t until my schedule started to become crunched that I fully appreciated the appliance. Before I became so busy, I would utilize my slow cooker a few times a month.  Now it is a permanent fixture on my counter top because it is used so heavily.

80’s Fashion to the Rescue!

A few days ago I headed out for my quarterly shoe-shopping trip. In all fairness I have never been a shoe lover. My indifference towards footwear has only deepened since I became an amputee.  Unlike many of my friends for whom shoe shopping becomes a favorite past time, I try to limit my forays into the shoe store to four a year. I search  to find one solid pair of shoes that are cute yet generic enough to wear for the entire season.

Strolling through the aisles (literally because I was also pushing the not-so-amused baby at the time) I saw a display that caught my eye. Leg warmers! Immediately memories of Aqua Net hairspray, florescent colored clothing and loud make-up came flooding back. I was only a child during this decade, but I my mother’s photo albums are full of images of me fully embracing the fashion trends.

I was intrigued by the leg warmers, but not out of a sense of legremaining on trend. I knew that the leg warmers could be easily transformed

into a stump warmer, which would be absolutely perfect for the impending cold weather. After selecting a surprisingly cute pair of utilitarian grey shoes, I grabbed a pair of patterned leg warmers and proceeded to check out.

To say that my residual limb becomes cold in the winter would be an understatement. It becomes so cold that it borders on painful. The limb becomes cold to the touch and difficult to warm, especially after playing outside in the snow.

Typically I wear a series of my husband’s old socks over my limb at night, which has been moderately successful maintaining an adequate and comfortable temperature.  Unfortunately the socks aren’t terribly warm, and easily fall off when I roll around in my sleep.  I’ve been looking for a different solution for years. It turns out that my solution was hidden among the techno music and Jane Fonda work-out videos all along!

My new leg warmers are the perfect solution for keeping my residual limb warm.  They provide more warmth and coverage than my husband’s old tube socks. They are soft and cozy to wear, keeping my limb at a comfortable temperature. I twist the excess fabric at the bottom and double up the layers on my leg, creating a nice and thick little blanket around my limb.

The weather predictions for this coming winter are harsh. My little boy is delighted with the prospect of heavy snow and frigid air. He loves spending his days sledding and ice skating. With my newly discovered leg warmer solution, I know that I’ll be able to keep my limb warm and comfortable regardless of what nature throws our way.

Easy Nails!

With the boys back to school and/ or work, life is beginning to take on a new normal. I’m extremely busy, juggling my time between working and caring for the baby. It feels like I am constantly in motion, working on a project or doing something for one of my kids.

I suppose this is a reality for the majority of Mom’s where alone time is a thing of the past. At some stage in my life I will again enjoy sleeping in, lounging around in my pajamas, pampering myself with manicures and massages and relaxing on the couch in front of the television. Right now that is not my reality.

Just because I am extraordinarily busy doesn’t mean that I don’t want to take care of myself or feel pretty. There is an intrinsic value to carving out time for some mini-pampering. Now only do I feel prettier, but I feel more confident and put together.  The key to my pampering success lies with the descriptor: mini.

I spend a lot of time on my computer, typing and working on projects. This also means that I spend a lot of time looking at my hands. I somehow feel more productive when they are painted and pretty. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to drive to a salon every time I want a manicure and pedicure.

My nail painting skills border on the pathetic. I inevitably end up with polish all over the cuticles. Although I think I have waited long enough before moving onto another project, the nail polish almost always smears. On the rare occasions when I am patient enough to properly paint my nails, the polish chips so quickly that my put together look quickly becomes disheveled and unsightly.

As bad as I am with my finger nails I have even few skills when it nailscomes to my toes. Painting the plastic toes on my prosthesis has been known to bring me to the brink of frustration. Because of the plastic of my foot shell, the polish always dries a different shade. It probably isn’t noticeable to most, but to me it is a glaring difference. Until I was introduced to Sally Hansen Nail Polish Strips, I had all but given up on pedicures.

Nail polish strips are  not artificial nails but rather are stickers that are applied over a clean fingernail. They are simple to apply, requiring minimal time and skill. In other words, they are so easy to use that even I can do it!

After putting all of the stickers onto my finger tips and filing them into shape, I decided to give my toes a whirl. I was apprehensive about the success of the stickers adhering to my prosthetic toes. The plastic is smooth and slick. Other than taking a few extra moments for the adhesive to set up, the application was a cinch. To my delight, the colors on both feet matched perfectly!

The polish strips are not only easy to apply, but they last for a long time. I have worn the same strips for two weeks with no visible chipping. I only changed the strips because my nails grew. (Obviously this is not an issue on my prosthesis, and I have had the same strips applied for over a month. I suppose that this might be an unexpected benefit of relying upon a prosthesis!)

Nail strips come in a wide variety of colors and patterns so the possibilities are limitless. I can now sport the look of an expensive manicure without investing the time or money typically required. In my opinion, these strips were invented for me.

 

Easy Breakfast

It is Back-To-School time!

Between having a third grader and a husband who is a teacher, this is a pivotal time of year in our family. The first few weeks of September are always stressful as we adjust to new schedules and settle into the school year. Mornings are particularly chaotic as everybody adjusts to the new routine.

Pouring a bowl of cereal is certainly not a difficult endeavor. However, it is significantly complicated when trying to juggling a squirming baby in one arm while holding a crutch in the other.  Inevitably I end up spilling cereal all over the counter and/or floor, hence the reason I have Fruit Loop covered dust all through my kitchen.

Since my little guy is growing up, he is eager to accept new responsibilities. (Unfortunately his eagerness only extends to those tasks he deems enjoyable or rewarding. If he was this motivated to clean his room my life would be so much easier!) In any case, this year we have agreed that he will make his own breakfast in the morning.

While I fully support increasing his responsibilities, I am cautious about doing so when it equates to more work for me.  I already have my hands full, literally and figuratively, and feel a need for simplicity. When I was visiting a friend and saw the cereal dispenser on her kitchen counter, I knew I had to have one!

I love our Zevro Dual Food Dispenser. Each morning he has the cerealchoice between two cereals, which have already been poured into the reservoir. Incidentally, each container holds the jumbo size box of cereal, which is a bonus for both my pantry tidiness and our wallets! As an unexpected bonus, with the large boxes out of my cabinets I have more room to stow food and appliances.

The reservoir is airtight, keeping both bugs and moisture out of our cereal. Because they are transparent I can easily see when we are running low on cereal. No more morning disappointment stemming from trying to pour breakfast out of an empty cereal box!

All he has to do is grab a bowl, place it under the dispenser and turn the knob. Each turn dispenses approximately one ounce, which is good to for when I decide to start watching my waistline again.

This dual cereal dispenser has made our mornings easier, which is much appreciated during this hectic time. I love that my son can be breakfast independent without creating a mess in his wake. Hopefully the days of crunched Fruit Loops in the corner of my kitchen floor are gone!

 

No Bending? NO problem!

When I was in college I learned a statistic which I found both fascinating and astounding. At the time, in my youthful optimism and perhaps arrogance, I was confident that the Professor was incorrect. I even went to the library (remember those buildings?) and researched to try to prove him wrong. I never found the ammunition I sought, and life has shown me that perhaps he was correct when he stated that 90% of all health impairments are held by 10% of the population.

Good health, I’ve learned, is like a fragile domino display. If one little block is knocked askew, the entire structure can begin to tumble.  Just as I was recovering from my re-amputation, last week I found myself again in the operating room. I am now resting at home, recovering from my hysterectomy.

The most frustrating part of this recovery is the firm “no bending, no lifting” dictate.  Trying to take care of a newborn with this caveat quickly became an exercise in frustration. Needless to say, I have had to call in the troops (my Mom) to help!

While I admittedly need help caring for the baby, I have tried to remain as independent as possible. I quickly discovered the value of having a grabber handy.  These ingenious little gadgets are an absolute godsend when you can’t lift or bend!

I was already quite familiar with the virtues of the grabber, I even wrote about it in a previous Unlimiters blog. However, this time I needed something a little longer to keep me from stooping over. I settled on the Ettore Grip ‘N Grab 50 Inch Long grabber. The extra length allows me to remain completely upright when reaching and grabbing.

I use this grabber so frequently that I have begun to carry it around with me. From retrieving batteries that fell out of a toy to the ringing telephone an arms reach away, my “I can’t” has become an “I can” with the help of this little tool.

 

Mason Jar Salads

It is difficult to believe that another school year is about to start. A few years ago I fretted (and did my share of private crying) when my little boy was about to start school. I even hopped a fence on his first day of school so that I could peer through his classroom window, just to make sure he was okay. Time has truly worked wonders and, although I will miss his company during the day, I am looking forward to the continuity of a school schedule.

I have come to approach the school year with a renewed sense of optimism. I find it to be the perfect time to introduce lifestyle changes for myself, and my family.  This year, because I am juggling caring for an infant with working from home, I find myself craving both organization and a healthy diet.

I don’t know if you have heard about the mason jar salad craze, but I am fully on board with this growing trend. Using one-quart wide mouth mason jars, I can prep a week’s worth of healthy (and delicious) salads in minutes. Having these colorful jars staring at me each time I open my refrigerator has certainly enticed me to each healthier.

If you aren’t familiar with mason jar salads, the prep is a cinch. Put the salad dressing on the bottom, and layer all of your favorite salad ingredients until you are about 2/3 from the top. Make sure that the lettuce is the final layer, keeping it away from the dressing and wetter veggies. Put the lid on and stow in the fridge for up to a week.  When you are ready to eat, just shake the jar to distribute the veggies and dressing and you’re ready to go.

Not only are these jars healthy, but they are super easy to make with the help of my handy Cuisinart chopper. I love that I can prep a week’s worth of salads in less than 30 minutes. I don’t think I would be as apt to keep my healthy eating school year resolution if I didn’t have my chopper, and hadn’t discovered the salads.

Healthy (and Happy) Eating!

 

 

 

Moleskin Relief

After ten long weeks, I am finally mobile again with my prosthesis. It feels wonderful to be up and ambulatory, although the progress has also heralded some other issues. Getting fitted for a new prosthesis is a long process, especially when it is happening after a major revision surgery.

This has been the most frustrating experience I have had crafting a new socket. My limb is still tender, and the nerve bundles are angry. Pressure on the wrong spot makes it impossible to fully weight my leg, resulting in an awkward and exhausting gait.  Unfortunately, the only way to detect the “wrong spots” is through trial and error.

Many people have asked me what it feels like when a socket doesn’t fit correctly. It is impossible to accurately describe the feeling to somebody who has never donned a prosthesis.  The most accurate comparison might be trying to squeeze your foot into a shoe that is 1.5 sizes too small. Now put a small rock under the arch of your foot before squeezing into the shoe, and pull the laces tightly. Each step brings a new level of discomfort, and you constantly shift your weight to find relief from the tightening pain.

Most of the adjustments to my socket must be done by my Prosthetist, who painstakingly blows out the plastic in the quest to create a perfect fit. Unfortunately we are also contending with my limb shrinking in volume, which means that the socket needs to be constantly reduced in size. I can wear socks to pad the void, but this is just a stopgap measure.

Donning too many socks makes it difficult to wear the leg, so I have 31mS3thriTLadopted a different approach. I have discovered that putting moleskin on the inside of my socket can provide me with a great deal of relief between prosthetic fittings. Not only does the moleskin pad the socket and fill the void left by my shrinking leg, but strategically placing it can help to alleviate pressure spots.

The next few weeks we will continue to tweak my socket, but I know that we are on the right track. Until my limb stops shrinking and the nerves quiet down, my roll of moleskin won’t be out of reach. I’m able to make my own small adjustments which afford me a great deal of relief.

This Won’t Last Forever…

Between the sleep deprivation and constantly being covered with baby formula (the little one has severe reflux), adapting to being a Mom of two has been difficult. Throw my recent leg surgery into the stress mix and I feel like I have been operating in crisis mode, living moment to moment without an opportunity to enjoy or look ahead. “This won’t last forever” has become my mantra as I try to maintain some of my sanity.

Needless to say, time alone has become a distant memory. I haven’t been home without a child, or in the car by myself, since April. I love my children, I really do. However, sometimes Mom needs a break!

I find myself seeking refuge in what has become luxury: taking a shower. I am traditionally more of a bath person, however the recent surgery has made that impossible. Until the stitches completely heal, I have to avoid soaking. Undeterred, I have learned to fully embrace the relaxation benefits of a long and hot shower.

In the shower, I don’t have anybody asking for anything. (Well, sometimes they knock on the door but I can easy drown that out!) showerheadThe time alone has become precious and I try to make the most of
the (albeit shot) opportunity to relax. During these moments alone, I have come to love my Waterpik Elements 5-Mode Handheld Shower Head.

 

We installed this shower head when we moved into this house in an effort to make the bathroom more accessible. A handheld shower sprayer is invaluable when trying to clean my residual limb, and simply makes it easier for me when I am sitting in my shower chair.  I use it on a regular basis, but have only really appreciated it recently.

 

Before the baby was born I always kept the shower on the general spray setting, which provides both a strong flow and wide coverage. During the past few weeks I have begun to utilize the massage feature on a more consistent basis. Wow, having the water beat on my shoulders and lower back has been an absolute godsend. Between carrying the baby and using crutches, my neck, shoulders, and lower back have been getting a workout! A few minutes of the water massage and the knots on my back begin to loosen up.

 

Lacking the time and means to go for a massage, I am embracing the next best thing. I get to be alone, rid myself of the baby vomit and have the water pound my aches away.  Until my mantra becomes reality, I will continue to enjoy my shower refuge.

 

Easy Lotion Application

I turned 40 this year and, although I try to not put too much stock in a number, I have noticed my body changing as I age. My face is a little softer (I prefer that term to saggy) and my skin is drier. I plan on aggressively fighting all signs of aging and have no intention of growing old gracefully.

I found myself constantly slathering various lotions on my arms and legs, typically resulting in only creating an odoriferous mess.  Either I am heavy handed with my lotion application or my skin takes a long time to absorb the moisture, or perhaps both, but my efforts were leaving me feeling sticky and greasy.

Visiting my Mom last week I noticed a can of Vaseline Spray and Go Moisturizer in her medicine cabinet. (Yes, I admit that I look in medicine cabinets. I try not to, but they seem to beckon me to open their little mirrored doors for a peek inside. You probably don’t want to invite me to a party at your home.) This time my snooping paid off, because it turns out that I love the spray lotion.

Unimpressed with the commercials, I never considered buying the aerosol lotion. However, since my Mom was using it and it was right in front of me, I gave it a try. I was surprised by how clean I felt after applying the moisturizer.

For somebody who is always heavy handed with lotion, I learned that a little can go a long way. One quick spray on each arm and on my leg was all the application required. My skin felt smooth, moisture and comfortable. The superfine mist absorbed into my skin quickly, leaving a light scent in its wake.

I love that the lotion application is mess-free, leaving my hands dry and unaffected. Since I’m relying on a knee crutch, regular crutches or my scooter at the moment, I try to avoid adding a layer of lubrication to my hands. I prefer to keep a strong grip whenever possible.

The Vaseline Spray and Go lotion is a small product which has made my life less complicated.  Give it a try, it might work for you too!

Hands Free Walking- With a Crutch!

I have found a new product and I am so excited to share my discovery. Recovering from a re-amputation of my left leg have made the past six weeks difficult. Having a newborn and an active eight year old at home, and being with the use of my prosthesis, has been both frustrating and exhausting. Everything is more difficult when I am relegated to my crutches or knee scooter.

Last week I was searching for a new tip for my crutches when I happened upon a new product. I 81zRri77iZL._SL1500_saw the photo of the iWalk Hands Free Crutch and was immediately intrigued. The prospect of having full use of my hands while walking felt too good to be true, but after some research I decided to take a leap. I ordered the crutch, paying extra for quick shipping, and anxiously waited for the UPS truck to arrive.

The iWalk Hands Free Crutch has a platform similar to my knee scooter but offers straps to secure the device on my remaining leg. The bottom of the crutch is reminiscent of my prosthesis, so I had no trouble transitioning to this new mechanism. I literally strapped it on, took a step and haven’t looked back.

Even though I am without my prosthesis, I feel like I have regained my mobility because of this device. What an ingenious design! I really wish I had known about this crutch weeks ago, I could have saved myself a lot of frustration.

I am now able to take care of my children without constantly pestering my husband to help carry or hold things for me. I feel so safe using the crutch that I am now able to carry my baby around the house. It feels wonderful and liberating to be able to independently put my baby in his crib at night!

This crutch is perfect for below knee amputees who are recovering from revision surgeries or are nursing limb wounds. While I still prefer my prosthesis, I may have found the next best thing.

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