Tips and Tricks to Being One Handed

Today I’m going to share some tips and tricks that I have learned through my years being 1 handed. Now, remember that things come easier for me because I was born without my right hand. Those who have suffered a traumatic amputation due to illness or injury might have to approach tasks in a different way or it might take longer to learn/re-learn certain tasks. Don’t get down and don’t beat yourself up for it. Everything takes time and YOU will figure it out, YOUR WAY.

 

Where to begin? How about…..

Dressing

1. When tying my shoes I need to be seated. I cross my leg over in order to reach my laces with my nub. Kneeling while tying my shoe is very difficult though can be done it’s just easier to sit down.

2. When tying someone else’s shoe it’s best for them to be higher than me; meaning if my kids are sitting on the stairs they sit up higher than me or they have to put their foot on my leg in order for me to hold the laces with my nub.

3. There is NO shame in slip-on or velcro shoes! Especially in today’s fashion I prefer shoes I don’t have to tie but that isn’t always available.

4.  For Females: I put my bra on the same way you do, one breast at a time 😂  Sorry had to do it! I just attach the closure hooks in the front and turn it around to the back. In my specific case, I don’t care for front closers that are harder to hold.

5. Coats; To put on, I put my nub in first and sling the coat to my “good arm.” To take off I drop both sides off my shoulders and take my nub out first then my “good arm.” When wearing my prosthesis I put my coat on without it then pull my sleeve up and put my arm back on, it’s much easier than trying to thread it through the coat. To take my coat off I take my arm off first, the complete the steps of taking is off.

6. Pants aren’t an issue.

I have some videos available to visually demonstrate how I do different fasteners, here is my shoe tying video. You can find the rest here YouTube Channel

 

Driving

1.  Most cars on the road today are pretty accessible and easy to operate for those of us with one hand or other similar limb differences. One of the best inventions thus far is the push button start. It allows me to start my vehicle with my nub, vs reaching all the way around the steering wheel to turn the key. If I were right-handed this wouldn’t be an issue, but for those of us who are left-hand dominant push buttons make life just a little bit easier.

2.  “Suicide knobs” or tractor knobs are an optional attachment you can use to help with turning the wheel if you have difficulty. During drivers ed back in 1997, we tried it out, and it turns out I was way too strong and it caused me to oversteer the vehicle.

3.  Radio controls on the steering wheels! This came out in the early 2000’s and the first vehicle I got with those controls to change stations and volume control blew my mind! I no longer had to reach across to change stations or turn the volume up. It saved stress on my shoulder from reaching across and obviously was “safer” than me reaching through or over the steering wheel. Thankfully, it’s another advancement in the auto industry that is almost standard on all vehicles these days.

 

Parenting

Oh, the wonderful world of babies! I’m a blessed mom x3 so I have explored the world of baby equipment and even saw new things come about in the 6 years time frame from my first birth to my last birth. I thoroughly researched and tested a lot of equipment before we had our first son back in 2008. Here are a few of my findings.

1.  Finding the right stroller that is one hand open/close. Our first was a Chico stroller and infant carrier car seat combo. After testing the other major brands I found that Chico worked the best for my limb difference situation. I was able to hold the carrier on my nub and also get it in and out of the stroller. I was able to use that stroller/car seat for the first 2 boys, but they wore it out needless to say. So when our youngest came around it was time for a new one and this time it was a Graco jogger style with the closing mechanism in the seat. (a little strap you pull and the stroller folds in half)

2.  Car seat location. For me being left handed I prefer to have my babies on the back drivers side so that I can access the latches, belts and other safety features that keep my kiddos safe in the car. If I were right-handed I have my baby on the passenger side for convenience for getting them in and out of car seats.

3.  High chairs, who would have thought that high chairs needed to be addressed for accessibility? Well, they do! Think about it, most high chair tray’s have buttons on both sides… Not really accessible to someone with 1 hand. So I had to find one that had the single button/grip in the center to use.

 

 

I hope this short article will get you thinking outside the box. I also hope that it shows how adaptable humans are. We truly are the creators of our own lives. We can figure out almost anything thrown our way if we CHOOSE to. I personally do not use adaptive equipment, though there are tons of items out there to make things easier for anyone who might be limited due to any kind of physical limitation.

Live and learn is a popular saying for times when you might have made a mistake, though I believe it to be relevant throughout life as a whole. Every day we are learning something, whether we are learning to ride a bike with 1 hand, or a 16 year old taking their driver’s test, we have to figure out how to accomplish the task at hand. No one comes into this life knowing how to do everything, no one will ever know how to do everything, no one does everything the same way as everyone else. All we have to do is look past “visual differences” to see that we are all different, but are also ALL the same creatures learning how to live life our way. ❤️

 

 

 

 

 

What an AMAZING day!

Where do I begin? It’s Friday, yay! All the kids had school today, yay (my 3 year old only goes MWF). I picked up our new puppy, Temperance, this morning, yay! I has a blog piece written up about me on A Machinist’s Wife,  for her Wonder Woman of the Month, yay! AND………. My comic book was officially published! It’s available for purchase on Amazon, you can find it here The Adventures of The One Arm Wondermom

I’ve been working on this book for over a year now and I finally have it done, though the creative process has lead me to create a series of these so, this, the first book is complete! It feels beyond amazing to have it done and where people, not just friends and family can see it and enjoy it! I have to say that everything has slowly fallen into place as it should have, I found an awesome illustrator who understood what I wanted and needed and produced excellent work with his artistic freedom and interpretation of my script! To see more of his work you can go to Willie Wofford.

Today is a good day…. I hope that you find yourself having a good day too.

Motherhood

August 2008 is when a beautiful baby boy came into this world and made me a Mommy. There is a lot I can say about that night/morning; water breaking, labor, pitocin etc. But, this story is more about before I became a mom.

I met my husband way back in 1999 😮. We did the traditional thing, dated, engaged, married, moved {military}, thus becoming adults and productive members of society. We were both very young when we married, he was just 22, and I had turned 20 three short weeks before our nuptials. Being so young we decided to wait on kids, we had already had enough excitement in our short time together with the loss of my mom in 2001, and moving out of state and far from family with orders to Long Island, NY. I knew I wasn’t ready for children, I didn’t have a lot of experience with small people and babies growing up as an only child. I did have several close friends who were already moms and/or married so I had been around babies more once I was an adult. Being around them and having them is two TOTALLY different things. So I was perfectly fine being a ‘dog-mom’ to our Jack Russell Terrier, Tigger.

As time passed and several moves I had finished my Associates Degree in Rehabilitation Science and was a COTA/L. Working in pediatrics in Buffalo, NY I was 25 by then and the baby bug had bit me. I felt more comfortable with my ability to care for a small helpless adorable version of myself and my husband. Everyone at the school I worked at was pregnant, except me. We had been trying to conceive for 6 months before the little blue line finally showed up just after Christmas 2007. It was a great present! Reality then set in, holy sh*t I’m pregnant! We are having a baby!

I was nervous, excited and downright terrified about becoming a mom once it was reality. Most first time moms are I think, but most of them have their own moms to lean on for support. I had an emotional pregnancy knowing my mom was no longer here and wouldn’t be able to hold her first grandchild. I did take solace in my Dad being there, he came up to stay with us for several months just a few days before my oldest made his entrance. My Dad totally did the “grandma” thing, he stepped right up cleaning, doing laundry, holding the baby if I needed a minute, helped support my husband when I was emotional (hormones suck), LOL. My Dad was a superhero! He made the best of a situation no daughter should have to go through, becoming a mom without her mom. We were all sad when he went back to NC after 3 months of staying with us.

Besides missing my mom, I had other thoughts and concerns that I couldn’t escape related to my pregnancy and eventual child. At the 20 week ultrasound I made sure they checked to see if he 2 arms and hands. This is actually not a normal thing they “make sure of” because it’s expected. The scan is to determine if all the major parts of the baby are intact and growing typically. My ultrasound tech was very understanding and checked, we saw 10 fingers, 10 toes. Though there is no reason to think my children would have a limb difference since mine is not caused by a genetic disorder, I would rather be safe than sorry.

The rest of my pregnancy went without complications and Ethan was born at 37.5 weeks happy and healthy at 6lbs, 1oz! I was now officially a mom, with a baby in my arms! Holding him for the first time was amazing and terrifying. I didn’t want to jostle him around but had to find the best way for me to hold him to keep him safe and happy AND for me to still be functional. I figured everything out day by day, I was lucky with him and actually all my boys that they liked being on their bellies on my shoulder for cuddles and snuggles which allowed me to do things with my hand because I was able to hold them with my nub. I did prefer sitting while doing anything while holding them just because I felt more stability and it also took stress off my back, like most mom’s we would prefer to sit than stand when doing things!

I had learned that certain positions and things needed to be done in a particular way for them to be easier for me. I need the carseat to be on the backseat drivers side, because I’m left handed, It was easier for me to get babies in and out especially in the rear facing infant carriers. I always changed diapers with their head towards my right and feet at my left, or straight on if I was in the floor, I always fed my babies their bottles with their heads on my nub, my nub made the perfect cradle support for their beautiful little heads.  As they grew I could also feed them and play with them when sitting criss cross applesauce they were completely supported by my big mommy legs, LOL. Now I didn’t do everything with them on their backs, remember I have an OT background so we also did sitting and tummy time just like everyone else, those I really didn’t have to modify from anything a two handed mom does.  I chose not to use baby wraps and slings after trying them and my boys not enjoying them and also they made me extremely hot. But they were helpful if my boys enjoyed being held that way, they weren’t though. The biggest thing for me to learn was that I had to do what was right for me, and my child would adjust. It’s amazing how infants, babies and children know things, my boys weren’t horrible during diaper changes no wiggly craziness they seemed to know that I needed calm so that I could get the task done quickly and easily without trying to fight to hold on to legs flailing with no fingers on that hand. I also now see that I lucked out by having all boys, God, the universe whomever is in charge knew that I wasn’t the best at managing hairstyles and knew that boys’ hair is easier to do. So fate definitely had a hand in that! Not saying that I wouldn’t have figured out how to do my daughter’s hair but my time was better spent doing more important things per the universe 😉.

As the years have gone by and we have added to the family, my confidence has increased and I truly know my capabilities as a mother. Now we all have days when we question am I doing this right? But I know that those questions are ones that EVERY mother asks herself, I know that it really has nothing to do with my arm. So I can confidently walk though my life knowing that I may appear as a “disabled” mom but that there isn’t anything my “disability” negatively affects. Sometimes, I think that my boys have gained more from me have less limbs than if I were a “normal” 2 handed mom.

To Arm or No Arm

I was introduced to the world of prosthetics at 9 months old. I was a patient of the Shriner’s Hospital from 6 months till I was about 16 when I decided I was old enough to not go anymore. At 9 months old I was fitted with my first of many prosthetics, a body powered or better known as “hook,” arrrghhh ye matey’s.  As an adult I am still surprised  that they give children that young essentially a weapon that is attached to a limb that as babies and toddlers we like to flail around. My parents had glass top end tables and a coffee table in our living room, as I grew up I remember noticing the marks/grooves in them. I asked my mom where did these marks come from? “You” she replied.

Attack of the pirate baby is what the chapter of my infant and toddler years should be named… After the hook I advanced to the myoelectric prosthetic, which had an opening/closing action to allow a basic grasp. It was advanced for the time {remember early 1980’s}. I was just 2 years old when I began learning how to use it, I then became the youngest patient to use it functionally at that time. It’s a fairly simple device with 2 sensors on the inside of the socket which you activate by contracting your muscles, I call it wiggling my nub, LOL!

My parents were instructed on a “wearing schedule,” this meant how long each day I should wear it to build up tolerance. Let me tell you something, having never had a right hand/arm it’s weird to have something there, plus the weight of the prosthetic is nothing to joke about! I built up my tolerance and muscle strength in my right arm and wore it everyday to school from Kindergarten till about 6th grade. Though I did take it off during the school day and just lay it on my desk; that got some fun reactions (HAHA). The myoelectric was my primary prosthetic growing up but I still utilized my hook for various tasks including sports like mini golf and baseball.

The purpose of the myoelectic was to increase function and for cosmetic reasons, it looked close enough to real to pass when I had long sleeves on during the winter. I was more self conscious about my arm when I was a kid, I was the only one in my town/city that was missing their arm, besides a few old Vietnam Vets. I was definitely the only kid, so I did get attention good and bad. If I wanted to “blend in” that day the prosthetic helped. As far as function went, back then the hand only had 1 grip, a gross grasp, do I could hold something but not manipulate it, that wasn’t much of an increase in function considering I could do EVERYTHING with just 1 hand already. If fact there were tasks that I had to take my arm off in order to do! I continued to wear my prosthetic till my 10th grade year. As the years went on I stopped wearing it as I grew more comfortable with myself and saw the arm as more of a hindrance than a benefit to my life. In middle and high school I would wear it more for fun and entertainment as my friends and I realized it was a pretty good prop for jokes. So at 15 years old my last visit to the Shriner’s Hospital I turned in my myoelectric and expressed my thanks for everything they had done for me and my family and I was confident, functional and ready for life!

Fast forward 20 years, summer 2016, I found myself in a unique situation. Over the years, I never let anything hold me back, I was a wife, mother of 3 boys, COTA/L, had my own business etc, I did everything and maybe more than people with 2 hands. All of that took a huge toll on my ‘good arm,’ I had had pain in my left shoulder on and off for quite a few years till March of 2016 it was constant and interfering with my life. I had PT for several months which helped but the pain never went away. My next stop was an orthopedic surgeon….. My worst fear was about to be reality, I needed surgery and I needed it soon. I had torn 3 of my rotator cuff muscles, one completely through; had a huge bone spur that was cutting into one of the muscles and arthritis was already taking over my shoulder joint. My surgeon compared my MRI results to that of someone in their late 60’s-70’s, I was 34 at the time! As he began to explain the necessity of surgery I accepted I needed it, until he described what would happen after. I was going to be immobilized in a sling for 6-12 weeks, no active movement for 6 weeks, no lifting for 3 months and that would start out at only 5lbs, essentially 6+months before I would be able to even function 1/2 way to what I was and 1 year till I would be back to my previous strength and function…Ummm, hello have we met??? You know I have 1 hand right? What the H E double hockey sticks am I suppose to do??? I’m a mom to 3 boys one of which was only 18 months old, still in diapers, still attached to his mommy. How am I not going to pick him up, change him take care of his needs and the needs of my other kids. WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO?

I decided that I had to get a prosthesis, so I researched Prosthetic companies in my area and contacted several of them until I found the right one. I found Reach Prosthetic and Orthotics serving Hampton Roads, and they even had a female prosthetist! You might wonder why I wanted a female, well besides my children’s needs I had my own basic needs I would have to complete. And ladies you will understand that we have special situations that men don’t deal with in the bathroom… I’ll leave it at that. So I wanted a female to help bounce ideas off of and figure out solutions and I found it at Reach, with Danielle. Not only were they able to rush and complete my prosthesis in time for my surgery but they were extra caring and were there for whatever I needed!

During the construction of my new “robot hand” I got to see how far we have come since the last time I had worn a prosthesis! It was amazing the things it could do! I chose to use the ilimb quantum hand for my new prosthesis. It had everything I needed and was lightweight. It didn’t take me too long to figure out how to use it, the concept was still the same with the 2 seniors in the socket, there was just new technology in the hand itself which allowed me to change grips with certain movements. I felt a little more at ease knowing I had some sort of grasp once I was in the sling.

My surgery was successful, and rehab went as it was suppose to. It was definitely a very difficult time in my life, I’m not used to being incapable of doing anything, and being the patient while my husband and boys took care of me. During those weeks and months it truly was my worst nightmare come true but we survived and I am better because of it. I no longer have the pain in my shoulder, I’m back to my original strength and I know I need to take better care of myself especially my joints to prevent or slow down damage that can occur just from my daily life being 1 handed.

The end point of this is I believe that introducing prosthetics at a young age can be beneficial. It definitely helped me to have had the experience and knowledge of how to use a prosthetic before returning to them 20 years later; kind of like riding a bike, you don’t forget. I also believe that you shouldn’t force or overly encourage your child to use a prosthesis if they don’t want to. Those of us who are congenital {born} amputees are perfectly functional without a prosthesis, we are able to figure everything out in our own way!

In the beginning….

God created heaven and earth, and so on and so forth. Finally, in 1982 I came to this earth and surprised my much delighted parents with an undetected birth defect. I was born a healthy and happy baby, though because doctors didn’t know what they know now they approached my birth defect carefully. My beloved mother was scared when the room got quiet as I was delivered and didn’t instantly cry. She asked frantically “Is my baby ok?!”  I started to cry when they were cleaning me off and I didn’t care for it, haha. The doctors response to my mother’s question was, “Yes, it’s a girl, but….. we’re missing a hand.”

Instant relief is what my mother felt, as she told me in the story of my birth. She said to the doctor and nurses, “That’s fine give me my baby.” My parents had been trying to conceive for 2 years at the point when I came along.  They really didn’t care what if anything was “wrong” with me as long as I was alive. During my mother’s pregnancy she was very sick; like couldn’t keep anything down, was going to loose the pregnancy sick, what they now call hyperemesis gravidarum. Well, way back in 1982 standards in the pharmaceutical world were not what they are today. At no fault of my mother’s she was prescribed a medication that did, in fact, stop her morning sickness, with a side effect of birth defects. Side effects that weren’t listed on the medication, or that the OB/GYN was aware of. Now this is not an attack on that medication. I will say that legal actions by those affected were taken but nothing came of it.

Enough about that… The simplistic answer to what “happened to my hand/arm,” it’s a birth defect caused my medication prescribed to my mom for morning sickness. This is the adult answer I give when asked what happened.

Back to my birth and infancy, after the initial elation of being parents, the shock came. They weren’t expecting me to be missing a limb or part of a limb. What now? They had no experience with this, knew no-one who had either…. In walks the Shriner’s, a friend of the family knew about the Shriner’s and their Hospital for Crippled Children, so they recommended reaching out to them. At that point I was around 6-9 months old when I went to my first visit to the Greenville, SC hospital. Up until that point my parents did their best as they always did for me. My mom stayed home with me, my dad worked overtime at the local Goodyear Tire plant to subsidize income my mom would make so she could be at home with me. I was their first child, and everyone knows you have NO IDEA what you are doing. It’s a learning experience, and while you’re at it here’s a curve ball, help her figure out how to do everything with 1 hand, and be left handed….

Luckily, the universe gave me to the best parents, they handled it. I was always treated as capable, encouraged to try new things, never thought of as different. They are the ones who are the success story, they did something with no knowledge, no real resources outside of 2 visit’s to the Shriner’s every year for checkups and prosthetics. I am who I am because of everything they did.

In the beginning… I was given to the most amazing parents.

 

Bored Panda

Today, thanks to a FB friend, I found out I was apart of an article on Bored Panda. I feel pretty excited to be featured in this particular list from them. Since tomorrow is Halloween, it’s only appropriate to be noted for my choice in costume this year. So what’s my costume you ask? I’m Nemo this year, my youngest son loves ‘Finding Dory’ so he’s Dory for Halloween. I enjoy dressing up and coordinating with at least one of my boys each year. As they get older sometimes it’s harder to go with what they have chosen as a costume, this year my oldest chose, Ironman, the middle chose Ty from Dino Trux, on Netflix, and my youngest chose Dory. My costume was easy! I chose Nemo, for various reasons; 1. When I worked in pediatrics as an OT assistant, I used Nemo as an explanation to why my arm is missing. Kids could relate to a Disney movie. 2. About a year ago I became familiar with a non-profit organization called “The Lucky Fin Project,” Molly Stapleman, the creator of this organization named it so in reference to Nemo. Molly’s daughter, Ryan, was born with a limb difference and she took the huge jump into creating this platform for others with limb differences to connect and bring awareness to  limb differences all over the world. 3. I mean, for real, I am the anatomically correct, human version of Nemo, how could I not dress up like him? 4. It’s a costume that brings lightheartedness to something that makes people uncomfortable….

When I was tagged in the post by my FB friend, I was shocked to see my picture with me and my youngest just the other day at a trunk or treat event. I had shared the photo on Instagram and it got more likes than some of my regular posts. I’m still figuring out this likes and hashtags things,  😂.  And because my photo might get seen more than usual, I thought it was a perfect time to share more about why it’s ok to find humor in differences.

Why is it ok to laugh or think these costumes are funny? Well, the people who have chosen to accept their differences whether it’s being in a wheelchair, using crutches, or missing a limb, they have also found the humor in it. They are ok with acknowledging the humor in their costumes, “making their life” work, they are comfortable in their skin. As a kid, around 10 years old, I dressed up like a Doctor who had cut her own arm off…. bloody sleeve, plastic hatchet, lab coat, the works. My mom took me around our neighborhood to trick or treat that year. After visiting my Grandparents house a few blocks from my own, we continued down their street. One house had a gentleman handing out candy, probably 50’s-ish, he complemented me on my costume and the uniqueness. He then asked how did I hide my hand so well… Without hesitation I responded while pulling up my sleeve more, “It’s not hiding, I really don’t have a hand…. I was born like this.” Talk about some back pedaling from this guy, “ahhhhh, oh my, I’m so sorry! Here have some more candy!!”  😂 He was still yelling down the street as we kept on our way, “I’M SO SORRY!!” I wasn’t offended, and neither was my mom. We thought his reaction was hilarious, we also told him it was ok, it didn’t hurt my feelings. In my mind I was thinking “SCORE! extra candy!!” All because he thought he did something wrong, by complimenting me on my unique and ‘realistic’ costume idea. He didn’t do anything wrong, and neither did I by ‘using what I got’ and making an awesome costume. Now, I will tell you this, myself and the others in this article are obviously more open with what our ‘disabilities,’ this does not generalize all those with disabilities and openness or finding the humor in it. So don’t assume that the gentleman or woman you see in the power wheelchair is open to discussing why she’s there, or that you saw an awesome costume idea for her. Everyone is different, not only physically but also in the way they express themselves when having a disability.

I have always had a ‘sick’ sense of humor. It’s just how my parents and I always treated my limb difference. My dad would walk around with my prosthesis sticking out of his back pocket, because I didn’t want to wear it anymore. He didn’t care if people looked or stared, he also thought it was funny. So playing around and joking about, “giving you a hand” “swimming in circles” etc. has always felt ok, comfortable, because I knew that I was always capable of anything. I’ve come to learn in life you have to have HEART and a SENSE OF HUMOR, otherwise you won’t make it. Go check out the post linked above, and smile/laugh/celebrate the creativity and complete acceptance these awesome people have shown!

Kim

 

Branding!

Woohoo! I’m excited to share with you my BRAND SPANKING NEW branding! Thank you Desiree Rose, Social Media Coach for my ah-mazing branding! She put into life what I only saw in my head. I’m so excited I could squeal! Actually, I did earlier when I first saw it…. Desiree is an extremely talented and patient woman, who can help anyone with their branding needs. Below you will find her link and please contact her for all your branding needs.

Why am I so excited about this? Over the past  year and a half I have learned that people, especially the newest generation are all into social media. When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s like any other 30 something, we only knew the people/brands from TV and radio. Now I did graduate in 2000, so I did have the internet and was one of the many, many teens that were in chatrooms  and on AIM; so I did get exposed to brands and such outside my direct marketing area. But now, wow, your everyday moms and dads are branding themselves. It’s a way to get your voice heard, your interests seen, to get people to “stop scrolling.”  So I jumped on the bandwagon so to speak….. I’m very glad I did, this branding really is nothing more than an extension of who I am. I am the one you see, not some fabricated personality, but me in a visual sense over social media.

I’m still so excited about all the beautiful things Desiree and her team created for me! Go check her out! Happy branding ❤

Desiree Rose, Social Media Coach

Here I am

It’s a Wednesday, just another Wednesday.  Today though, I will start this project of mine.  Enough time has been wasted {procrastinated} on thinking just in my own head. I have read enough motivational quotes from Pinterest, FB, Instagram etc. to last a life time. The one I’ll stick to today is; “Every journey begins with the first step.” Here’s to my journey. Here’s to you and here’s to me. Let’s see where this goes.

-Kim

The One Arm Wondermom