Category Archives: Uncategorized

Never Be Stranded Again

I am in the final weeks of my pregnancy and, although the baby is growing beautifully and is healthy, I am starting to have difficulty. The baby bump has off-set my already compromised balance, making simple tasks more laborious. No matter now many adjustments we make, my prosthesis is too snug and uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. I hesitate to remove it during the day because I can no longer bend at the waist to put it back on independently!  Needless to say, I am miserable.

 

As the pregnancy has progressed I have found myself relying upon home modifications that I haven’t needed in a long time. During the past few weeks my husband and I have rummaged through the garage to retrieve my wheelchair, extra shower chair, shrinker socks and portable grab-bars. I consider myself lucky to have everything I need to modify my home stowed away for when it is needed.

 

Yesterday afternoon I sent my husband down to the garage (aka the abyss of boxes and clutter) to find one more home modification. I have discovered, through an unfortunate event, that I can no longer independently rise after sitting on the commode. I’ll spare the details, although I am sure someday I will look back and see the comedic value in the story, but I assure you that being stranded on the toilet was certainly not humorous at the time.  I am also confident that the frantic phone call my husband received from me, while in the midst of my predicament, will not soon be forgotten!

 

My recent experience has only strengthened my testimonial for the portable toilet safety rails. Because I don’t need this Imageaccommodation on a consistent basis, I appreciate that the rails can be easily removed and stowed until they are needed. The fact that I don’t have to invest a lot of money and effort into major bathroom renovations is certainly a plus!  These lightweight, yet sturdy, rails offer me the stability and support I need at this time to be completely independent.

 

These portable toilet safety rails are not only beneficial when I am pregnant, but I have also used them after revision surgeries and when nursing an injured limb. When we have visitors with orthopedic impairments, the rails can be quickly installed to make the guests feel comfortable and safe. After all, a little planning can save a lot of embarrassment. Trust me on this!

New Uses for Common Household Items

It isn’t always necessary to buy a specialized product in order to adapt the world to your needs. Often times, you can use everyday household items already at your disposal, in new and creative ways; turning them into a mobility device or another form of assistive technology.

I am always using my body and the objects around me in new ways in order to make my life easier. Sometimes this makes people nervous. For instance, I have been known to carry anything from a slip of paper, to dinnerware, in my mouth in order to avoid an extra trip. This drives my Dad crazy, he thinks I might break a tooth; but if it is good enough for my dog, it is good enough for me. Other times my ingenuity leaves people wondering “why didn’t I think of that?” and soon others, even those without disabilities, are using my methods in their daily routines.

I have a tall bar stool in my house. It is located right next to my fridge in the kitchen. It is not for sitting, even if I wanted to sit on it I couldn’t. I do, however, use it for a number of other things. First, I use it to hold my coffee cup and cereal bowl while I pour milk in the morning. This saves me from have to make trips back and forth from the table to the fridge in the morning. Secondly, I use it to carry things from one side of the kitchen to the other. I simply place the item(s) on the stool and push the stool from one place to the next. It slides very easily on the kitchen floor. Finally, I use it for stability, when sweeping or picking something up off the floor. The third instance isn’t as common, thanks to my Mint and my dog. However, it is good to have options.

Another common item that I use in uncommon ways are tongs. You can probably guess what these are for. I not only have CP, but I am also short and cannot reach past the second self in most of my kitchen cabinets. Since step stools are hard from me to climb, I often use the tongs to give me a few more inches of reach when I am in a pinch. There is a technique to using tongs, but with a bit of practice any one can master it. Though I must caution that this is not recommended for heavy or breakable items. This warning comes from personal experience.

The last item I use frequently are those reusable grocery bags. I use them to carry heavy objects, like my laptop, from room to room, especially if I am going upstairs. I can’t carry the bag on my shoulder so I hang it on my forearm, or for a hands free trip, around my neck.

Of course these tricks and techniques won’t work for everyone, but I think that all of us can benefit from thinking outside the box in order to live UNlimited.

What everyday items do you like to use in new ways?

Stepping Higher

Ten years ago, when I began my new life as an amputee, I devised a lengthy list of things to avoid. Creating this list, although probably not the healthiest approach to rehabilitation, kept me occupied during the painful recovery. As the surgical and emotional pain waned and I mastered living life with a prosthesis, the majority of my self-imposed limitations were quickly eradicated. I learned that living an UNlimited life with a disability was possible.

One of the self-imposed limitations involved ladders. The prospect of climbing a ladder, not my favorite task with two sound feet, became petrifying when I became an amputee.  Climbing high, relying upon foot placement while lacking proprioception, made me feel vulnerable. I detest feeling vulnerable!

Unfortunately, being a homeowner and a Mom was not conducive to a ban on heights. Light bulbs need to be changed, cabinet tops need to be dusted (granted not all that often) and toys need to be stowed out of reach. Perhaps more than feeling vulnerable, I despise feeling dependent. Having to wait for my husband to come home from work each time a simple height restricting chore needed to be done became frustrating. I knew that I had to figure out a way to complete these tasks unassisted, so one day I headed to our local home improvement store.

Traditional ladders, with narrow or rounded rungs, were immediately eliminated due to my phobic safety concerns. I wanted something with wide steps, but I needed it to be lightweight and easy to handle. Minimal storage space was appreciated but was not a high priority.

After looking through my options, I was delighted to find this Rubbermaid 3-Step folding step stool. The extra large steps eliminate the Imageworry about the position of my prosthesis. The step stool is sturdy and is highly portable. I was delighted to discover that its compact storage size allows me to keep it between my refrigerator and the wall!

This step-stool, although not nearly as high as a traditional ladder, allows me to safely and comfortably reach all light fixtures, cabinets and closet shelves. I love not having to ask for help to change a light bulb, and my husband appreciates having something removed from his honey-do list. This step stool is another tool which has helped me to become an UNlimiter!

Get Me The Hammer !!

k

This may seem a bit over the top but I hate childproof caps and I’ve often resorted to drastic means to uncap them … as shown in the picture.

I would be the first person to condone childproof caps if I had youngsters in my house although I wonder if that would be the answer. I’ve read that children can get the caps off any type of bottle in seconds so I believe I would feel more comfortable locking my meds away as we did when I was a child.

It’s been more than 75 years since I was that child and back then I remember my folks having a special cabinet in the kitchen where they stored and locked medications. I admit that they didn’t do the same for household cleansers, etc. but it really wasn’t the problem that it is today since it was basically soap and water back then.

But I don’t have children, nor do I expect to have any in my house. What I do have is arthritic hands that have lost their gripping power. It is difficult to open almost anything, not just the childproof caps, and it’s so annoying.

You can imagine how happy I was to find the Sologrip.

Preventing SADD Disorder with a Disability

This time this year is often difficult for me. I live in Minnesota where we have 5 to 6 months of winter each year. These are long, very long winters and we have many days we never see the sun. After becoming disabled, this whole lack of sun thing became very un-cool.

One reason the lack of sun bugs me now – I’m more aware of the weather. I’m more aware of everything really. If it’s sunny, I feel happier. If it’s cloudy, I feel a wreck. And I also get cold way too easily, which definitely comes into play when the sun isn’t around.  So after suffering with my ever growing hatred of the winter, I decided to buy my first SADD lamp that few years ago.

I bought one of the most inexpensive lamps I could find.  I ended up purchasing the Verilux Natural Light, also known as the HappyLight, which emits light exactly similar to the sun, tricking the brain into thinking it’s actually soaking in real rays.

I bought it online and after receiving it, I decided to set it up on my computer desk.  I work from home and sit in the same spot most of the day, so setting up my lamp here was a no-brainer. But when I turned on the lamp my first time, I will say I was slightly disappointed.

It wasn’t warm it all, and as a quadriplegic who loves warmth, this absence definitely bugged me and made by new lamp seem very un-sunlike. How could a lamp claiming to mimic the sun not be warm? But I went ahead with the sun lamp regimen anyways to treat SADD, which is the following: Sit in front of your SADD lamp once a day, but for only 30 minute intervals, preferrably in the morning.

Slowly but surely, the lamp seemed to work. Throughout my first winter of having it, I was in love. No longer was the day tiresome. I was zinging at 2pm like I ought to, not nodding off wishing I was in bed. But I won’t lie, it doesn’t completely erase all symptoms of SADD.  I still craved a vacation to Mexico, per the usual, and use my neck warmer all winter.

Do you use a SADD lamp?

Products mentioned:

Natural Spectrum Light Therapy Lamp

Santa Magic (and a recipe for Reindeer Food)

The next few days will be busy as I desperately try to remember every aspect of elf magic. My son is seven and, although he is still young, I fear that he is now has a few doubts about Santa Claus. My mission from now until Christmas morning is to fully infuse our daily routines with as much “magic” as possible, a task which will no doubt become exhausting!

Today I am hosting his class party and one of our activities is making Reindeer Food. Sure, you can buy little packets of the magical feed at gift shops and holiday stores. But at a cost of $4 a bag I quickly decided it was more economical, and considerably more fun, to make the treat at home. After all, reindeer prefer homemade over store bought and processed food.

Reindeer food is easy to make, and is my first line in the “please still believe” defense. We mix one cup of plain oats, 2 Tablespoons of colorful cookie sugar (any bright color will suffice), 1 Tablespoon of silver glitter (so that it sparkles in the moonlight and is easy for the reindeer to locate), and one crushed sugar cookie. Mix it all in a plastic bag and spread on the yard Christmas Eve to herald the reindeer to your house.  (Just a quick note of experience, avoid spreading the oatmeal concoction on the road or pavement. Our first year we liberally piled the reindeer food all over the road, which resulted attracting mice (who no doubt thought they were being surprised with a wonderful gift). Unfortunately, the hawks also reaped a Christmas meal as they stalked the mice who were happily munching on the road.

In our home, Santa has made a yearly tradition of leaving one gift on Christmas Eve. Apparently his sleigh is heavy with all the toys for the good girls and boys, so he has to lighten the load. Santa makes the delivery in learning mode, because the gift is never in the same place and often it is hidden from sight.  Thankfully the Jolly Elf leaves a ribbon pointing in the direction of the present. It usually takes us an hour to locate the lost present. Last year we also found a jingle bell in our yard, apparently the casualty of a difficult sleigh landing!

After my little guy goes to bed on Christmas Eve, my husband and I will arrange all of his presents under the tree. I will munch on the cookies and slurp down the hot chocolate. While Scott fills the stocking I’ll turn my attention to making powdered sugar boot prints from the fireplace to the tree. You really would think Santa wouldn’t be so messy!

All of the work, the hours of preparation and planning, will be dismantled in sheer minutes as Robby tears through the brightly covered packages. Right now he credits Santa for all of the magic, but someday I know he will appreciate our efforts to make this season special and fun. Until then, I plan on continuing to go overboard with the holiday magic.

On Thursday my thoughts will turn from Christmas to reclaiming my home. I am not one for having the tree and decorations looming into January. Everything will be ornamentfully dismantled and stowed by New Years, so that I can start 2014 with a clean and uncluttered (and unglittered) home. Several years ago I discovered the Rubbermaid Large Ornament Storage Box. It has made the unfavorable task of stowing the ornaments a breeze! I have come to expect that every cherished ornament will survive the storage year unscathed because it is fully protected within its own compartment in this sturdy storage box. The fact that I no longer have to fumble with wrapping and stacking my treasures between tissue paper is wonderful! I would highly recommend ordering this storage box now so that you have it at the ready when the time comes to take down the tree.

I would like to wish everybody a joyful and happy holiday season. May the magic of the holidays find a way into your home, and may you create memories which will last a lifetime.

Centennial Park

This post is written by Rachael Schmidt

Centennial Park is located off Fite Road and McLean, in Pearland, Texas.  This park is well maintained, spacious, and fun! It has park areas sized for big and smaller kids, swings, as well as basketball, tennis, and baseball facilities, and a lot of green areas for chasing, hide and seek, and other games.  There are walking trails by the creek, and a bridge connects the main park to a splash pad area that is open during the summer.  You can rent the large pavilions for events.

This park has a lot to offer for kiddos’ gross motor, fine motor, and sensory needs.  I’ll list a few here.  The parking area is about 50 yards away, so I try to make Leila walk over the grass to the play area.  This helps with gait training.  Aside from the slides and swings which provide vestibular stimulation as well as (if your child can pump his/her legs) muscle strengthening, there are 3 spinning seats for a true blackout experience.  One is about the size of a hot tub, and can get pretty crazy with a lot of kids.  Two others hold one kid only, for those that are either smaller, or not used to noisy groups.  If your kid is spinning others in the big one, they will also work on upper body strength and hand-eye coordination.

Visual and auditory stimulation is provided by the neat little double-sided wall that includes a rotating color wheel, spinning optical illusions, and kaleidoscopes.  One sounds like a rainstick as it spins.  Tactile stimulation is provided by the raised letters and shapes on this wall.

Leila likes the modified rock wall.  Other playground rock walls have knobs or narrow ledges.  She likes to climb, but her right-side weakness make her hand and foot slip.  The open holes on this one give her better grip with her hands and feet.  It’s good for gross motor and motor planning (which hand/foot comes next?).  Also, it goes higher up, and sideways, to work a kid’s lateral coordination.

Bilateral coordination is worked with the play car wheels, which provide a push/pull experience.  Sit-to-stands for leg strengthening can be done on the little disks which are of various heights.  Balance training can be done by stepping from one to the other.  Going in and out of the monkey bars works coordination and gross motor, as she has to shift her body weight and lift her legs high to clear the bar.

This is a fun park and we go at least once a week.  Cons – go pee before you leave the house.  The bathroom is a good hundred yards away from the play area.

Leila gives it 4 (out of 5) Leila likes!  Hope to see you there!

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My New Favorite Leg Lotion

Perhaps my favorite part of working prosthetic conferences, with the exception of room service, is the ability to see all of the new prosthetic products available. I am constantly amazed at the rapid advances that are being made. While the focus is often on the computerized, sexier prosthetics, some of the most life enhancing products are often unsung and taken for granted.

During my breaks I enjoy walking through the exhibition hall, talking with vendors and learning about new products. Okay, I also admit that I’m a sucker for samples and freebies. What can I say, conference swag makes me smile! I often come home from the conferences with an extra suitcase stuffed with samples, brochures and trinkets.

Yesterday morning I was hurting. The skin on my limb was beginning to chafe, and a small blister on the side had still not healed. I reached for my go-to tub of Eucerin creme when I remembered that I had picked up a sample of a new product at a conference several months ago. In warmer weather I don’t encounter the chapping and chafing issues that often occur in the winter, so I have never had a chance to try the product. Touted as a solution to a chafing residual limb, I decided to put the claim to the test.

As soon as the lotion was applied, I knew that it was special. It absorbed quickly, leaving my skin soft and smooth. Donning my liner was easy, and I didn’t feel the nagging skin tugging that I was experiencing when rolling on my liner. I stepped into my leg and took a few cautious steps. I never would have imagined that a simple lotion would have such a profound impact. My discomfort was completely gone! Needless to say, I was amazed.

It turns out that my skin has been pulling against my liner. The constant tugging has been causing friction burns that resemble Imagechapping. I assure you I am not a spokesperson for the company, but I couldn’t make this lotion discovery and not share my experience.

After one day I am sold on this product, and I was delighted when I realized that it could be ordered directly by the consumer. (Anytime I don’t have to go through my doctor or prosthetist for a product I am a happy camper!)  If you are having skin breakdown, or feel like you might be tugging within your liner, give Alps Prosthetic Skin Lotion a try. I was shocked that it yielded such profound results for me. Sometimes the simplest products can yield the most profound results!

I Can Finally Curl my Own Eyelashes

Anyone who knows me will tell you, I am not much of a make-up person.  I really only wear it on special occasions or when I am getting professional photos taken. It’s not that I don’t like make-up. Make-up takes a lot of time, time that I could be using to do more important things like sleep. It occurs to me however, that at thirty one, I am approaching the age when I might need to start wearing make-up in order to avoid scaring small children in public.

I am not completely inexperienced in the make-up department, as I said I do wear it on occasion, but when I want to look really good, I usually have to have  my sister help me. I am absolutely hopeless at doing eye make-up. Eyeliner, is a huge struggle but the thing that causes me the most trouble is the eyelash curler. My sister is a firm believer that one cannot wear mascara without curling your lashes first, especially when you have stick straight lashes like me. The problem is, I am terrified of that thing.

Seriously, I think the eyelash curler, high heels and bras were all invented by the same sadistic individual, running an experiment to see just how far people would go to obtain that ever changing idea of beauty.  While avoiding bras is not something I am willing or able to do, I have gotten pretty far in life while managing to avoid the first two. Still, I do love the way my eyes look when my sister does my make-up, so overcoming my fear of the eyelash curler seemed to be my only option. Then my sister sent me this link. That’s right, while millions of people  curl their lashes every day with something that looks like a medieval torture device, heated eyelash curlers exist.

To be honest, I tried this eyelash curler for the first time about five minutes ago and I have to say that thing is genius. If you can apply mascara, you can use this eyelash curler. It uses heat to curl your lashes, but don’t worry, it doesn’t get too hot.

For comparison, I used the curler on one side and mascara alone on the other. In this picture the eye that I used the curler on, is on the right. The lashes on the outside of my eye have a little more curl, but that is because I had a little trouble reaching the inside lashes. This was not because of the curler itself; I always have trouble with that area. It’s going to take a little practice to perfect, just like everything else.

eyes

I don’t know if this eyelash curler is going to motivate me to do my make-up more often or not, but at least now, when I do my make-up, I will be able curl my lashes on my own.

Christmas Cookie Season – Making Baking Work

Growing up I loved making Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters. We would designate a day before Christmas and make cookies all day long. That day was awesome; messy, but oh was it fulfilling…

After my injury things changed. My fingers were paralyzed, baking cookies was no longer easy-breezy fun. Heck, I couldn’t even hold a sugar shaker anymore without dropping it.  It wholly depressed me how difficult my passion had become.

And the worst thing was feeling like baking was the last thing I wanted to do; not at all like “me.” I resented how my injury changed so much about my life and personality. I was determined not to let this new feeling I had towards baking last.

So I made this resolution 8 years ago to figure out how to bake again, and I haven’t looked back. Ever since OT, I always knew baking was possible; they showed me it was. I just knew it was going to take a lot of work, patience and a few adapted instruments along the way.

I started by sticking with just a few simple Christmas cookie recipes.  Knowing your limitations is #1 rule when baking with a disability. This means I nixed a few of the more complicated recipes off my list – Rosettes, Peanut Butter Balls and a few others – and added a few more I knew I could do easily. Anything that required a VERY specific amount of dexterity was removed.

I learned the lesson of knowing your limitations the hard way too, not even thinking of my limitations in the beginning. My first go at it, I discovered midway through baking a recipe I couldn’t finish it (I sure felt silly). The thing to remember is this – always think critically about your skills when creating a list of the Christmas cookies you want to bake this year.

Keep it simple – pre-cut sugar cookies, bars, candy, drop cookies, no-bake cookies – anything that requires minimal dexterity is best. I also began using my toaster oven to bake since it was at countertop level, which made it way easier to put in/remove pans and I still use my toaster oven till this day.

I also created a nifty way to remove pans from the oven when they’re still hot by using an infinity scarf. I just push then scarf around the pan, then lift it up in the center of the pan to take it out of the oven. After taking the hot pan out, I love using My4Hands too, a thick piece of plastic that goes on my lap and protects my skin from hot pans. It works awesomely.

Don’t forget – homemade Christmas cookies make great gifts too. All your hard work is more appreciated this way too, when loved ones can see all the extra TLC you put into their gifts.

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?

Products mentioned

Oster Stainless Steel Toaster Oven

Old Navy Fleece Infinity Scarf

My4Hands

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Comfort Pregnancy Pillow

This May I will be turning 40. Although I never envisioned myself living with a disability (after all, who really expects the accident to happen to them), I can say that I am happier with my life than I ever imagined. I have a wonderful job which affords me the opportunity to help and to interact with amazing people every day. My family fills my life with love, happiness and laughter.  I am truly blessed.

Although I have so many wonderful blessings, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the prospect of turning 40 had been hitting me hard. I simply don’t feel middle aged! Instead of focusing on the looming number, I decided that I wanted to do something utterly amazing to mark the milestone.  Changes are always easier to swallow when you are celebrating with an adventure.

My best friend, who will also turn 40 this year, and I have been talking about several options. We thought about going on a cruise, but something that extravagant is simply cost prohibitive for both of us. I wanted to go zip-lining, but her fear of heights kept us grounded. In the middle of our adventure negotiations I received news which changed the entire dynamic.

Instead of going on a wild adventure on my 40th birthday, I will be in the hospital.  Embarking on one of the greatest (albeit unexpected) adventures of my life, I am delighted to announce that I am due to give birth to my second child on my 40th birthday! I was utterly floored by the news, but we couldn’t be happier to be adding to our family.

As I am embarking on this wonderful adventure at 40 I can’t help but notice the differences between how my body is reacting to this pregnancy.  Firmly in the middle of my second trimester, I am beginning to show. My prosthesis is becoming snug in the mornings, an issue that didn’t occur until the third semester when I was pregnant the first time. My back is achy in the morning and my baby bump was making it difficult for me to become comfortable, especially when sleeping.  In short, my pregnancy at 40 is considerably more uncomfortable than my experience 8 years ago.

My husband, recognizing my growing discomfort, gave me an early Christmas gift last week. I wasn’t sure what to think when I opened the box to discover a large, cumbersome looking pillow. I knew that he meant well, but the practical side of me knew that the immense and awkward pillow was not going to fit on our bed. If I did make it fit, there was no way it was going to be comfortable.

Because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings I felt obligated to give the Comfort Pregnancy Pillow a try. It took me awhile to get it into position, but when I did I immediately felt supported and comfortable. For the first time in 2 months I slept soundly, and when I woke my back didn’t hurt! This pillow may be big, but it is certainly up for the task of supporting both my burgeoning baby bump and my residual limb.

I have been converted, and I am now a huge proponent of the Comfort Pregnancy Pillow. Not only is it great for pregnancy women (the individuals for whom it was designed) but I think it would be great for anybody who suffers from lower back pain or has experienced limb loss. The support provided along the back, and by elevating my residual limb to bring it into alignment with my hip and pelvis, makes this a worthwhile product for any lower extremity amputee.  If you are having trouble becoming comfortable, or find yourself stacking pillows to find the “sweet spot” of comfort, you might want to give this pillow a try.  Like me, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised!

My Keurig adventure …

My granddaughter Amelia once again decided to “spoil grandma” and she presented me with this mini-Keurig coffee maker. She also gave me two boxes of K-cup coffees from Starbucks, one regular and one decaf and a third box of Kazo green tea.

I found it fun and convenient to brew up a cup and I probably drank more in that first week than I usually do just because it was so easy. Of course the time came when I ran out of those cute little cups and I decided to stock up when I next went food shopping…maybe get 3 or 4 boxes so I wouldn’t run out.

Wow…speak about sticker shock. My “stock up” plan was put on the back burner when I saw the prices. Even the store brands were costly. “Oh, well”, I thought, “I’ll just buy one box and cut back to a cup a day”.

It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered that another box had come with my gift. I had completely forgotten it and I found, to my delight, that it was a reusable filter.

I still had some regular coffee on hand so I tried it out right away and it worked beautifully. You first pop out the brewing cup holder on the machine. Then put the K-cup reusable filter into the grey plastic holder, fill with coffee and screw on the top. This gives you an air-tight seal and you proceed to brew just as you would be a K-cup.

There’s no mess and it’s very easy to clean. I’ve done some experimenting since then and it works just as well with loose tea. As you can see it takes a little longer but not by much and the cost per cup is much less expensive than those costly boxes of K-cups …and that’s a big plus for this thrifty old Lady!

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